For the Birds
Great moments in building history: A mysterious flood in the kitchen
I once noticed a bird landing on top of a car antenna, on the very tip of it. There was no room at all for any foothold, but the bird was determined to stay there.
The antenna swayed. The bird’s feet kept slipping, but the bird would not give up. After a few minutes the bird flew off to a tree.
Why would a bird pick a spot so uncomfortable, so impossible to land on, and fight to stay on it for so long?
Was it a bet between two birds, which one could stay longer on a pinlike device? Or was it mere curiosity for the bird to test its agility? I certainly have no answers as to why birds do what they do. More often than not, I relate such events to people.
I have tried a few impossible things. I also have done a few that were possible if only I had looked at a piece of paper first. I recall a dishwasher installation, a surprise for my wife.
Because I consider myself handy, I bought a new dishwasher when ours quit. I hid the new dishwasher in the garage until my wife would not be home for a few hours.
I was preparing myself for the surprise when the new unit would stand in the place of the old one. I decided I would change the garbage disposal at the same time, which is easy to do.
The day came. My wife had a long-enough engagement away from home. As soon as she was out of the garage, I had my tools in the kitchen. In a few minutes I had removed the old dishwasher and disposal and replaced them with the new units.
After I removed the blocking and tape from the inside, the dishwasher was ready for a test run. I started the dishwasher, and it was on its merry way.
I paid no attention while it was whizzing and sloshing until it came to the end of its cycle. I opened the door, and a tremendous flood of hot, soapy water cascaded all over the kitchen floor.
It was obvious that I had a drainage problem. I turned on the disposal, which sucked the water down the drain as fast as the water was running from the faucet.
I cleaned up the water, mopped the floor and, now assured that the drain was all right, I sent the machine on its cycle again.
I knew it would work this time. When I opened the door, however, I had water all over the floor again, reaching the living-room carpet.
Panic started to influence my mopping, but I was able to gather the water faster this time. I had no idea what was wrong when all the installation seemed right. I examined the set up piece by piece again, and it looked fine to me.
I started the dishwasher again. I got the same results.
I crawled under the house, where I could see that the leak did not stop on the kitchen floor but was dripping all over the crawlspace as well. It was getting close to the garage floor.
The kitchen was becoming clean from the suds and the number of moppings. My concern, however, extended to the vinyl floor covering. If the glue got wet, bubbles could start to form. Installing a new dishwasher also was leading to a new floor.
I went over to the box that had contained the dishwasher and pulled out the installation manual for the first time. After going through it carefully, I could not find anything that I did wrong. I was truly stumped.
It occurred to me to call a plumber, but then I decided to look for the instructions in the disposal box, too, before getting out the phone book.
It took me a second to read it: “Remove plastic plug if hooked to a dishwasher.” The disposal had a plug in it in case it was used without a dishwasher. To remove it, all I had to do was tap it out with a screwdriver to allow the water to drain properly.
Once that was accomplished, I sent the dishwasher on another cycle. At cycle’s end, I cautiously opened the door. The dishwasher was dry; no water spilled. The fourth time proved to be the charm.
When my wife arrived home, the windows in the house were covered with condensation. The rug was a lot wetter. And the surprise I planned really was a surprise, but not the one I was hoping for. One good thing came from my activity: The kitchen floor was spotless.
Do birds play games with each other, or do they do things to amuse themselves? I don’t know for sure, but I will read instructions in the future, surprise or not.
—Dezsoe Steve Nagy, Alameda, Calif.