Yesterday, I finally undertook a task that I had been avoiding for about two months. It was a ‘phobia’ that had caused the deferment. Not ‘claustrophobia’ – though that, as you will later see, could easily be understood.
No, it was ‘unpretzelphobia’ – the fear of having contorted oneself into a pretzel-like shape, that cramping – or providence, like when you were a kid poking out your tongue or making some weird facial expression causing your parents to say, ‘If you keep pulling that face, you’ll stay like that’ – would prevent you ever reverting to your ‘normal’ posture. At my age, it is difficult to make the contortions I once was more able to effect. Bending down is difficult enough; getting back up is close to impossible. You can’t believe who many quarters and dimes I have had to bide farewell to because of it.
I have met many, have often been accused of being one myself, and was also fearful of developing one – a pain in the neck, that is! So, what was it that was causing all of this angst and turmoil? Did I succeed? Did I survive? Would I do it again? The answers are: ‘Yes - amazingly’, ‘Obviously; I am here writing about it’ and ‘Never again! I’ll make sure to pester my handy-man son more frequently next time’.
I undertook the (for me) Herculean task of replacing the faucet and soap dispenser in the kitchen sink. “That’s it? That’s what all this fuss is about?” you ask. Well, in a word – YES! I had to crawl through the 15 by 20 inch aperture concealed behind the cherry-wood under-sink cabinet doors. Once there, the confines of the space that was not occupied the garbage disposal unit, the flexible piping of the existing fixtures, the hot and cold copper pipes and their shut-off valves, made the bodily ‘pretzel-making’ maneuvers exceedingly difficult – especially when each hand held wrenches, my forehead head a less-than-adequate light source (and an increasing amount of sweat) and my bi-focal spectacles were optimally aligned with the focal length of the distance from my eyes to the objects that I needed to focus on! Did I mention about a pain the neck? My mouth, as my wife will attest, was also full – but rapidly emptying itself of a host of expletives!
It was, we each concurred, well worth it. Not the cussing, but to once again have the sight and use of a functioning, chrome-finished, pull-down-self-retracting-two-stream-and-pause-action-spray-head with a single-control-handle-for-hot-and-cold-water-delivery - and attendant soap dispenser!
Here is the fruit of my labor:
Earlier, I had mentioned claustrophobia. My 'under-the-sink’ experience was devoid of that – because I was only half under it and so had readily available escape route to the spaciousness of the kitchen. But, while I was under there, in that confined space, I did think of my earlier days in the coal-mining industry. Fortunately, in that long career, I was only required to venture into an underground mine on two occasions. One was in
Eastern Kentucky, where I did the 'duck-waddle’ in a mine where the coal seam was about 42” thick. The other
instance was in Southern Illinois where I
drove into the mine in a pick-up truck – the coal seam being about 6 feet
thick. Neither of those experiences came close to conditions that many colliers (that is the real name for coal miners) experienced in ‘days gone by’ when miners lay on their sides hacking at coal
seams only a little more than 12” thick!
Can you imagine the claustrophobia – not to mention the ‘what do you do if you get a leg or shoulder cramp’ in there? I'm reminded of the tale of Evan Evans, a not-too-bright Welsh collier, responding to his boss as he crawled a 1,000 feet or more back out from the coalface – having only just crawled in to it 30 minutes earlier with his 15” wide coal shovel. Some of them (shovels - and colliers) looked like these:
“Why are back out here so soon?” said his boss. “I had to come back out” said Evans, “My bloody shovel was upside down!” [Think it through – you’ll get it]
MY ‘sink ordeal’ was not nearly so arduous as that of those men (and boys) - the colliers.
I’ll leave you with thoughts (and claustrophobic images - at 2:14 and 2:19 into this video) of that tough occupation: