Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Just Faucets

     As a general rule, I leave uncovering deception to the watchdogs, to investigative reporters and those who dig and probe.
     But, well, sometimes y0u just stumble across it.
     Our to-the-studs bathroom remodeling project, nearing its first anniversary, had hung up on a particular piece of plumbing: a pop-up drain that had to fit into the old bathtub, which we did not remove because a) it is made of iron and you can't buy that kind of thing anymore; b) it would cost thousands of dollars more to take it out and rebuild the floor underneath and c) my wife wants a tub in the house anyway, to bathe the dog and any grandchildren who may come along in the next decade, hint hint.
     But when it came time to put the spanking new white PVC drain pipe in she had bought, our contractor kept the original drain pipe because it is brass and brass is better, which made sense. 
     In theory. In reality, that meant the new pop-up drain we bought wouldn't fit in because, while the proper diameter, the threads were spaced differently. That is a thing, apparently, in plumbing, as I learned this week.
     The solution I came up with was to go to Banner Plumbing Supply, because I had passed it on Lake Cook Road, driving out to Buffalo Grove, where my parents now live. The place is enormous, and I imagined it would have the piece we were looking for because it was big enough to hold all pipes and valves and drains and faucets that could have ever been conceived or manufactured since the dawn of time. It's that big.  
      My wife and I—we tend to do these journeys as a team, for company, and I suppose for self-protection too, the way gun ranges will only rent weapons to a pair of people, to cut down on spontaneous suicide— entered with confidence. The people at Banner were brisk and polite, efficient and pleasant and helpful, everything we could have hoped for, except for one little thing: they didn't have the part we needed. They did, however, point us toward something called "Just Faucets" in Arlington Heights. They had a photocopied map and everything. Which struck me as selfless.
     I thought of saying, "Can we really expect to find a drain at a place called 'Just Faucets?" Is this not deceptive, to claim they're only in the faucet trade, publically, in their very name, and yet seem to be engaged in sub rosa non-faucet commerce as well? 
     But honestly frustration had drained the wisenheimerhood out of me, and as we drove the half hour from Banner to Just Faucets. Plenty of time to brood, darkly and aloud, on all sorts of grim, defeatist tangents. Such as: why are we were doing this at all? Why isn't our contractor doing this? He's the guy who spurned my wife's perfectly good PVC pipe in favor of the supposedly better half century plus brass pipe, which might even be better in theory but not in the suddenly crucial area of allowing the new drain to be screwed in. Maybe we could just re-plate the old drain, battered and corroded though it was.
      "We could use a white rubber plug on a chain," I suggested. My wife didn't respond. "Or we could just stuff a rag in the drain, fill the tub, and drown ourselves," I didn't say, or even think that second part. But it succinctly captures my mood on the drive.
      "Just Faucets" seemed a refugee from a David Letterman sketch—what was it? "Just Lightbulbs" or something? We found a cluttered, small—the polar opposite of Banner Plumbing Supply—yet somehow reassuring store of the sort that it would seem international chains had eliminated. Except this one exists, or at least I think it exists, assuming it didn't just rise from the mist of our despair, like Brigadoon. Lou took our old battered drain and walked over to an array of threaded rings and started fiddling with them, hope, which pretty much had been drown by a sloshing tubful of cold pessimism, threw off a single spark.
     Lou made a satisfied sound and presented us with a new drain, gauged to fit thanks to an adaptor, and for only $38, which you can bet your ass is coming off what we owe the contractor. I'm at the stage of life where problems loom larger than they should, so much that their solutions become thrilling, glorious releases from failure and anxiety. I felt so delighted I considered hugging Lou, but this was not a place where men hug for any reason, even for moving their endless bathroom project through its final yet eternal, Zeno's Paradox, halfway to the goal every day phase. I did immediately think of this blog, and asked Lou his name, which I didn't know up to that point, and how old "Just Faucets" is. He said 40 years, 20 in this location, and introduced me to the owner, sitting nearby who looked up at me with a minimum of curiosity. 
    "Thank you for your important work," I said, and meant it.



  1. Marvelous story! As usual. I think of myself as a pretty smart, knowledgable guy, which most of us do, I'm sure, but the people who man (and woman) the shelves of hardware stores beat us all out with the breath and the depth of their knowledge about things mechanical. A hearty thanks for their sharing that knowledge to all who ask.


  2. We also had a situation you had--our plumber suggested we contact Just Faucets to find the bracket and screw that would hold the handle on a 20-year old shower fixture. Just Faucets didn't have one in stock, so they reached out to their contacts to find one. They found out Kohler hasn't sold it for years and no one has one. Didn't make a dime on all their work for us--I will go to them for new fixtures when we remodel that bathroom in the next year.

  3. But it's not Just Faucets, as the photo shows they also carry replacement toilet tank lids. /s

  4. What I think you were trying to remember (and Google bears me out on this) was the Scotch Boutique from SNL in 1978. Gilda Radner runs a mall store selling nothing but Scotch Tape.

    I recall during my years of train commuting that there was a shop on Northwest Highway in the Mount Prospect area specializing in cabinet knobs, or perhaps it was door handles. Their sign loudly announced their specialty, and was there for many years.

    The key here is Find Your Niche, get really good at something not many others can deliver. That can range from being the best brain surgeon to being the best guy for fitting drain parts together. Either way, you need them in order to get the job done properly, and you're really grateful when they do.

    1. David Letterman visits Just Bulbs and Just Shades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K-DakHvUBM

    2. I remember that SNL sketch. I also remember one that was its polar opposite. It was this small dry goods shop that had everything, and I mean everything. No matter what inane or bizarre thing you asked for -- a TV cut in half, an inflatable Chet Huntley doll, a crossbow made of solid chocolate ("Milk or dark?" asked the mild-mannered proprietor, played, I believe, by Bob Newhart) -- they had it.

    3. Multiple episodes of The Simpsons have had "specialty shops" at the Springfield Mall, usually with hilarious names...many of them puns. There was the Springfield Sock Exchange, just one of countless examples.

      Someone in Manhattan opened a brick-and-mortar store called the New York Sock Exchange...but not for long. Wall Street was not amused. After complaints to the city, and legal action from the NYSE, the store was quickly shut down.

  5. Our tub has a pop-up drain plug, which I despise on multiple counts. a.) It makes putting a hair-catching thingee over it more problematic. b.) It sometimes closes for no reason while using the shower. c.) It makes getting the hair out of the drain much more of a hassle (which is related to a., of course.)

    I'd probably prefer "a white rubber plug," with or without a chain, but have I bothered to do anything about it? Please! ; )

  6. You can make the most mundane subject interesting; now that is talent.


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