The steady, porcelain-eroding drip of the bathtub faucet was not about to right itself. No amount of iron will would improve the aspect of the poor, old thing. It had developed a steady rhythm no metronome could equal.
There have been issues with this apparatus before, which didn’t end painlessly, but required replacement of expensive valves instead of those pesky. 50-cent washers of days gone by. I recall my poor handyman having to drive from store to store in an attempt to locate the smelter from which this set had been fired. He returned in a cold sweat since I’d told him I needed the work done as economically as possible, and he is a conscientious man who gets paid by the hour.
Even so, the fix happened, and all was quiet at the Dover font. But it seems history can’t help repeating itself.
By now the faucets have turned the shade of lime Jell-O around the edges. I began the quest for new ones with my local hardware store, which is great for shower heads and fertilizer, but lacks shelf space to carry Disco-era fixtures. My aim is to support local businesses whenever possible, but I admit there are times when, for the sake of sanity, I must resort to the dreaded big-box store. I reasoned that Lowe’s would certainly answer the call. I put my hiking stick in the trunk and headed out.
The over-stimulation of choices in a store that size can threaten to sidetrack a less purpose-driven soul. I passed by the more-entertaining light fixture department and found plumbing. A wall of faucets stretched about a quarter of a mile in either direction, but I soon narrowed my vision to the two-handled variety rather than the modern, center-handled type. This eliminated about 93 percent of the offerings.
I stood gazing in quiet deliberation for about 15 minutes before deciding on the set I thought would fit both budget and existing plumbing. Next, I needed to find one in a box. Things would have progressed far too simply had I just looked below and found the desired set, so I enlarged my scope to include several feet on either side. When nothing turned up but suspect empty spaces, I picked one of an assortment of numbers on the item and went in search of a sales clerk.
Lucky for me, Mike stood — vested and at the ready — around the corner. I asked if there might be additional faucets somewhere if not on the floor. I pointed to the object of desire, and he began looking below, too. Well, four eyes are better than two, just ask my optometrist, but he also came up empty. Mike checked the inventory on his hand-held device and found that, despite evidence to the contrary, there were six sets in the store, somewhere. Then, he turned around.
Nothing could have prepared me for the wall of cased hieroglyphics at my back. As I gazed upward, the columns and rows of boxes, each with multi-digit numbers on their sides, continued their climb upward into the commercial stratosphere. I prayed the Big One wouldn’t happen just then, as I didn’t want to go, buried under so much plumbing rubble.
“I’m not sure which number I should be looking for,” I offered. He gave me the sequence and we both stood, heads in the clouds for several minutes, not speaking in our singular quest. I never thought to bring my neck pillow.
“What we really need is a drone,” Mike admitted. I agreed it would have been handy.
When we both concluded that finding the elusive bugger online might be the ticket, I thanked him and headed for the door, picking up an injury report on my way out.
Once I could hold my head level, I made my way home and to my laptop, but I’m still waiting for the faucet.
I feel fortunate to have such choices in this wonderful country of ours — large stores that employ helpful people such as Mike, and small, local concerns — anywhere I can talk to real people. I’ll celebrate this Independence Day!
— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.