The Modern Man's Guide to Faucet Repair, by Nick Kolakowski

[Today's Guest Post takes on our current theme, LOST HOME.]

Think that leaky faucet's too difficult to repair on your own? Think again. With a few simple tools and a little bit of time and patience, you can eliminate that annoying drip and save yourself some cash on your next water bill. Ready? Then let’s get it done!

You Will Need:

1. Adjustable Wrench
2. Flat Blade (Screwdriver or Knife)
3. Phillips-Head Screwdriver
4. Rubber Washers
5. Duct Tape

Step One: Turn Off the Water Supply

You can usually find shutoffs for both the hot and cold water-taps underneath the sink. Turn the two handles clockwise until tight. Next, run the taps until the water stops.

Step Two: Plug the Drain

You don’t want to accidentally lose a screw down there.

Step Three: Remove the Handle Screw

Depending on your faucet's make and model, the screws connecting the handles to the faucet assembly can be found under the plastic covers marked 'H' and 'C.' If you know which tap is the culprit, pry that cover loose—carefully—with your flat blade. (If you're unsure, you may need to do both.)

With the cover removed, you should see the top of the screw. While you remove it with the Phillips-head screwdriver (remember: righty tight-y, lefty loose-y), cast a thought toward the Rust Belt and its manufacturing towns, their silent factories decaying brick by brick into the weeds. Towns whose jobs drifted across the ocean to places whose names are maybe a little hard to pronounce, and whose people were maybe a little more willing to work for next to nothing. When did that transition start? Why can so few of us fix things anymore? Why is this probably the first time you’ve stared into your sink's insides, surprised at the geologic layers of calcification and rust?

Step Four: Remove the Handle

Cover the jaws of your wrench with duct tape, to prevent scratching the handle as you pull it free of the faucet assembly. Remember that failure to remove something as pitifully small as a faucet handle automatically places your testicular fortitude at risk. You will pull and pull and pull, the handle still refusing to budge, and somewhere in the ether, your ancestors in their fur-lined armor will break into virile chortling at your weakness. Pull harder, little man! You risk shaming your very genes!

It's off? Excellent. You and your intact ego can proceed to the next step.

Step Five: Unscrew the Faucet Under-Assembly

Chances are pretty good your grandfather owned a garage and basement lined with well-tended (and much-used) tools. Your father and his brothers, we bet, spent years learning the manly arts of car and house repair. They followed in the footsteps of family members from the sepia-toned past, who could do everything from butcher pigs and plant crops to build their own outhouses—all before breakfast. People once knew how to maintain their things and keep them running, in the years before the rise of disposable culture and corporations dedicated to pumping out an endless stream of new-and-improved crap, which in turn trapped your own life in this endless cycle of toss and replace, toss and replace…

Oh, sorry. We're drifting everywhere today, aren't we? Use the wrench to unscrew the faucet under-assembly. Remember to set any loose screws and other parts in a safe place.

Step Six: Replace the Rubber Washer

What's the problem? The under-assembly's not coming loose?

No, it's okay. Try it again: tighten the wrench around that little bugger and turn. Harder. No, harder. Brace a foot against the side of the sink and turn with every ounce of strength you can muster. Remember: ancestors, laughter, spiritual emasculation, etc.

What was that popping sound? Your spine, you say? Based on your nonplussed expression, those vertebrae are probably bent worse than a Tetris piece. No, we’re kidding. Maybe. Do you have painkillers in that medicine cabinet, or a bottle of something high-proof downstairs? You’re not one of those pansies whose idea of a risky drink is an organic fruit smoothie with a "shot" of wheatgrass, are you?

Step Seven: Finally Call A Plumber, Okay? Please?

At least you can feel your legs. If you can manage the pain, it might be a good idea at this point to reassemble the faucet handle before phoning your friendly neighborhood pipe jockey. Wouldn't want anyone to think you'd failed at such a simple task, right? But make sure to keep the water shut off, to prevent that maddening drip-drip-drip. That'd be the sound of the house—yes, your humble abode, underwater mortgage and all—laughing at you.


Lost Last Month

June 2011

Stability in Greece, after Prime Minister Papandreou presents a plan for more austerity measures in an effort to avoid defaulting on its debt. In response, Greek unions initiate a general strike and protestors flood parliament, with similar protests bubbling up in Spain. The US government's stake in Chrysler, to Italian automaker Fiat. The dearth of Asian tennis champions, after Li Na of China becomes the first to win a major singles title when she takes the French Open. Meningitis cases in Africa, lowest in an epidemic season, after cheaper vaccinations are made available by an Indian generic drug maker in conjunction with a non-profit. The NBA Finals, by the Miami Heat to the Dallas Mavericks. Jack Kevorkian, 83. The life span of Ayman al-Zawahiri, named Osama bin Laden's successor as head of al-Qaeda. Outstanding business for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, when trial begins for accused war criminal Ratko Mladić. French war spoils, when ancient Korean royal books looted by troops in 1866 are returned to South