Brass Nipples and Buttery Nipples Go Hand in Hand

The last few weeks have been a blur of school, a county-wide livestock show, a plethora of hatching chicks, and repairs on the motorhome.  Don’t ask me what day it is, or what I ate for breakfast because it’s highly likely that I can’t answer you correctly.

We have been sacrificing most of our nights and weekends to get our RV road ready. Each and every system has to be tested, re-tested, and stamped with our own seal of approval. My goal is to fix something every day. Two days ago, I was ready to beat my head on the Corian countertop in the galley.

Plumbing isn’t for wimps or for the faint of heart. I’ll be frank, plumbing makes you want to drink. Heavily. I’m not talking about tea or water here, unless you mean Long Island iced tea or firewater. There is nothing more frustrating than connecting all of your hoses, fittings, and associated faucetry (?) while in an impossibly contorted position because some moron put a DIVIDER under the sink so that you have 10 inches of workspace, turning on the water and then having water spray in your face and soak the pressed particleboard underneath.

So now you have:

1. a permanent crick in your neck and back

2. busted fingers from trying to tighten a nut in about 1 inch of space

3. a soaked upper half

4. rapidly decomposing particleboard, getting waterlogged by the millisecond

5. a desire to make a strong mixed drink

6. the realization that you were probably better off BEFORE you tried to ‘fix’ the plumbing.

It’s an utterly depressing feeling. Hats off to plumbers everywhere. Really.

Part of the problem is that a lot of the hardware available today is just plain crap. There’s no way around that. It’s junk; I have no clue how the company making it thinks that in any way, shape, or form it will ever work, let alone hold up in a real world situation. It’s worse in an RV/mobile home plumbing world.  So much worse.  For example, in our shower stall there is no plumbing access panel, and I do mean none. No, it isn’t hidden behind a mirror or anything like that. If you want an access panel, you’re gonna have to cut yourself one. We thought that by removing a corner shelf in the shower stall that there would be access to the pipes. Nope…after 10 minutes of unscrewing and finally ripping the shelf off, it was….dum dum dum duuuuuuum….nothing. just the wall of the shower stall. No hole.

So, how to replace the shower faucet? Well, cross your fingers, say a prayer, cut yourself a hole and hope that you don’t sever anything vitally important. Either that, or rip out the entire shower stall. By sheer accident, I did find that you can replace the inner workings of the valve (located in the handles themselves), and so I bought a new one as a trial. It leaked WORSE than the old one. Yes, it was the correct valve, too. It was at least twice as pliable as the old plastic valves. Did they make them out of recycled straws or Baggies or something? I don’t know. You could almost bend it, the plastic was so soft. Luckily, I am married to He-Man/Mr. Fix-It and he took the old valves and replaced the O-rings. There. Problem #1 solved.

Now, for the kitchen. Since all the fittings to the faucet were plastic, and since you would have to be the girth of a ratsnake to actually see what you’re doing, they initially got cross-threaded. Thus, the spray in the face. And also, because the brass nipples (yes, this is a real plumbing part) were not beveled at the ends, they didn’t seat properly into the rubber seals in the new hoses. That’s what my husband told me. Where any technical wording begins, you can be assured that is where his words begin and mine end. I would have probably told you that ‘the brass thing and the hose thing don’t work’. I can’t help it that I have the mechanical know-how of a toddler. In fact, I probably can be out-done by a toddler, for that matter. A Playskool Cobbler’s Bench is almost too much for me to bear. Anyway, that was the problem and so he fixed it by using nipples that were actually intended for hydraulics. So, hydraulic nipples. I had to say it. Our problem was solved with hydraulic nipples.

I want to also step in here and talk about hardware stores and men sending us to get parts. I was in town already, so I volunteered my services and told my dear husband that I would pick up the needed hardware to repair the kitchen plumbing. It sounded easy enough. A male to female hose, half-inch diameter. And I even know that he meant 1/2″ I.D., which means ‘inner diameter’ and NOT O.D. which is outer diameter and can cause you nightmares in certain situations. So I go into the hardware store with high hopes and my little list. A man came to help me. This is where the trip started sliding downhill.

Me: I need a male to female, half-inch extension hose for a sink.

Him: Extension hose?

Me: Okay, maybe it’s not an ‘extension’ hose then…just a hose.

(we walk over to the hoses)

Him (holding up a hose): Would this work?

Me: Uhhhh.

(we stare at the hose together in an uncomfortable silence)

Me: Well, it’s supposed to be male to female and I know that’s probably not standard…that’s female to female, right?

Him: Oh, well I guess it is. Hmm. Let’s see (digs among the hoses) Do you know how long it needs to be?

Me: Uhhhhh. (suddenly realizing that I am about to use my hands in the stereotypical way a woman measures and say, “About this long?” and I shove my hands in my pockets) Gosh, I don’t know, what do you have?

Him: (holds up a hose)

Me: (refusing to use my hands to show measurement) Yeah, that looks about right. I mean…I think it is.  I sure wish my husband was here to see this…he knows what he’s talking about. Let me call him. (I call…no answer) Well, I don’t know.

Him: Ha ha, us men are bad about sending y’all to town like that. It sounds easy to us in our heads, I mean we know what we’re talking about, and then we get upset when y’all get the wrong thing. I guess that isn’t really fair, is it?

Me: Well, try picking up a box of tampons at the store for your wife sometime and then let’s talk about what’s “easy”.

I think I’m getting a little sassy in my older age. We recruited help, and that’s how I came home with the brass nipples. Luckily for my husband, it wasn’t brass knuckles because I probably would have used them on the plumbing at that point.

Of course, when I walked in with my hoses and the nipples, he said, “Yeah, I thought that’s what they’d send you home with.”  Translation: “That isn’t what I would have bought. No, I wouldn’t have bought that at all.

I am happy to say that one of the brass nipples has held up so far, so it wasn’t a total wash. And the hoses did work just fine.

If I ruled the world, I’m just saying that I’d stock butterscotch schnapps and Irish cream in the plumbing aisle.





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