Southern Arizona was stuck in a deep freeze last week like everybody else—the difference here is we’re not prepared. Many of us have exposed pipes, washing machines outside or in sheds, and plumbing either impossible to get to or we’re clueless as to how. There are no basements here. The house we live in, like many around here, is built from recycled parts, slabs of unidentifiable crumbly brown crud, and duct tape. The drawer and cabinet pulls in our kitchen are made from old spools of thread painted white, I wouldn’t lie.
For three days I couldn’t do laundry as we “had no water.” Many residents around town reported “having no water” in their houses, we were lucky it was just our shed. Hah. We had water alright, it was just in solid form. Friday morning from the kitchen window I saw steam rising—with a heavy heart I went to look. Our water had returned to liquid and was bubbling freely from a semi-exposed pipe coming from the laundry shed. Hot water. I’m embarrassed to say my first reaction was to go find the camera but it seemed imprudent—water is precious, hot water even more so. We shut the main water valve off and stood around glowering at the pipe for a while. It ran underneath a cement sidewalk, but naturally not deep enough to avoid freezing, because, ya know, it’s Arizona. After much cursing, Jimmy got the pickax and starting hacking away at the sidewalk as I cleared the debris. The pipe had burst in two places.
We drive to Home Depot in Sierra Vista. The store appeared empty until we neared the plumbing aisle—there, crowded around now nearly empty tubs of plumbing parts, stood about a hundred bedraggled citizens whose original plans for the day had become meaningless, and we fit right in. The thaw had come with the price of burst pipes everywhere within a 100 mile radius. Many of us could not purchase basic parts we needed because they had already sold out. We were one of thousands who desperately needed a ¾” female adapter. We traded torrid tales of unflushed toilets and ruined walls. We grabbed some PVC and some elbows and some bonding stuff and headed to Ace Hardware.
We hacksawed the old metal pipe off and installed the new elbows and PVC pipe. It was beautiful. We patted ourselves on the backs for a job well done and turned the water back on.
We go to check the faucets and saw the floor was flooded on one end, then heard a funny noise in the wall…yep. The pipe had burst in another place. More creative cursing as we start ripping out soggy dank wall panels.
With visions of steamy showers we turn the water back on, then creep cautiously around the shed as if quietness would help. It didn’t. Water was puddling at the back wall. Funny how the swearing stops when resignation sets in. Jimmy goes to look for the sawzall. We find two more jagged breaks but now it’s getting dark. We shut the main water off again and start planning the next day’s fun.
Saturday, and two more trips to Ace Hardware. We need a half-inch double-threaded adapter. They’re out. I beg an employee to take pity and look harder. He starts going through tubs of plumbing parts and finds one where it shouldn’t be. I coulda kissed him—thoughts of running water will do that to a girl.
I bring the parts home and we spend the rest of the day dicking around with hacksaws and hammers and wrenches and wet towels and sodden ancient slabs of god knows what.
Success! Hot and cold running water. If there are more leaks they are not yet apparent. Anything’s possible. Tomorrow we go help neighbors. Next year I’ll pay attention to the weather and turn the faucets on drip if it freezes, though many people said it didn’t work.