I've got to say, I respect Donald Duck for always trying outlandish solutions to his problems even though they've been blowing up in his face every single time for the past 75 years or so.
Here’s what happens in every Home Depot commercial ever made: A young, attractive couple is flummoxed by something that’s wrong with their new house or apartment. They then go to Home Depot, where they look at paint swatches with the happiest Home Depot employee in the world, and then go back to their home, which they transform into domestic paradise in about five seconds and everybody lives happily ever after.
Whenever I see one of those commercials I briefly start to get jazzed about the idea of going to Home Depot, buying a couple gallons of beige paint, and finally giving the walls of my bedroom the fresh coat they’ve been crying out for since The Matrix Reloaded was in theaters.
But then I remember that that Home Depot commercial cleverly edited around the part where the beautiful couple has to spend like $300 on painting supplies, or the part where it takes them all day just to move their furniture and tape around the windows, and then halfway through painting they realize they forgot one crucial thing they need so they have to go back to Home Depot, and then they have a huge fight in the parking lot, and then painting takes way longer than expected and the job drags out for months and when they’re done it looks pretty terrible, and they break up like a month later.
My approach to home improvement is to make a list of all the things I don’t like about my living space and then try as hard as I can to start liking those things.
Sure, the carpet is so old that I’ve started buying rugs to cover it up, but just think about how many up and coming actors and writers must have tracked that filth onto it! Who knows – maybe Channing Tatum used to live here before he hit it big. That could be Channing Tatum’s filth! The walls of my room don’t need a new coat of paint – they have character! Every scuff, scratch, and leftover nail is like a unique story from a previous tenant!
Look, I’ve painted a couple of walls in my time, and I’m going to let you in on a little secret that nobody at Home Depot will tell you: Painting sucks. It’s the worst thing ever and everybody hates it. It’s much easier for me to change my opinions to suit my surroundings than it is to change my surroundings to suit my opinions.
Unfortunately, when my showerhead started leaking last week it was one apartment defect that I couldn’t simply get used to. I know this because I spent a week listening to my shower dripping in the next room, trying desperately to find something soothing or otherwise enjoyable about the sound so that I could have an excuse not to take action on it.
Growing up, I remember watching multiple different cartoons where Daffy or Porky or Sylvester or Micky or Donald is tormented by a constantly dripping faucet while trying to sleep, going to greater and greater lengths to try and silence the leak until finally breaking down into tears and admitting defeat, bested by indoor plumbing. If possible, I wanted to avoid that cliché.
I Googled up a WikiHow article about how to fix a leaky faucet, crossing my fingers it would miraculously be an extremely simple solution. (Step 1: Check under your sink. Step 2: Flip the ‘leaking shower’ switch into the OFF position.) My heart sank when I instead found a fourteen-step tutorial which took for granted that I would own both a wrench and a power drill, and included cryptic instructions like Shut off the water to the shower.
As a stopgap I grabbed an empty gallon jug and an old funnel for the kitchen and then set it up under the showerhead to catch the drips and minimize the noise. For a week, this worked pretty well – every morning before I showered I would empty out a gallon’s worth of the night’s drippings.
Before long, though, the guilt at wasting all this water – even if it was just the disgusting sludge that passes for drinking water in Los Angeles – started to creep up on me, so I reluctantly began to investigate just how an apartment dweller such as myself would go about shutting off his water.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I found out that there was no way for me to shut off the water, giving me a free pass to call maintenance to fix it. Had there in fact been a way for me to shut off the water I would’ve felt obliged to try and fix the leak myself with inadequate tools, wasting a bunch of time and money and probably breaking the shower or injuring myself in the process. I would’ve given up and called maintenance anyway; this just expedited the process.
On Friday I got home from a freelance job to find that the maintenance man had come and gone while I was out – and, like the home improvement fairy, he had taken my old shower head...
...and replaced it with one from the captain’s quarters aboard the Starship Enterprise.
Damn it, Jim, I'm a writer, not a plumber!
After months of handing hundreds of dollars to mechanics just to try and keep The Mystery Wagon functional, it’s pretty refreshing to get something fixed and find it even better than it was before it broke.
I can’t say enough good things about this showerhead – it creates a wide and plentiful stream of water with pressure so strong that I feel like I’ve run afoul of the Birmingham Police Department in the 60s. The only way my shower experience could improve at this point would be if Alison Brie was there to hand me fresh towels every morning.
That being said, the showerhead still leaks.
Now, though, the drips are smaller and quieter than they were before. Home improvement is a war of attrition, and I’ll take whatever wins I can get – especially if they come with a new showerhead.
Truman Capps is big on water conservation, but not when he’s taking a 25 minute shower.