Cracking the Code

[This is a story I wrote in November of 2007.  It was one of my first experiences with gender profiling as a single woman, other than the time in Home Depot when I was directed to the aisle that contained switch plate covers after having asked in what aisle the electrical outlets were located.] 

I have had to learn many lessons, and challenge many prejudices in the course of my lifetime.  Some have been easier than others; some require a lot of perseverance and self-confidence. The one I write of here is the latter.

Just over a year ago, I bought half a house. To clarify the previous sentence I will explain that I already owned one-half of the building and the purchase of the other half would make me the owner of one whole house.

I bought my partner out of his share when we separated and he decided to move on, which included selling it. I desperately wanted to keep it (that is another story for a later date), so I combined all my assets to come up with enough money to purchase it from him. When I say all when referencing assets I mean All, with a capital A. Here I stand today, the proud owner of one whole house, one huge mortgage, one paltry savings account, and all the repair and maintenance bills incurred to operate that whole house. Initially, I felt the need to prove to myself, and everyone else, that I was worthy of this house and every bit as capable of maintaining it as its previous half-owner was. I painted ceilings, cut down trees, stained the deck, and caulked the windows. Then, however, came the real challenge.

Because this house is located on a barrier beach and it is not always accessible during the winter months its water supply must be turned off and the house ‘winterized’. When I had a partner, we would hire the local plumber to do this chore for the handsome sum of eight hundred dollars per annum. Half the amount paid was for turning the water off in the fall, and the other four hundred was the cost to reverse the process come spring. With a shortage of capital and a glut of incentive, I decided to tackle this task myself.

This is the point at which the afore-mentioned prejudices came into play. Obtaining the instructions concerning how to do this project was probably more difficult than actually doing the job. Every man that I discussed this with held the secret close to his chest, lest a woman find out how to drain a plumbing system. There seemed to be more mystery surrounding this project than there is about the Trinity. By mid-November, and without sufficient clarity on how exactly to do this, I had to call the plumber. I vowed never to do this again, but in order to honor that vow I would have to uncover the mystery.

When the boys arrived a few days later, I greeted them at the door wearing school bus yellow, rubber coveralls and jacket, and with flashlight in hand I was ready to join the team under the house. They were none too happy to allow me…a woman…to accompany them to what, described by them, was to be the bowels of hell. Stories of dirty water, mud, and rats (which actually did almost make me change my mind) were rolling off their tongues, but I would not be bullied. I was about to find out their secrets.

By following them each step of the way I found the following:

Step 1.  Shut off the water at the main with the ‘key’.

Step 2.  Open all the valves, including the one on the hot water heater, to allow the water in the pipes inside the house to flow out. Also, open all the faucets in the house and leave open.

Step 3. Put RV antifreeze in the dishwasher and washing machine. Turn machines to the rinse cycles and start. Let them complete their cycles.

Step4. Put RV antifreeze in the toilets and flush. Put more anti-freeze in the toilets (do not flush) and in the sinks and bathtubs also.

*** In the spring, reverse the process— close valves and faucets and turn on water supply at the main. Wait five minutes and turn on the faucet (upstairs first if you have one) to let air out of the system. When water runs clear and the air has stopped coming out turn on the hot water heater.

I perform this routine to the entire house two times a year, and because I have a quick-disconnect that allows me to use a portion of the house in the winter, I  do a mini version of it more often.

With the money I have saved by not having to employ the services of a plumber for the above job I have been able to treat myself to a massage here and there and, of course,  receive a manicure after having done such a gruesome task. Most importantly, I have solved the mystery… I have crossed the gender line and  I have cracked the code!

[there is a story about rats that I will post at sometime in the future, however it did not involve any of the times I ventured under the house to turn the system on or off. I never did come face to face with any creatures while performing this chore, but I did get caught with my pants down once and I have the pictures to prove it.]

4 thoughts on “Cracking the Code

  1. Thank you so much, Eliza! I do not think of myself as ‘funny’ at all, but people laugh at me. I think I am an intelligent and educated simpleton. I so very much appreciate your having been a part of my life, especially during that time, to bear witness to these occurrences. And it is from and through other women that I learned much about who I am, what I can do, and who I could become. You are one of those women, and I thank you for that. Love right back to you, my sister!


  2. Brenda your a beautiful writer and for and extra few bucks I know you can make people laugh. Laughing so hard at your witty sense of humor surrounding I know to be very real events. Your ability to take on these tasks defines who we are as women even more so that we can tackle just about anything and I have this great visual of you in the yellow suit now and the flashlight in hand with that cute little quirky smile as you asked I am sure lots of questions. I love you and thanks so much for sharing this. You always have and continue to inspire me.
    Love to you Elizabeth


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