Life is like fitting pipes.

My reputation grows with every failure.
-George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes you (think you) do everything right, and it still fails.

Day 1: My boss (Mr. W) draws a diagram of exactly how we are to install an automated valve behind Boiler 3. I order the flanges, nipples, pipe dope, bolt kits, and gaskets required. A few days later I get a call that the parts are in, so I drive down to the pipe fitting store, Hajoca, to pick up the pieces.

It doesn’t take long to learn the basics of pipe fitting when I get back to campus:

  1. Have lots of very large wrenches on hand.
  2. Gasoila pipe dope is your friend.
  3. Keep extra people on hand to jump up and down on pipe handles, as necessary.
  4. Ignore blisters and hot pipes.
  5. Be as precise as you would be with a delicate twelve-piece quilt block, though you’ll use sledgehammers instead of thimbles.

At the end of the day, Mr. W inspects our work. We pass.

On Day 2, a couple of the joints leak. We do it all again, tightening every join.

On Day 9, Mr. W decides to show us how it should be done and tightens all the fittings himself. They leak.

Day 16: We give up on the pipe thread and weld most of the joins.

Today is more or less Day 19. We’ve disassembled and reassembled Cashco Valve BL-24 somewhere near five times, trying to repair the leaks. We repeat the process with a different ball valve. The joins leak.

By the time Mr. W announces it’s lunch time, it occurs to me that if Valve BL3-24 ever works correctly, I’ll probably hug the monster. And. . . . burn myself on a steam pipe in the process.

Such is life.


  1. I’m changing my response. You’re right. Life is like fitting pipes. Sometimes no matter how hard you try “one pipe” will always be difficult. That is where my “squeaky wheel gets the oil” comes from. It just demands more attention and at the end of the day (or week) you have the same pipe.

    I really enjoy reading your blog you have a interesting insight.

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