Thursday, 27 September 2007

Why I like living in a small town

There is somebody in my household who does not know how to turn taps off. Instead of giving them a light twist until the water stops flowing/dripping they wrench them until they are tightly screwed in. The water certainly stops flowing but it destroys the washers in a very short time and the water never stops running.

Last weekend it was time to change the washers again in the kitchen taps. I set to work. I turned the water off, drained the pipes, undid the tap handles and pulled out the mechanism. Yep, fucked washers alright.

Then the fun bit started. My taps aren't of the type where you can pull out the bit (technial term!) that holds the washer, replace the washer and then put the bit back again. No, my taps have the washers held in place by screws. Out came the screwdriver. However, as soon as I attempted to undo the screw the screw head simply fell apart. I was bemused. A perfectly good brass screw rotted out by the quality of the water. What on earth was I drinking? No more tap water for me! I tried the screw on the other tap mechanism with the same result. Time for a visit to the local hardware store.

My first thought was to replace my non standard tap mechanism with standard tap mechanisms. No problem, I found a couple and just about fell over at the price - just under $50.00 each. No matter! I want standardised tap bits! At this point the person serving me pointed out that my non standard tap mechanisms also had non standard bits for holding the tap handles on. Would my tap handles fit onto the new mechanisms?

Of course they wouldn't.

The assistant (henceforth known as "the chappie") took me out the back and set to work with his tool kit. He carefully drilled out the top of the screw, then carefully prised off the washer which was reluctant to move. A bit of CRC spray and the screw loosened up and was able to be removed without much effort. He then went to put a new washer on only to discover the non standard tap bit used non standard washers. The holes in the middle of all the washers he had available were too small.

The chappie was resourceful. He mounted a washer in a vice and very carefully and slowly enlarged the hole with an electric drill. It's quite difficult drilling out a small piece of pliable rubber. I wouldn't want to do it myself. That done, the washer was placed where it was supposed to go.

The entire process was repeated with the other tap mechanism.

We then discovered that he didn't have the right type of screw to hold the washers in place so he gave me the name of another business that would probably have them.

All told it took half an hour to go through this process. For this I was charged the princely sum of $2.30 - the price of two washers.

I then shot off to the other business. There they quickly found the right screws. Of course there was a problem with them. They were far too long. The assistant took the screws and disappeared into the back room. I waited, wandering around the shop looking at bits and pieces of machinery that I would had no idea what they were used for, would never buy, and couldn't afford to buy even if I wanted them.

15 minutes later the assistant turned up again. He had very carefully cut the two screws down to the right size. They fitted perfectly.

For this I was charged $1.00 - the price of two screws.

So for the total of $3.30 and 3 quarters of an hour of other people's time I succeeded in replacing the washers in my kitchen taps. This is one reason why I like living in a small town. You get very personal service and often do not get charged the true cost. Both businesses know that I will be a returning customer.

That said, next time I am buying a whole new set of taps.