Of Plumbing and Life

Saturday morning a friend called to get some advice on repairing a leaky pipe in his basement. Leaping at the chance to escape “social isolation”, (surely this was an “essential” activity) I grabbed my pipe soldering kit and dashed over to his house. The leak was tiny, just a once per hour drip from an old soldered joint on a one inch copper water line located high up between the rafters in his workshop.

We used to be partners in a handyman business, doing small remodels and repairs, many of which required some plumbing. No doubt our combined experience would be equal to the task before us now. So the options were:

  1. Re-solder the joint in place. Fast and cheap. I didn’t think it would work.
  2. Cut out all the bad stuff and replace it with new-fangled slip-on parts. Slower, and definitely not cheap.
  3. Unsolder the joint, pull it apart, clean & re-solder. He didn’t think there was enough play in the pipes to get the joint apart.

So, we chatted for a while, talked about families & grandkids & empty shelves in the grocery stores. How were we going to do church on Sunday? Live-stream interactive for him; online pre-recorded video for me. His wife brought me some cookies and a small hand made pillow for my wife to finish and keep. Talked about the leak some more. 

I found leak repair tape online at Home Depot for $6.88. Said it couldn’t hurt to try this first to save all the draining of pipes. He started cleaning the joint and I ran off to Home Depot. What better place for a man to be than in a store with pipes and wires and boards and tools? After a little searching, I found the tape, but could not locate the one inch copper elbow he wanted “just in case”. Outstanding! Now I got to visit Menards; a dream two-fer. More guy stuff and they were already selling shrubs for Spring planting. Found the copper elbow, but the checkout lanes were all full. Stood in line, (they had Xs on the floor, six feet apart, so you knew where to stand). The guy in front of me had a laundry tub, a boatload of drain fittings and four lengths of drain pipe. Others had paint, boards, shelving; projects to occupy the mind and body.

By the time I got back to my friend’s basement, he was trying to re-solder the joint. I watched, gave a little advice, but the solder wouldn’t flow. Maybe a bigger torch would help, so I got out one of mine, adjusted the flame and gave it a go. The solder flowed! Afterward, I inspected the joint and shot my buddy a doubtful look. “Go ahead, turn on the water,” The once per hour drip was now a once per minute drip. I knew it wouldn’t work.

It was time for lunch so I left. What a great morning! We had two hours of conversation and problem solving; two old guys trying to figure out plumbing and life together. As I left, he said he didn’t know when all this would end. I said I didn’t know either, but we both knew the One who does know.

He called me later to say that he’d used some liquid metal to fix the joint and it was now dry as a bone. God is good.

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