There I stood, in the pouring rain, looking up at the business end of a length of 4" copper downspout, cold water simply gushing into my face, trying to simultaneously hold an umbrella, adjust the downspout per my husband's instruction, and keep from spinning into a rage directed at this same man who was responsible for this water boarding-like torture. I was failing at all aspects of this attempt.
"Drinking from the firehose" is a colloquialism made up by some smart person at some point when that person was likely feeling overwhelmed by their situation. An astute observation, its comparison to any event where one must work as hard as possible to keep up with the moment, even though there is likely a time when the moment or events become so overwhelming that there is no chance that actually "keeping up" is even an option. When assessing the proverbial firehose, no matter one's thirst or capacity to gulp gallons of water, one will likely reach a point where they are overcome by the sustained volume of water the firehouse supplies. The only options to either give up, or drown.
When talking about DIY house projects, it can sometimes feel like you're trying to drink from the firehose when tackling larger and larger projects with less and less "free" time. We've generally been good about coping with this inevitable firehose feeling by adjusting our own scope, expectations, or reasonable outcome when the trickle of tasks turns into more than we can handle. However, this weekend, a new, and very literal meaning was given to the term "it's like drinking from a firehose," and we were both the unwitting recipients of the experience.
The whole journey began roughly 16 months ago when we discovered that some jerk, or collection of jerks had stolen our home's copper downspout. Whether it was stolen to get money for meth, or to put food on the table for a starving family of orphans, it was a frustrating event of the year and became a true inconvenience as we tried to replace the copper in an economical manner.
After having some difficulty locating a supplier that didn't want to charge us $500 or more, we fashioned a new "downspout" from a 25' length of flexible dryer hose and called it a day, err week...month, well...actually year and a half.
This flexible dryer vent did its duty well, even lasting through a tropical storm. And when the first one failed, we bought a second one. We knew it wasn't a permanent solution, but it was good enough until we found a more suitable replacement.
Fast forward nearly a year after the original theft of our beloved downspout, and after months of failing to get a reasonable quote for replacement, Alex finally started to call around and found a good local supplier of 4" copper downspout. He rented a Zip Van and headed out to pick up the lengths.
It was that easy. Make a few calls, drop about $220, done. Twenty feet of brand spanking new copper downspout were ours. They looked like 22,000 new pennies.
This was several months ago, so why have we continued to live with a flexible dryer hose attached to the side of our house, blowing in the wind like a waving flag to let everyone know "hey...you know the house in the neighborhood that has issues...yeah, we're THAT house!!!"
You see, the copper was shiny, too shiny. It was like a beacon for meth addicts. If we had stuck this up on the side of our house we envisioned we'd have had a line of people looking to rip it off of the house by dinner time. We'd have to start taking "steal our shit" numbers. There was no way we could put it up. Rather than take the risk, we sat the two lengths of copper on the side of our house and began periodically spraying it with water to begin the aging process. Science!
This was back in September, and back in September we had designs on artificially aging the copper to the point where it looked like the brown copper of the rest of the gutter. We were going to oxidize it and even looked up the various household chemical manners we could achieve our look. Using a combination of water, vinegar, and baking soda, we were going to age our copper. But then September became October...November...December, and there our copper sat, aging on its own.
Finally, after a series of windstorms over the last few weeks, some snow, and the freezing rain we've been enjoying, that old flexible dryer hose finally gave up (for a second time). It punctured in the middle and then began unravelling like a giant slinky, except way less fun. The water during our rains spilled freely onto the side of our house, and something had to be done. So Alex did something. He rigged up the garden table and a broom handle to stretch the dryer vent in some janky way to make the water not splash on the house as much.
Though his efforts were mildly appreciated, when I said "something had to be done," this wasn't exactly my idea of "something." So once again, something had to be done.
As is usual with Alex, he typically waits until there is some sort of an imposing deadline before things really get done. Whether we're talking about a term paper, assignment for work, or a home project, there needs to be something looming before the high gear gets kicked in and shit happens. He claims he does his best work under this stress, and while this may be true, I don't personally prefer this approach but I have little option. In the case of this downspout, Alex's looming deadline came by way of an ominous weather forecast over the weekend.
An approaching front, cold, rain, thunderstorms, frogs and farm animals falling from the sky, epic weather event, blah blah blah. Whatever it was, our janky flexible hose setup wasn't going to cut it, and Alex felt we *had* to get the new downspout up before this front blew through and brought with it whatever pre and post-apocalyptic mayhem the weather people were touting, you know, because they're never wrong. According to them, we'd have a window of opportunity to get this downspout up on Saturday morning before Mother Nature brought the thunder!
Unfortunately, there was no real break. Amidst the non stop onslaught of drizzle to steady rain over the weekend, my husband began watching the weather intently. From the Doppler map, echo charts, hour by hour details, the NAM, European models, and whatever other various weather nerd tools made possible by the iPhone App Store, my husband became an instant amateur meteorologist, proclaiming, "It looks like we'll have a window in the next few minutes where we'll be able to install this downspout! But we have to MOVE!!!"
