Today’s Small Thing Which Brought Me Such Joy

Gaze in wonder, O dear readers, at the burst pipe in my basement. This pipe burst some indefinite time ago, thanks to water freezing inside of it. We would have noticed it earlier, except that the pipe leads to an outside faucet that hasn’t been used for years because it was obscured by a veritable miniature jungle of brush in my backyard.

That is, until the landscapers tore out all that brush yesterday and used the faucet today to water the new plants they put in. The good news is that the plants were indeed watered. The bad news was that so were several boxes of books and old electronics I stored in the basement. So I and Krissy spent a good portion of the afternoon moving and emptying out boxes, throwing out soaked stuff and generally doing more exercise in the subterranean depths of our house than either of us would have preferred to do.

Fortunately, not too much of value was lost. All of the books were fine (the cardboard of the boxes took the moisture hit) and the electronics and computer equipment that I stored down there was of the “I’ll just keep these old speakers down here in case I ever need them” variety, i.e., this may have been God’s way of telling me it was time to throw that crap out. Dear God: I thought you said you were done with floods.

Anyway, deeply annoying and took time out of our day, but it could have been a whole lot worse. We’ll be telling the landscapers to use the other outside faucet tomorrow and put a call into our plumber to fix the pipe. Then we’ll sacrifice a goat or one of the neighbors to the gods of mischief to ensure it will never happen again. I think the goat might be the usual sacrifice, but the neighbor might be easier to lure into the basement. Hmmm. I may have said too much.

50 Comments on “Today’s Small Thing Which Brought Me Such Joy”

  1. Hey, not just the gods of mischief! I can’t believe you forgot the annual sacrifice to the plumbing gods! The do NOT like to be ignored…..
    (oh, must make mine soon – no more leaking bathroom plumbing! Please!)

  2. It’s called a “Frost Free Faucet”, and it is designed to drain out when you remove the hose in cold weather, keeping the water-filled piping well away from the outside. DO NOT LEAVE THE HOSE CONNECTED if there is any chance of a hard freeze, then you can safely use the faucet year round for brief periods. Sorry, John, but I live too far away to do a fan-fixion for you. (disabled plumber)

  3. May I be the first to say? This is what you get when you move the Evil Printer into the basement.


  4. This is what happens when you try and fix stuff up. I replaced a $46 water filter in my fridge earlier this year which caused a leak and cost me my entire kitchen floor. Now I stick to ice trays. ;-)
    Glad your books are OK.

  5. All I could think was “oh god, not the books!!!” But then read that they were ok, so my moment of terror was brief, you had me worried for a second.

  6. In my old house, there used to be an underground sprinkler system that the previous owner had never used and had ‘disabled’.

    One January, as we returned from a week long trip to Disney (“It’s a small world after all…”), we heard a huge WHOOSH followed by rushing water. Ran outside to find an enormous gusher of water running up the side of the house.

    After doing the ‘turn off the water, what else is wrong’ routine, we discovered how the previous owner had disabled the system. He stuffed a wine cork in it.

  7. God replies: “Is your basement the entire earth? No, your basement isn’t the entire earth. Thus flooding your basement is not flooding the entire earth.

    This is also why Noah didn’t build an ark in his basement.”

  8. Just looking at that picture, that’s a non-standard plumbing joint. It might be a good idea to have your plumber go through the basement and follow the rest of the pipes.

  9. Check with Leviticus. They have excellent sacrifice instructions that would translate well from cow to human when applied to arcane gods of mischief.

    I wouldn’t mention that to the neighbor or the goat.

  10. Matt @6: You remind me of the time I was helping a friend trace the irrigation lines at her new house.

    The house has four different automatic irrigation valves in front, and four in back. It didn’t seem to have four zones, though, and there were a few uprights in corners of the yard that had pipe caps on them. In the backyard, we were going through the process of turning the control to a different “channel”, and then waiting for the water to come out, and we’d just turned it to channel 7.

    There didn’t seem to be any water coming out anywhere, so we were about to go back to the garage for the next one.

    And then there was a loud bang, like an only slightly-muffled gunshot, from the corner of the yard, and a gusher of water shot up from the formerly-capped pipe in the corner of the yard.

    A long few seconds later, there was another bang from the deck next to me, as the pipe cap missed landing on my head by about three feet.

    It turns out that the former owner had neglected to glue it on, and had simply wedged it on tightly, and over the years that had become quite tight indeed — but not quite tight enough. From what I could recollect of the hang time, I figure it achieved an altitude of well more than a hundred feet.

