Today I had to repair our sprinkler system–something unneeded by those in large cities living in apartments, or those in places with rainfall, but something absolutely essential living in Utah, especially if you’re leaving for two weeks and would like the tomatoes to be alive when you return.
I have to confess that I would have hired someone to fix it. I installed the system years ago and swore then that I was done with it. I would, I also swore, hire someone else to do anything else it needed. I’ve been true to my oath until now. The guy who usually does so was on vacation and won’t return before my garden would be dead, so I was forced to do the work.
In principle, the only difficult part is the trench digging, which was made easier by the fact that I was digging where the contractor who is putting an addition on the house had already dug. The dirt was reasonably loose and the rocks weren’t packed tightly, so the digging wasn’t too hard. The trouble is that in practice the most difficult thing is going back to Lowe’s over and over again to get the part I forgot to get last time, or a new pipe cutter because my old one is broken, or to replace the wire I mistakenly bought the first time with some that will work.
By 9:30 this evening, I had the thing put back together and I turned on the water. Ten minutes later, I heard a very large pop. The joint where the main line meets the valve had failed. So, Monday will find me in the yard, again trying to fix the damned thing one more time. I suspect I’ll have to dig up the valve box and replace all of the old connections.
But this post isn’t about the inadequacies in my handimanliness. It is about something that happened on one of the trips to Lowe’s. I had purchased a couple of 90 degree elbows and hadn’t noticed that some of them were threaded, making them useless to me. So I had to return them and get the right ones.
Having been in the yard most of the day working, wearing my baggy and dirty Levis, unshaved and not recently washed, I’m fairly sure that I wasn’t all that presentable. But this was Lowe’s after all. Surely they see a lot of people like me, stopped in the middle of a job and trying to get the right part or tool. In any case, I looked vagrant and perhaps even aged. The grey in my beard makes me look especially old if I don’t shave.
As I walked out the door, my two pipe elbows in hand, a man about my own age, but perhaps younger, came up to me carrying a translucent plastic sack. I could see that it was filled with PVC pipe fittings like I had just exchanged. He said, “Are you doing some plumbing?” and I said, “Yes.” “Could you use these?”
I’m sure he could see the look of surpise on my face, so he said something like, “I just thought I would give you these if you could use them.”
I couldn’t. I had all the PVC pipe fittings I could wish for. But I was struck by his kindness. He had a bag full of fittings that he could return for a refund. I assume that is what he was on his way to do. But when he saw me and thought I could use them, he offered to give them to me.
I don’t know what the total refund for his fittings would have come to, perhaps 10 or 15 dollars. Perhaps less. But it was obvious that he was making an offer of help. I almost wished I could have used them so that his generosity wouldn’t have gone without effect. On the other hand, whatever the angels are recording, his act did affect me. I’m very grateful to him for it because it was such a sweet encounter. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening not only cursing the plastic–that was unavoidable–but also thinking about his small act of kindness to a stranger.