Janet Combs (copy)

Janet Combs

There's something I can do well, pretty fast, and even with my eyes closed, and that's type. 

As a former English major, I fjsdoe ne oe icox. Well, I might have exaggerated the bit about typing with my eyes closed, but let’s agree that I am extremely comfortable using a keyboard and can work with one most anywhere. Take for instance, in airports, coffee shops, hotels, hospitals, school auditoriums, motor vehicle bureaus, and on all types of transportation except possibly a horse.

But if I tried to crouch inside a tight cabinet in the dark and type on a keyboard just four inches from my face with my elbows pressed against my chest, I would become incredibly frustrated and only be able to type brief, misspelled cuss words. My point is, this useful tool with which I am highly skilled would become useless and aggravating under such conditions.

Now, patient readers, who have followed this tedious set-up thus far, imagine if you were to give me a tool I was unfamiliar and untested with, such as a pair of channel locks. Imagine you had to rely on me to exert a lot of force with this alien tool while lying on my side on the floor, jammed into a cabinet, sweating from either the claustrophobia, the heat or the fear of a very real, potential catastrophic outcome. What sort of cuss words do you think I might mutter?

Welcome to the wonderful world of plumbing! If you are a plumber, you have earned my highest respect this week, and I would like to show my heartfelt gratitude by inviting you over for a gourmet lobster dinner. After you install my powder room sink.

Plumbing requires an individual with the frame flexibility of cooked ramen noodles, the upper body strength of the local FedEx guy who delivers our 50-pound dog food up 22 steps, and the nerves of your common garden earthworm. Last I checked, earthworms have no central nervous system, which is why they always seem so relaxed and unconcerned with tweeting the dirt on their latest garden exploits.

The licensed plumber allows training and intuition to work in tandem; instinctively knowing when the nut is tightened just enough and when one more turn might burst the pipe. On the other hand, the Planet Janet Tuesday-evening-after-a-full-day-of-work plumbing professional offers an inferior level of service absolutely free!

Family was coming to visit and we figured we’d better complete the vanity installation in the powder room for their upcoming stay. My husband had everything ready in advance — I just needed to get on the floor and attach the flexible metal tubing to the proper pipes jutting out of the wall.

First, we had to remove the escutcheon plates. Surprisingly, these are not bone china used for the first course by the wealthy Escutcheon family, but metal rims that cover the holes in the wall where the pipes come through.

Then I had to cirque-du-soleil myself onto the bottom shelf of the cabinet with my channel locks to make sure all the connections were secure.

A not-so-funny thing happens when I am looking at something upside down and sideways; I confuse right from left. I know the old “righty-tighty” adage, but I truly can’t figure out which way is which. I’d have one heck of a time in a zero-gravity environment, forever leaving the space shuttle lights flicked on.

Because I have to take frequent breaks to muster up the strength to keep wrenching the wrench, I often hesitate before securing it on the bolt, trying to recall exactly which way I was turning it.

“Is this right?” I say, looking at my husband. He sighs incredulously, but uses his thumb to repeatedly point out the direction.

“This way,” he gesticulates.

I smile. He sure looks like a handsome hitchhiker up there, the kind I might just stop and pick up. After all, he thoughtfully picked up dinner.

And that’s why I love plumbing.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer who lives in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.