Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saving cost-free the Kitchen Sink: The small joys (miracles) of American life

Most USA home/apartment owners are eventually faced with the not-so-minor kitchen tragedy: their InSinkErator (or its variations), their kitchen sink garbage shredder/disposal, ceases functioning -- for many reasons.

The Problem

Scene One: I suppose most of us Americans blame ourselves for sending the wrong waste down the kitchen skin (oops, I meant sink) drain.

Now this time, about a week ago, I wasn't sure why my InSinkErator at home seemed to have perished: I blamed everything from feeding it pork fat to celery leaves.

But I didn't want to give up (don't we all want in America never to give up?) So I shoved my hand down into the bowels of the sink, making doubly sure that the InSinkErator was "off" and wouldn't turn my hand into a messy cut-up salami.

After some expeditionary steps, I picked up some pork fat from the sink and said -- ah ah ah -- I've resurrected my "Badger 5" (a version of the InSinkErator). On my knees, I pulled down Badger's on-off switch in the darkness of the cabinet below the sink.

But nada, nada, nada, no life -- just a buzzing sound. The snoring of the not-yet dead?


Near hopeless, but still determined to fix the problem, I resorted to the instructions in the Badger leaflet:

If motor stops while disposer is operating, disposer may be jammed. To release jam:
1. Turn off disposer and water.
2. Insert one end of the self-service wrenchette into center hole on bottom of disposer. Work wrenchette back and forth until it turns one full revolution. Remove wrenchette.
3. Reach into disposer with tongs and remove object(s).
I did as instructed.

No luck. Deep in my kitchen sink (and in my all-American soul), I sensed no physical object, except the feel of my own shaking hand touching metallic inards. I again realized -- as I did nearly one week ago, when the InSinkErator had gone kaput -- that the work of replacing the InSinkErator by a plumber could be as much as an outrageous $450 (labor, round-trip travel to place of labor, replacement for the Badger if it so needed).

$450? Financial panic time for this not-yet-defrocked academic.

That's nearly half of the salary many an adjunct professor receives a month for teaching a college course. Compare that to the former Brandeis president who, in his retirement, is getting $600,000 a year from his supposedly beloved university, with its students in debt for the privilege of graduating.

The Guardian Angel

Scene Two: Two days after Thanksgiving. Returning home from shopping (I didn't have to buy much, since I still had tasty turkey left in the refrigerator thanks to a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner among friends), in my co-op's elevator I bumped into a pleasant, well-groomed technician (with a "legitimizing" company shirt) from a local plumbing organization that was fixing a major pipe problem in our building.

I told the polite, personable young man (he had only one tatoo) about my InSinkErator problem. After kindly requesting for the number of my apartment (which I readily gave him), he volunteered to check the problem, without even asking for any remuneration.

Thirty minutes later there was a gentle knock at my door -- it was the Plumber (I deliberately capitalize his profession as he was a most worthwhile and articulate representative of it).

He entered my kitchen, used several gadgets (including a cell phone camera) to identify the InSinkErator complication, inspecting the area immediately below the sink -- the top of the InSkinkErator -- and said: "You've got something in there. It's a spoon."

He used a plyer to try get the putative guilty object out, eventually plunging his hand into the pipe leading to the top of the InSinkiErator's motor.

And then, after some ten minutes of what initially appeared to be successful surgery into the sink's interior, he seemed to change his mind -- it wasn't a spoon problem, it was a "total" InSinkErator problem, he said.

Total kaput, spoon not the compleat culprit.

Disappointed, but relieved that at last I knew what the sink "issue" was, I thanked him profusely, expressing my gratitude with a small cash honorarium which he, a true guardian angel, evidently had not expected but reluctantly elegantly accepted.

We Can Work it Out

Scene three (a): A few minutes after the Plumber left, "I thought to myself," to use current American parlance:

I remembered that, about the time my InSinkErator seemed to have left me, I had been unable to find my trusty can opener
and wondered what had happened to it.

I got my flashlight out of a drawer and again stared into that mysterious hole leading into the InSinkErator. And lo and behold, what do I see, when pressing to the sides of its black rubber "sink baffle" -- the area surrounding its opening -- I see a metal object that seemed to be a can opener, stuck in the front side surface (facing me) of the InSinkErator's motor.

And now, I thought, there was no doubt -- the real work had to begin. I had to loosen the can opener from the InSinkErator's grasp. I used various instruments to do so -- my hands, a wrench, a knife, scissors -- but no luck.

Despair reared its ugly head. Perhaps, I worried, it's not a can opener after all, but just part of the InSinkErator's motor. Scenes from the film Alien came to my mind.


Scene Three (b): But, obsessed with the cost of getting a new InSinkErator (remember, some $500; the price get going up in my mind), I refused to give up. I directed the flashlight again to the InSinkErator's essential organ (thinking that the Plumber should perhaps have done the same, since he seemed to be a professional par excellence) and I was convinced by then it -- the problem -- was, indeed, the can opener!

I fiddled around with my various rudimentary tools and then the miracolo happened:

I got the can opener out!

But, skeptic that I am, I immediately thought: Too fast! It's not yet a miracle! Will the InSinkErator work after I surgically remove a metallic intrusion in its most important mechanism?

My hand shaking, I opened the door of the closet below the InSinkErator, turned on its switch there and ...

YES, YES, REAL MIRACLE! MIRACOLO! Call (in gratitude but collect) the Lady of Loudres!

The InSinkErator worked, thanks to a miracle. Now I've been spared of spending the 550 bucks (price keeps increasing in my head) that can be used to buy proper gifts for loved ones for the holiday season.

P.S. Full Disclosure: Before posting this piece, "just to be sure," I dropped a slice of delicious thanksgiving pumpkin pie (uneaten, due to culinary saturation) down the kitchen sink, keeping my fingers crossed that the InSinkErator would reduce it to bits. It did indeed, and the InStinkErator did seem to work fine -- at least for now, as I await the next miracle.

--Images, from top to bottom: fromfrom; from; from; fromfrom

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