Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling sufficiently better to head to the basement and find a fresh nightgown and robe. There was a trickle of water on the floor -- well, the temperature had climbed way up and it's been raining. I wasn't as much better as I thought and the activity ended with my fleeing back upstairs.
Later, early evening, I was definitely better. So, what about that water--
What about it? I went back downstairs to check. There was a lot more of water, a tricking rille from the furnace (which is up on blocks in a low-ish spot) over to the floor drain. But the usual wall-to-furnace path was dry.
It was dry because the water was coming from a wall a ninety degrees to the usual source, a higher patch of floor where I keep clothes on racks and hanger-rods mounted to the floor joists overhead. I had to fold up the ironing board, move a defunct analog television* and relocate a few empty boxes before I found the source: the shut-off valve for city water was leaking. Not around the valve stem, either, but a steady drip, drip, drip from underneath.
Reaching down to touch the packing nut made the drip rate increase.
This is the very first valve for the plumbing inside the house. There's one in a (buried) valve pit out at the street but it takes a special wrench, which is how The Water Company keeps deadbeats from turning their own water back on after it has been shut off for nonpayment. (Yes, of course there's a brisk, unofficial trade in the special wrenches if you know where to look.)
I called a plumber around eight p.m. I kinda ended up getting a little weepy -- hey, I was sick for three days! Plumber (from Hope Plumbing, our local Zen philosopher-king plumbers; they took over the "fine, antique plumbing" work when Steck's shut down, and bless 'em for that) showed up ten-ish, took a look, tried the valve -- leaks like mad when you start to close it, which is typical -- looked at the meter base or setter, looked at the plumbing, and admitted he didn't have what he needed on the truck and wasn't going to be able to have it until Tuesday. The meter base is of a type no longer allowed and will have to be replaced. (I haven't seen one like it, and I've lived n older homes most of my adult life.) It's looking like $700 in parts and labor. The meter base and inside shut-off valve appear to date from 1924, when my house was built, though they could be as late as 1940s. The leak is actually from a little venting widget, a part of the valve that is made in a way that dates to not later than WW II.
The plumber looked for the curbside shut-off in the dark but it's nowhere to be found. They tend to sink into the dirt -- actually, the dirt on the strip between sidewalk and curb slowly builds up and buries them, but the result is the same, you have to have The Water Co. come out and find the thing. And they're closed for Christmas, too.
So there's a little plastic shoebox under the leaking valve (it's too close the the floor for a bucket), and there's a steady one-per-second drip into it. In about three hours, the box is as full as you'd want and ready to be emptied.
On Tuesday -- if I am lucky! -- I'll spend the big bucks getting this fixed.
It could be worse; there are plenty of people on this Earth for whom sufficient clean water to let the stuff drip out and pour down a drain would be insane wealth. This is America, where even bad plumbing is a reminder of relative luxury, and we toss out working TV sets because they're in the way.
Merry Christmas, Bobbi.
* A big, bulging-screen RCA easily twenty years old -- I wrestled it up the stairs (!) and it's on the patio under a big trash bag pending proper disposal. Does it still work? Probably. Is it worth keeping? No. I said "big," but by present standards the screen is small though the device is large and heavy.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
1 year ago