rotten copper pipe on Wall Street
Friday, December 30 2022
I had the day off from work, so we had a normal Saturday-style leisurely weekend morning in the living room. It was an unseasonably warm, so I didn't need to make much of a fire in the woodstove. At some point Gretchen joined a Zoom call where she was given orientation to membership in the Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany (which will come in handy when we go back to driving to and from the Adirondack cabin every weekend). Meanwhile I disconnected the new tankless electric water heater (which had been working unreliably) for return to the seller. I also decided, as an experiment, to fill one of the two unreliable tankless hot water heaters I have on hand with hydrochloric (aka muriatic) acid an effort to burn away any mineral deposits in case that is the thing that is making it work unreliably. To slow the acid's flow through the heater, I made a makeshift cap out of half inch compression-fitting nut onto which I soldered an old (pre-1981) penny to make it into a sealed cap. I used an old penny because newer pennies are mostly zinc and will quickly melt in the presence of a soldering flame.
I didn't have a suitable box for the tankless electric water heater I was returning, having already burned the one it had come in. So I made abox out of the cardboard box the new toaster oven had come in. I then drove down to the post office in Old Hurley to mail it off.
At some point in the mid-afternoon, our tenants in the Wall Street house texted Gretchen to report a bad leak that was causing water to pool up in the basement beneath the kitchen. Fortunately, they'd managed to find the valve to shut off the water, so it was less of an emergency than it might otherwise have been. They weren't clear on the nature of the pipe that was leaking, but I assumed it was probably a copper one, since other copper pipes have managed to rot away to the point of leaking in that same house. (I used to think of copper pipes as being perhaps the best plumbing technology there is, but it turns out that they don't last more than about forty or fifty years; plastic is almost certainly more durable.) So I gathered together various fittings and lengths of pipe (both half inch and three-quarter inch) and soldering supplies and drove over there.
Once there, one of the tenants took me back to the leak, and once we were looking at it carefully, we could see a pinhole-sized leak continuously blasting a floor joist. The failing pipe was the one carrying cold water to the kitchen sink, and it looked to be covered with corrosion along about 24 inches of its length. Fortunately, I'd brought a replacement piece that long. But the pipe I was replacing was a section of bendable pipe that comes in a coil (which probably has a thinner wall than straight pipe). The replacement I'd brought wasn't just straight, it was also that expensive thick-walled type-L kind. Fortunately, though, it was also somewhat bendable, especially if I placed one end of it propped up on something on the floor and used my weight. Replacing the rotten segment of pipe wasn't difficult, even though one end had to be soldered in the basement and the other under the sink. What was strange was that when I turned the water back on, I couldn't get any to flow out of the kitchen sink. I searched in vain for some other valve that had been turned off, and then eventually tried using the kitchen sink's spray hose, which quickly started working. It turned out that the screen at the end of the kitchen sink faucet was so jammed with schmutz (some of it from the soldering I'd just done) that water was taking forever to get to it. Once I'd cleaned that out, the sink started working better than it probably had in years.
This evening Gretchen and I went out for dinner at Woodstock Pizza Theatre, the high-end pizza place next door to the Tinker Street theatre. WPT had closed down for covid, and we'd assumed it had closed down for good. But then our friend Justin discovered it was open a few weeks ago. Gretchen likes that WPT has lots and lots of vegan options, including such challenging dishes as vegan cæsar salad with faux chicken. I ordered a large order of fries and the vegan 'Shrooms pizza, and Gretchen ordered a vegan chicken parm on spaghetti with a cæsar salad. But she found the salad disappointing and then, by comparing the cheese on her chicken parm with the stuff on my pizza, she concluded that the cook had used regular dairy cheese on her dish thinking he could get away with it. Gretchen alerted our waitress (a woman who had aged well out of the typical waitress demographic), stressing that it's very important not to be trying to pass-off non-vegan foods as vegan.
On a whim, Gretchen decided we should visit our friend Ray at the Red Onion, where he was working as bartender tonight. We sat at the bar smirking at him until he noticed us there. He wondered if we were there for dinner, but, as Gretchen pointed out, there's nothing on their menu that a vegan can eat. Au contraire, Ray said; apparently they now have an all-vegan curry dish. I ordered a Ray's Manhattan (named after our bartender) and Gretchen had a non-alcoholic lemonade that wasn't very good. It was fun to see Ray there in his element, obviously very competent at his job (he's been a bartender for decades) and even good at multitasking.
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