Today is my birthday. Henry Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lisa Kudrow and Alton Brown share today as a birthday as well.
But I’ll bet none of them came in from their backyards sopping wet at 7:05 this morning like I did.
Because I hate plumbing, and it hates me. I informed my wife that I’m seriously considering shutting off our service, digging a nice deep well and getting a good, sturdy bucket to fetch water in; though I’m certain the homeowners association would frown upon that plan.
Last week our lawn sprinklers suddenly came alive. Evidently our backflow testing service had come out and turned the valves back on, and since the automatic timer was already running, they sprinklers had all they needed to start spouting early one Monday morning. Michael was thrilled, of course.
But when I saw one of the sprinkler heads in the back yard explode like a depth charge and then continually issue this thick rope of water which laid the grass blades flat along its short arc of travel, I knew I was in for trouble.
This weekend I got a new sprinkler head. “Replaces all brands! No key required! Just screw it in and it’s ready,” the glossy copy read on the outside of the sprinkler head I was holding. Promises, promises.
The instructions underneath the wrapping were almost as useless, showing some convoluted steps for rotating the head while pushing down and inserting a screwdriver into some orifice on the side.
And then of course I had to remove the old head, which involved the collapse of the surrounding dirt and gravel into the pipe, requiring me to do a whole lot more digging just to get my fat hands into the work and pluck rocks out of the pipe with needle nose pliers.
The sprinkler screwed in okay, and apparently lined up correctly, so I paid it no more thought. “I’ll adjust the direction and distance when it comes on next Monday morning,” I said.
Fast forward to this morning. I was just putting away my breakfast time reading material when I heard the sprinklers come on. “The sprinklers!” I thought. “I need to get out there and adjust that new head!”
Precisely at that moment two plastic champagne flutes toppled into my hands, forcing me to deal with carefully putting them back into the cabinet. I knew that that extra bit of impeccably-timed cosmic distraction meant that there was trouble in the back, and that new sprinkler was doing something very bad.
I was right.
When I got outside, the new sprinkler was merrily firing a liquid laser beam over the fence and into the neighbor’s backyard, probably reaching about 30 feet over. I hurriedly ran to the garage to get the screwdriver I knew I’d need.
Sensing my urgency, our lovely little kitty assumed that I was in a hurry to get her some canned cat food, so naturally she ran in front of me and intertwined my ankles.
“Get out of the way, cat!” I bellowed, stepping over her and reaching for the garage door.
I grabbed a convenient screwdriver and ran to the backyard. Meanwhile the sprinkler was facing entirely backwards, firing its death ray into the deck, sending up a fan spray that soaked me thoroughly before I’d even reached the grass.
I reached down and stuck the screwdriver into the adjustment screw, hoping to tone down the intensity of the blast. No, this screw was the adjustment for the travel distance.
The only thing I was able to adjust with this screw was the direction of the beam. I was faced with choosing which neighbor would receive the aqueous cannonade.
There was one other screw adjustment, and I was pretty sure this was the one to adjust the distance of the blast. Unfortunately, the screwdriver that I’d chosen was too large to fit. I was helpless to do anything to staunch the flow.
There was a pie-pan nearby, one my wife had brought out in hopes of warding birds off of the blueberry bush. I held it in front of the water beam, and was instantly rewarded with a return spray in the face.
I dropped that and picked up a short piece of two-by-four that was on a nearby scrap pile. This effectively blocked the flow, but I soon realized that I would need to remain here holding this lumber in front of a moving stream of water for the next ten minutes.
While I was thinking, one of the other sprinklers had moved around into position and shot me square in the back. I repositioned, and was hit from the other side by the sprinkler in the corner.
Hopelessly pinned down in a cross-fire, I abandoned my post and ran through the barrage of watery artillery (in slow motion, I think) and headed out the gate to get to the valve controls.
I shut off the power and instantly the sprinklers died.
Problem solved for now…
I’m not sure if I want to turn them back on, ever.