Sunday, March 16, 2014

Garbage Disposal Mysteries Solved

And now for another episode of  "Don't try this at home" Home Repair. Some months ago--we will not say exactly how many--the garbage disposal under the sink stopped working. Some, faced with a non-functioning garbage disposal, would yield to an impulse to replace it. The resident repairman chose instead to pursue what some might interpret, and probably did interpret, as an inexplicably extended period of procrastination. During this time, we (first person singular form of "we") were forced to resort to periodically giving the disposal a quick manual turn from below whenever the water started backing up in the sink, replicating in the kitchen sink a level of functionality comparable to the way the U.S. Congress has been run for many years now. For the sink, if not for Congress, this approach worked unexpectedly well, feeding the procrastination. It helped that most food scraps end up in the compost bucket rather than the sink.

A generous reading of the resident repairman's inaction would be that he was allowing the garbage disposal an opportunity to repair itself, as had occurred with some appliances in the past. He found validation for this approach when the disposal did in fact begin to work again, about a month ago, though this repaired state regrettably lasted for only a few minutes.

We may never know what finally prompted him to tackle this lingering kitchen sink enigma. Why one day and not all the others? Perhaps he was able to take a deep breath somewhere in his psyche, unlocking a previously untapped confidence that the known unknowns might not be as unknown as he had long assumed them to be.

He seized the day, or at least a moment when his daughter was in the kitchen and could call to him when he had turned the relevant circuit off down in the basement. It was also an opportunity to explain to her that the house has many different circuits, each servicing different plugs and sockets. This bit of real world education just wouldn't have happened if we had called an electrician in.

With power off, and after removing the protective plate and doing some investigation of the wiring behind the switches, involving various teasings and proddings, each of which required trips to the basement to turn the circuit on to test the result, then off again to try something else, it became clear that a wire coming from the relevant switch was loose, and that all that was needed was a larger wire connector to keep an unusually thick cluster of wires tightly clasped.

Such an oversized part, he learned by trial and error, could only be found by journeying to the deepest canyons of Big Box Retailand, several miles south. Coordinating errands so as to burn a minimum of gas and time, he found the part, installed it along with a gleaming new switch plate, and felt at last that sense of pride in achievement.

Time allotted: X months of contemplation followed by 1.5 hours of action.
Level of difficulty: Hard to fathom, but ultimately easier than expected.
Savings: Face, along with whatever a new garbage disposal might have cost.

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