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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time the water went down the drain

By Lee Simpson

It’s the little things that get me in my Year of Buying Nothing (YBN). Of course, my generation always chorused, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But along with everything else, I can’t buy that right now.

Take last Tuesday when my beloved grandson generously passed along a day-care cold. Mid-afternoon found me alternately sweaty and chilled, with six hours remaining before I could make a dignified exit. And after four phone calls, 15 emails, three text conversations and a halfhearted attempt at dinner, I longed for a hot bath and comfy bed. Alas, the first of those comforts was denied this poor aching body.

We live in a house that is aging even more rapidly than I am. Like me, the structure is basically sound, but there are tiny things that just don’t work as well as when they were first installed. In the case of our home, it’s the plumbing. Recently, the kitchen sink provided my husband and me with a YBN challenge. We ignored the leaky tap for some time, finding that levering to “cold” and pushing the mechanism to the 4 o’clock position limited the incessant dripping. But after five months, that trick failed: the faucet dribbled precious well water at an alarming rate. Naturally, we did what non-YBN folk would have done months earlier and phoned the plumber — repairs being kosher under the YBN rules when makeshift solutions are exhausted.

And it was a repair that was desperately needed, right? Unfortunately, no. The problem required a replacement because we waited too long to call. So, did we stick to YBN rules and insist Peter Plumber reinstall the old unit?

Well, the “right” move would have been three kinds of folly. It would have meant wasting money and water, and trashing our fragile reputations as sensible come-from-aways. We would have been forced to turn off the kitchen pipes and do without running water for the remainder of 2014. Invoking my YBN was useless because hubby wouldn’t go for that (thank God, I silently echoed!). Instead, we bowed to the inevitable purchase of hardware. Although I made my husband pay the plumber’s bill, I vowed that I would come clean with you, dear reader.

And so we return to that hot bath for a cold-ridden carcass: there I was (don’t picture this), fevered, desperately in need of the tub’s comfort. I bent over, steadying myself on the towel rail while placing that clever rubber disc over the drain and running the mercifully steaming stream. And the rubber thingy slipped sideways. So I repositioned it, but it slid away again; it was old and had lost its will to cling. It needed to be replaced. Meanwhile, precious hot water ran down the drain and tears ran down my face. Although my husband came in and jammed a washcloth in the plughole, I still wallowed briefly and miserably in a rapidly decreasing puddle, contemplating, “Will this year ever end?”


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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