So a couple of days ago Gaspar comes to me and tells me there is a “small, no maybe big problem” in one of our rooms. I follow him to Balam, on the second floor of the first casita, where he shows me a leak in the shower hot-water faucet. Ah, no big deal, says I to myself. I have already dealt with a leaky kitchen faucet and know that all I have to do is visit my friendly neighborhood hardware or plumbing supply tienda and in no time that leak will be history.
So I grab a few pesos, my wallet, and put on my “walking” shoes (anything other than flip-flops) and head down the street to our hardware store. The owner, Jose, loves to practice a bit of English when I come into the store. He tries to repeat in English whatever he says to me in Spanish. Then he looks at me with a big grin, very proud that at age 85 he “still has it”. Whenever I purchase something at his store, he always speaks the cost in English. “Tirty-six pesos”, and then looks up at me with that grin.
So I pull out the old valve I brought with me and ask him if he has one. “No, lo siento”, comes his reply. “Sorry”. I say, “no problemo”, thank him, and head to where I knew I should have gone to in the first place.
So I head for Cereba at the corner of 57 and 50. The guy first gives me a very long valve, and I say, no, it is much smaller and show him my old valve. He then pulls out one that seems to match perfectly. Same length, same rubber grommets, same innards. So I say I’ll take two…gotta’ have one for the next time one of these faucets gives out.
So I grab a taxi home to get the new valve installed before our next guests arrive.
So our guests arrive that evening. They are four young people from China, and they don’t speak three words of English. We use a lot of hand signals trying to explain everything. Steve pulls every breakfast food out of the refrigerator and shows it to them, one at a time, in order to find out if they can eat each item. We get them all settled and they seem to be enjoying their stay.
So on their second, and last, morning, one of the young women comes to me with her hands flailing and trying to say “shower no work”. After a few repetitions, I get it and follow her to the Balam room, where water is gushing from the hot water faucet.
So after shutting off the water and cleaning up most of the water on the floor of the bathroom, I run to our shower and remove one of the valves so I can use it in Balam. That solves things for the moment, but I know I have, probably, a full day finding the right valve.
So after the guests check out Gaspar and I remove the valve again and try to ascertain why the new one has failed. Seems the threads on the new valve are different than the old and the valve had not seated fully. When water pressure was applied, it popped out of the wall.
So now I know the problem, and head to Fernandez hardware. I have found over the last three years that if I really need something, just go to Fernandez because they will have it.
So they don’t have it. They suggest Cereba, a plumbing store in La Mejorada. Yeah, I KNOW!
So I return to Cereba for the “right” valve. But guess what? No, they don’t have the right one. The woman behind the counter suggests I remove all the rubber grommets from the new one and rebuild my old valve. After all, the metal housing is fine. Sounds good to me; I buy two more valves and walk home, confident in Plan B.
So after I rebuild the new valve, I put in the last piece, which is the rubber grommet at the end of the valve. But it is ever, so very slightly larger than the old one, but I manage to get it seated. It puffs out the end a bit and this worries me. And yes, when I try to install it, the valve leaks.
So my next step is to remove a couple of valves from our shower, install one of them in Balam, and try to find the right valves to replace the ones in our shower, using the other valve from our shower as an example and to compare.
So I know that Luis, who renovated our property, is working on a house down our street, and chances are the plumber that works with Luis will be there. I head to the house, knock, and open the door. Luis happens to be there and I ask him where the shower valves came from at our house. “Boxito”.
So off to Boxito I go, my sample valve in my shorts pocket. They don’t have it. But they have one that the guy insists will work. 60 pesos.
So when THAT valve doesn’t work, I head for Ceramat in Las Americas because I know we bought a lot of stuff from them when we renovated. On the way I pass a Surpesa store and stop in to ask if they have the valve. “No. Va a Flecha”. Flecha? What is that? Never heard of Flecha. The guy says it is on the next street over, a few blocks down.
So when Ceramat doesn’t have the valve, I start the search for this Flecha store. I walk three blocks East, and there is a little tienda in front of me called “Flecha”. They have about a dozen different valves on display, and I was able to match up my sample with one on the display. I purchase one, promising to return for 10 more if “this one works”.
So I’m back at home and 5 minutes later I’m in the shower, singing, “Aaaahhhhh sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you.” Wow! Can a tiny victory like that really make me that manic? I gotta’ get a life.
So it took only 5 bad purchases, 6 hours, and some very wet clothes to get this one fixed. But it is fixed (for now, anyway). Now I can relax and watch a couple of episodes of “House, M.D.”
And then Gaspar comes to me and says we have a small problem. When it rains, it pours, I guess.