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By Staff | Jun 5, 2009

It’s all because of that stupid cable TV. Up until a couple of years ago our TV signal came to us via a rooftop antenna. We received exactly four channels, one of which was Public TV.

I am a big fan of Public TV, and not just because of Sesame Street. A Public TV program my wife and I especially enjoy is “This Old House,” where they fix up – surprise! – old houses.

These renovations span many episodes, which is akin to the natural order of things. It reflects reality – that is, if your reality involves a camera crew documenting every measure and cut.

We now have cable, which means we can watch several shows that are similar to This Old House. Similar, but evil.

For instance, there is a channel called “DIY Network.”

DIY is supposed to stand for “do it yourself,” but I think it really means “dig in your” wallet or “divorce is yonder.”

The problem is, many of the programs on DIY Network are just half an hour long. Large and complex home improvement projects are carried out, from conception to completion, during that brief half-hour.

This tends to distort perceptions regarding the difficulty of do-it-yourself home improvement projects: “As you can see, Bob, any homeowner can quickly and easily construct his own space shuttle in the backyard using only a rudimentary set of hand tools!”

My wife is not a high-maintenance person. Plain and simple is good enough for her; were this not so, she would never have married me.

I thus took notice when she began to mention that our bathroom needed help. Her point was valid. The bathtub my grandfather installed in 1963 – upgraded to a shower by me in 1983 – was beginning to look, well, icky.

Inspired by DIY Network, I decided to attempt a do-it-yourself bathroom upgrade.

First on the agenda was an overhaul of our water delivery system. Our plumbing had been cobbled together over many years and had evolved into a tangled conglomeration that closely resembled the innards of the Death Star.

So I visited George, my friendly local plumber guy, and told him my problems. I left his shop with a pickup truck full of PEX pipes and fittings, along with visions of a sparkling new bathroom.

The military has a saying that goes “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” So it was with my plumbing project.

The initial item on my very long action list was to remove a copper adaptor from a galvanized pipe. This hardware appeared to have been originally screwed together back in 1963.

Knowing that the adaptor would never listen to reason, I deployed my biggest, nastiest pipe wrenches. Shock and awe and all that.

I was shocked when the galvanized pipe busted and awed by the amount of water that sprayed onto me. My very long action list was suddenly quite meaningless.

I quickly and methodically moved onto Plan B, which was to panic. Woe be unto the husband who cannot restore water pressure to the house before his wife returns home from work!

But, alas! This was not to be. I’ve noticed that girls are funny about having a functioning toilet in the house. I have never understood what the big deal is.

I guess guys have different standards than girls. To me, a 5-gallon bucket with holes punched in the bottom is a good-enough shower. Not that I would ever need a shower, mind you.

We went a day without water pressure and much longer than that before we regained a functional shower. That sort of thing would never wash with modern young people, who seem to need at least two showers daily. Anything less would be considered inhuman and a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Water pressure restored, we tore out the old tub and installed the new shower. As soon as the pipes were all hooked up, I flipped on the shower and … everything worked! Not a single leak anywhere! I stood in the basement for a good while and simply watched the pipes not leak.

Next came installing new drywall. Drywall is a substance whose sole purpose is to cause people to conjure up new curse words.

I was dreaming of perfection, but that fantasy quickly gave way to reality. “Don’t worry, the mud will hold it all together” is my motto regarding drywall.

We are getting closer to that sparkling new bathroom, although what began as a little two-day plumbing project has morphed into a monster which has consumed most of two weeks.

Even so, thanks to the guys at This Old House, I now feel like I can tackle about anything. Anybody need help building their backyard space shuttle?

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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