    After that, we checked all the rest of the upright pipes for loose caps. And then we replaced them all with screw-on caps, and properly glued down the screw-onto bases.

  11. Don’t you just love plumbing? *insert sarcasm here* We’ve had a few gushers in our house before. It always happens at night too. Luckily my husband is a good fixer guy and has those tools you need for plumbing.

  12. Silly me, thinking that one sacrificed goats to appease the demons of SCSI termination.
    *checks* Hey, that IS the recipe!


    You may have better luck
        if you sacrifice a duck –
    Or perhaps a shrubbery
        one that’s quite rubbery?

  13. Humidity control. Nearby lake.
    Two things that just cannot wait to grapple one another to the death.
    Printer… darn, Lauretta @3 called it already.

    All kidding aside, I hope with fervance that:
     – your books emerge unmoistened,
     – your printer never makes you regret the day thing happened, and that
     – you will let us know if there were electronic casualties.

    I have faith that your readers would love to unload some junk will respond in your hour of need, if so able.

  14. I too felt very anxious until I heard that your books were okay.

    So. Do we get to see the new stuff they planted?

  15. I was away from home for a couple of hours when a pipe burst under a kitchen sink in my old house and caused about $10k in damage. I was painting a few rooms upstairs and put all my books down in the basement for temporary storage only a few days before. Water was just flooding down onto all these books, some I had from high school and destroyed several hundred.

    In my new house I had one of these installed ( and have sensors all over the house.

  16. Oh, I see how it is. Once you become SFWA president, you can afford to have TWO outdoor faucets there, John J. Rockefeller? So THAT’S where the membership dues go!

  17. I hate plumbing. I was having the bathroom remodeled in a 60 year old house when the pipes leading to the toilet stack broke. Ouch! Added more expense to the remodel budget!!

  18. I recently had all my plumbing replaced with PEX. No more copper! (well, just a small bit) Now my plumbing looks like a steam-powered ethernet hub for Babbage Engines.

  19. Presumably, since the faucet was not easily accessible, at some point it was not opened and drained before winter.

  20. You, sir, disappoint me greatly. Your response is so un-American as to appear treasonous. If more people had your attitude, we’d all be speaking Russian now (or Chinese, or Uzbek or Georgian — the Southern variety, not the ex-SSR variety).

    While it may be accurate to surmise that said pipe actually burst some time in the past, due to freezing and only now had its defect revealed by said landscaping work, the PATRIOTIC thing to do would have been to ASSIGN BLAME! Surely you could have made the case that your landscapers were negligent (possibly even willfully so), and that they rammed the spigot with one of their carelessly operated digging machines! Surely, you could have complained that they owed you the cost of your plumber, if not the entire cost of their labors. You could have escalated your complaint to blogging about it, sending out nasty letters to Consumerist and the like, and even commencing costly and protracted court proceedings!

    I reiterate my disappointment…you Commie Bastard!

  21. O Misleading Scalzi, what a terrible blog posting title.

    The Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club was filled with the thrilling expectation of a series of superb images of Her as you finally acknowledge Her Most Gracious Shimmering Radiant Perfect Mercy and Her Impact on you.

    But no.

    It turns out (after suffering through your usual wall of text ramblings) there wasn’t a single mention of Magnificent She.


    This pipe issue is termed “karma”, payment for your sad lack of Worship and Appreciation of Her.

    There is only one way to fix it – so hop to it. A burst pipe is merely a warning shot. Don’t put the world at risk for a Further Punishment.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  22. this may have been God’s way of telling me it was time to throw that crap out

    As you said this, I realized that I have some old PC speakers, a couple of old motherboards, sound cards, modems (remember modems?) and 3.5″ floppy drives in my basement.

    Just in case I ever need them.

    Sounds like it’s time to learn from the example of others.

  23. I’m having trouble visualizing what happened. The burst pipe is inside the basement. The faucet is outside the house. Correct?

    Under normal circumstances,I would expect the pipe be pressurized up to the faucet, so that once the ice melted, the pipe would flood the basement even if the outside faucet was turned off. Why was the pipe empty of water until the landscapers turned on the faucet?

  24. @ Daryl Swinson – I assume the sheeple must be of the Android’s Dream variety?

  25. It’s likely this is one of those faucets with the actual valve mechanism 18″ or 24″ down the pipe from the actual faucet. In this case, the valve is above the burst section so kept it sealed until gardener guy performed his eeeeeeevil. Could also be why that end looks so weird. I still don’t get soldering a pipe inside a threaded coupler but hey, maybe it’s an Ohio thing.