He swung into action running around the house like a manic gopher, gathering all necessary supplies. Saw horses, ladders, supports, pencils, plywood, hammers, and whatever else he saw that might be useful. He also barked orders while I was trying my best to bake a batch of chocolate almond biscotti. "Get umbrellas, towels, tape...I need a drill bit, where are the springs...oh there's the spring...where are the other springs, the old springs, the..." He also trails off a lot.
Within a few minutes we had a makeshift setup outside that looked like a work zone for a shantytown that was just waiting to electrocute someone.
Alex was running around in a manic fit trying to get things in shape. I was inside, cutting my biscotti. At roughly this time he leaned in and urgently asked, "Are you doing anything you particularly need to be doing right now?" Given the tact with which he delivered this statement I thought, "I'm making biscotti you a-hole, now leave me alone." But knowing the gravity of the situation I said, "No, I can help in a minute." High. Road.
I began helping where I could, though Alex was doing more mumbling than making any logical sense. Instead, I took photos of him fumbling with the various house and gutter implements, and I made mental notes about the things I put up with in life, how I could make fun of him on our blog, and how I really would rather be working on taste testing the batch of chocolate biscotti.
Lucky for us, the rain was holding off, occasionally drizzling just a bit between the moments of overcast but largely calm weather. We were able to cut the necessary lengths of gutter on the miter saw, then maneuver them onto the roof where Alex would climb to make the final connections.
After Alex had removed the old flexible downspout we were ready to make the final connection...that's when it all went south. After attempting to put everything in place, which included a bunch of grunting and swearing from my better half, he exclaimed, "Won't fit...needs to have 1.5" cut off the end."
Now, you have to realize, this wasn't unexpected, he was just hoping for a better result. He had said only a few minutes earlier, "I probably need to cut about an inch and a half off of this, but I don't want to make a mistake." So I can't fault him for caution, but I can fault him for making my reward for his caution the opportunity stand in the rain longer.
At this point, Alex began removing the necessary pieces to come down off of the roof and trim the end of the 10' length of downspout the necessary one and a half inches. At precisely the same moment, the sky opened up and a downpour ensued.
The scramble that covered the next several minutes was neither of our finest moments. We were close, so close, we couldn't admit defeat. Alex had somehow drafted me into this fool's errand of gutter downspout installation during a downpour, and I was not along for the ride, fully invested. We trimmed the end of the gutter and Alex climbed back onto the roof with downspout in tow.
In order to properly install the downspout Alex needed me to man the lower portion while he maneuvered the upper portion into place. Then we'd join the upper to the lower, finally leaning the whole assembly into place in a secure manner. Sounds simple in theory, and was probably even simple in practice when working on a day or moment that didn't include a torrential winter downpour, but this was neither of those moments.
Since this manic fit of DIY left little time to also be a dedicated blog photographer, let me use our words to paint a picture of the moment.
Alex: Standing on the roof, yelling down to me, "I'm going to lean it in place. Do you have the downspout?!?"
Me: While fumbling with the umbrella and downspout, yelling up to Alex, "Yes, GO FOR IT!!!"
Alex: Maneuvering the new downspout into place but having problems, "I can't get the damn downspout in place, YOU NEED TO LEAN IT OUT MORE!"
Me: Still trying my best to maintain control of the downspout, "Is this good?"
Alex: "I SAID, LEAN IT OUT MORE."
Me: "I did! It won't move anymore!"
Me: "I CAN'T!!"
Alex somehow makes the connection with the upper gutter without me leaning out more (?!?!?), resulting in a redirect of the massive amount of water spilling from the gutter into this new length of downspout that was aimed directly at me.
Roughly a second later, the wall of roof water came spilling through the copper and into my face, bringing a new appreciation for the term I discussed earlier. The whole endeavor was, in fact, like drinking from a firehose.
Me: "Gargle, gargle, gargle" (drowned rat sounds). I really hate you right now!"
It may have lasted only a moment, and I knew the sheer joy Alex would take from finally checking this item off of our to do list, so I persevered, in spite of my hatred for my spouse at that instant, and the fact that I would have much rather have been eating biscotti while sipping tea on the couch. For better or worse, until death do us part (possibly by drowning from water through a downspout), that's the oath I took.
There are inevitably moments in a marriage when you question how or why you put up with your spouse. Almost without a doubt all married people have encountered them from time to time. But sometimes you can look at all you do together and realize that your experiences together ultimately make you stronger, and you can often look back on those experiences and laugh together. Installation of our gutter downspout in the midst of a downpour was neither our wisest or brightest moment, but at some point I transitioned from "helping" with the project to being fully invested as an active participant as part of our two person team. It's times like these where you realize just what it is that makes your particular marriage work. That and the fact I had some chocolate biscotti waiting for me inside.