Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 09.08.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Mister Fixit rides again

My brother has some great stories, usually slapstick calamities that you expect to be punctuated with a Jerry Lewis-like "WO-WAAAHH!"

For example, he was riding his bicycle in Toronto one day when he turned a corner quickly and drove up a ramp into the back of a parked moving van.

Then there was the time he was in a convertible on the Don Valley and looked over his shoulder to see a raccoon sitting in the back seat.


I've often suspected that my brother wills these situations to occur or at very least capitalizes on their potential for disaster simply so he'll have another great story to tell. I mean, why else would he be dating a country music fan?

I mention this because, as I've said before, I know some readers suspect I do the same for the purposes of this column. And then they come into the house and say, "My God, you really did replace the hot water handle with a vice grip!"

Which brings me to last Saturday: I was having a hard time coming up with a topic for this week's column. That was around when Deb said, "So, do you think you can fix that dripping shower today?"

"Sure," I said. Replace a washer; what could go wrong?

If that sounds familiar, it's because I said the same thing last November when I "fixed" a washer in the kitchen sink. If you'll recall, that incident resulted in a flooded kitchen counter.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The shower in question is one of those single-handle showers that combine the hot and cold water with a single turn. There's probably a technical term for it but I'm just happy to know that the water comes out.

So: fix the drip. First I had to find the right tools.

I couldn't use the vice grip because it's been subbing as the hot water handle for the past ten months (see "November incident" above) and had become fused into position due to the long exposure to water.

Instead, I borrowed my neighbour's pipe wrench. My other neighbour saw me returning with it and started to laugh - she's heard the stories.

Back home, I set to work loosening the shower handle. Hmmm, tough bugger. It wouldn't turn. So I put a little more weight on it. It started to turn. No wait, not turn, twist. Before I knew it, I had sheered the whole unit all but off the pipe.

"Uh-oh," I said. "I think I've done something terribly, terribly wrong."

Long story short, I now need to either tear out my shower stall or cut a hole in the wall to get at the pipes, replace the diverter, install a new hot-cold-thingy and pay about $250 for what should have been a $5 job. And by "I" I mean someone with tools, know-how and a sense of his own limitations.

Why? Why do I try to fix things? Is it just so I'll have a story to tell?

I swear it's not the case, especially since every botched job is a form of mechanical emasculation. I don't care how enlightened we pretend to be as a society, a man's self-worth is still largely based on his ability to wield a wrench. That's why I keep coming back. Evolution has programmed me to say, "How hard can it be?"

So if these mishaps are so humiliating, why do I relate them in my column? Because if you don't laugh at yourself, everyone else is going to anyway.

By the way, later on Saturday, I whipped up a mean batch of fresh salsa.