    /muncie hoosier

  26. Just curious: how did you notice it? Could have been much, much worse if you hadn’t spotted the leak quickly!

  27. And I now have a sudden rush of relief that I am not your neighbour. I mean, I am your ‘neighbour of the north’ but I am assuming your sacrifice doesn’t involve an attack on all your humble Canuck friends. We’re warm and cuddle, and offer an assortment of pies. And when has a goat ever given you pie?

    My in-laws once had a mass basement flooding due to forgetting to drain the water before the cold Toronto winter unleashed her wrath upon its hapless victims. Pipe explosions rarely bring happy things and do not play well with electronics.

  28. John: I can send you one of our neighbors for sacrifice if yours won’t suffice. She’s an eccentric free-range vegan, I’m pretty sure she’s a virgin, and I’m pretty sure she won’t be missed.

  29. gilmoure,

    Ahh, makes sense. So the remote valve mechanism means that the first foot or so of pipe drains and shouldn’t freeze unless someone leaves a water-filled hose attached to the faucet during winter?

    (And I see Neale Osborn explained it in comment 2, and I didn’t pay attention).

    I’ve got those freeze-resistant on our outside faucets and always wondered how they work. They continue to run for a few moments after they’re turned off, which I suppose is the pipe between faucet and valve draining out.

  30. Revenge!

    The spirits of dead shrubbery have reached from beyond the grave to wreak havoc upon the evil biped who brutally and prematurely curtailed their time on this earth.

  31. I see cthuhlu-printer is already starting to wreak havoc…

    Save yourself while there’s still time, Scalzi!

    Also, re: “joy” in the title. It that what them there writer folks call “irony”? Or is that just a bad choice of words?

    lastly: “This is also why Noah didn’t build an ark in his basement.”

    Well, of course he didn’t build his ark in the basement, he’d never get it out through the doors. And that would have been a very different ending to Genesis I think.

  32. oh, and one other thing…

    Hey! that pipe to the outside hose connection doesn’t have an interior shutoff valve???

    We’ve got two hose connections outside the house. Each one has their own personal shutoff valve that shuts off nothing but the water to taht particular faucet.

    And before every winter, I shut the inside valve *off* and turn the outside faucet *on* to drain the water out of the pipe.

    Then if the outside faucet gets really cold, the interior pipe doesn’t have any water inside it to freeze.

    How the heck can you live in Ohio and not drain your outside-feeding pipes before winter?

  33. If you turn your TV on right now, you might catch this news story: CNN is reporting a mass exodus of goats streaming across the Ohio borders.

  34. Hmm. Maybe yesterday was official Pipe Bursting Day. A water main broke under the street riiiiiight outside work yesterday afternoon.

  35. Mike @ 36 — John: I can send you one of our neighbors for sacrifice if yours won’t suffice. She’s an eccentric free-range vegan, I’m pretty sure she’s a virgin, and I’m pretty sure she won’t be missed.

    Is that neighbors? Or neighbors’?

    ‘Cause, there’s like a world of difference there. :)

  36. Eccentric free-range vegans are an endangered species Mike. Don’t make us sic the Sierra Club or the Feds on ya ;P

  37. Can someone tell me why a pipe that “burst” in the winter would not start leaking until the summer when someone opened the faucet? I am not asking in a snippy way or anything, the same thing happened to our house years ago and I wondered why a break upstream from the faucet (shutoff valve) would not leak from the constant water pressure of a charged pipe until water was flowing through it.

  38. I did that a couple of years back, in my case the faucet was hidden under the deck ??
    The gusher got some old computer boxes and backpacking sleeping mats, nothing vital.

    The builders had cut corners in exactly the same way as in your picture, soldering a screw-fit faucet directly to the water pipe. Oy.
    The good thing is the plumber can now fix this so future faucet replacements are a matter of unscrewing rather than plumbing.

  39. @ #32: Well, it certainly could be. But, the particular sheeple I had in mind are probably watching Fox News right now with ropes of foamy spittle hanging from their mouths, eyes glassy and vacant, waiting for their programming to begin.

  40. Eternal Density @ 7: God replies: “Is your basement the entire earth? No, your basement isn’t the entire earth. Thus flooding your basement is not flooding the entire earth.

    This is also why Noah didn’t build an ark in his basement.”

    I’m told by a reliable source that His words were: “And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” So, no, He didn’t make specific remarks regarding the Scalzi basement.

    Let’s see if we can answer Mr. Scalzi and be understood by commenter@7. Follow this closely, now:

    1. God said “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

    2. The waters in the basement apparently became a flood.

    3. The flood did not destroy all flesh.

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