DC Newman

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Digging yourself a hole

Sometimes when you talk about digging yourself a hole, Its not a metaphor. When things all go wrong, we have to be flexible and roll with the punches. Because sometimes things just don’t work like we hope they will. So let me back up a little. This is the story of last weekend.

I had a plan for my weekend. It was all mapped out and I was ready to get to work. And I was going to tackle the front yard. Do some cleanup and some basic landscaping. Knock down the weeds, rake up the debris, trim some brush that was starting to lean too far into the driveway, and tidy up the tree by my front gate that was starting to get a little unruly.

My plan was to get up early Saturday morning and get started on the yard work. Then I’d have the afternoon to write, and Sunday to relax with the family and then do a little marketing work to get ready for the week. (Since I live in the deserts of southern Arizona we regularly blow right past the 100 degree mark in the summer time. That makes it important to work outside early.)

Locked, loaded, and working the plan.

I’m up early, fed, had my morning tea, and I was out the door with the wheelbarrow and my shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction. I was ready to kick some grass and make some progress. The temperature was decent, there was a little breeze, and things were going well. About an hour in, I had the big tree trimmed, the weeds around the tree knocked down, and a bunch of raking done. I’m making good progress, humming right along.

Next I need to rake up a patch of weeds out by the street near the water meter. Then I can move on to trimming the brush along the driveway. Imagine my surprise when I discover that the ground under that large patch of weeds is pretty damp. That’s not good.

Spoiler: This is where it all started to go wrong.

Random water pooling by the water meter is never a good sign. As I’m cleaning out the weeds, its suddenly becoming clear to me that I will not be working on the brush today. It looks like I’m going to be digging a hole to find out where the water is coming from.

Step one of the process is to dig out the meter, because its filled with dirt and sand. By hand. With a little garden trowel. (Its important to be careful so you don’t actually damage or break anything in the meter box as you dig it out.) The good news is that most of the dirt in the meter box is dry. The bad news is that the wet part is on the house side of the meter. Which is MY responsibility to fix. (Leaks on the meter side are repaired by the water company at their expense.)

Cut to the furious digging montage.

I’ll spare you the gory details. I will say that the digging process took longer, and was not nearly as fun as digging in the dirt was as a child. And, I also got to remove a chunk of short retaining wall that was made out of railroad ties. Fun times for all.

Now I’m 4+ hours into my morning, Its starting to get hot outside. The breeze has picked up into warm gusts. And I have a big hole in my front yard. I have managed to locate the leak, and I’ve gotten the water shut down so I’m not just running it into the ground. The broken pipe is accessible, and I’m confident that its something that I can repair myself.

And, I’m not going to repair it myself.

I can hear everyone that’s been reading some of my other blog posts suddenly going “Huh?!? You aren’t going to fix it yourself? You love fixing stuff!” Yes I do. And I’m perfectly capable of doing plumbing repairs. I’m just not going to mess with the water main, or the water meter. I count the main water line as “Critical infrastructure”. When I have the water to the house shut off. I’m going to defer to a pro for that repair.

It’s all about the value of my time.

There are some advantages that a professional plumber has over me doing the repair myself.

  • Plumbers usually have a fully stocked truck full of parts with them. I don’t.
  • And they have all the specialized tools. I don’t have everything that they have.
  • Plumbers do these repairs ALL day, every day, so they are usually faster than I’d be. I like to think my time could be better spent on other things.
  • And finally, if and when something goes wrong during the repair, its their problem.

And that last point is really why I called a professional to fix the leak this time. I’m confident in my plumbing skills. But, there are always unanticipated things that happen in any job. There is always a chance that I will break something new attempting the repair myself. Which means that I get to call a professional anyway. AND I end up paying for the initial repair, and the new repair that I created trying to fix the initial problem. When a professional has that same unanticipated event happen. It becomes their problem to fix, and it’s all rolled into the job.

So I called a professional.

I know that some of you are probably still asking. “If its about the value of your time. Why would you dig the hole and spend all of that time getting it ready? Just to have someone else to do the repair?” Again, its a time vs cost calculation. I can spend 4 hours digging a hole, and all it costs me is my time on a Saturday. If I have to pay a plumber to dig that same hole, it’s going to cost me a whole lot more money. In this specific case, me digging that hole was the difference between a $300 repair job, or a $1000 repair job. That means, I saved $700 by digging the hole myself.

Which also meant no blogging on Saturday afternoon. And no marketing or relaxing on Sunday because I was filling in the hole, and generally cleaning up the mess from a plumbing project.

And it took the plumber more than 4 hours to actually get the leak fixed.

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