this is the way the world ends


    I was almost a teenager when Planet of the Apes hit the theaters in 1968. The film was a futuristic cautionary tale of what we were in for if we kept living like we were living, ending with a shocking image of the Statue of Liberty buried up to her armpits in desert sand.

    My experiences today showed me exactly how that’s going to happen.

    For some time now, the faucet in our kitchen sink has dripped. Today was the day I finally decided to do something about it. I’m not necessarily the quickest to take care of such tasks, but once I take it on I stick with it until I get it done (because I know if I don’t finish it while I’m somewhat motivated I will let it lay there for another six weeks). I took the faucet off – after turning off the water – and removed the cartridge assembly (as I learned it was called) to take with me to the hardware store so I could make sure and get the right part. I stopped first at Taylor Lumber, our local hardware store, because they’re our local hardware store. The last time we had a drip, they had the part. Not this time.

    From there I headed to Lowes, where we bought the faucet five years ago when we moved in. The first guy I talked to seemed fascinated with the concept of running water inside the house. He had no idea where to find the part. I went back to the kitchen faucet display and found the exact faucet we have at home. With the model number in hand, I went back to the plumbing aisle and moved one step up the food chain to a guy who did know something about plumbing. He said,

    “How old is your faucet?”
    “Five years,” I answered.
    “Oh! Well, we don’t keep parts for anything that old.”

    I was holding a solid metal part for a faucet they still had on the shelf and they did not stock the part. His answer was to buy a whole new unit.

    I left and drove to Republic Plumbing Supply, which had been recommended by the guy at Taylor Lumber. The guy looked at the part and asked me what brand it was. When I told him Price Pfister, he said, “That’s one of the home warehouse brands (meaning Lowes and Home Depot) and we don’t carry those parts.” When I asked who did, he pointed me to a place in Quincy – fifteen miles away – and then suggested I go on line. After two hours of running all over the area looking for a ten dollar part, I stopped at a local coffee shop that has free wireless internet access, logged on to the Price Pfister web site and, after a ridiculous number of steps, found and ordered the part I needed. It will be here in a week.

    It shouldn’t be this hard.

    I’m talking a solid metal piece here with a ceramic center. When I was with the first guy at Lowes, as he methodically pulled down every part on the wall trying to find a match, I couldn’t help but notice everything was plastic; the metal parts were long gone. The parts were created to be replaced quickly. The life expectancy of kitchen fixtures should be longer than five years. How can a culture survive if we treat everything as disposable?

    Last night at the restaurant we got to talking about the state of the world and the talk turned to unusual food products. Actually, it started with one of the servers talking about how much she loved Velveeta. Though I will admit it makes a mean chile con queso, I’m not much of a fan of “cheese food.” What exactly is it? From there we moved to Cheez Whiz and then on to Go-Gurt. My issue with the latter (“The Grab-n-Go Yogurt”) is this: if you’re five years old and your schedule doesn’t allow you time to sit down and eat your yogurt, your life is seriously messed up. A five year old should have nowhere to be other than being five in the midst of loved ones who surround and protect him or her, not rushing them off to wherever carrying a tube of cultured nutrition. To put our kids under than kind of pressure is to say we consider them as disposable as our faucet parts.

    Why should we throw away either one?

    As a youth minister and a high school teacher, I worked with five year olds who were fifteen and sixteen. One summer in Fort Worth, I put an afternoon on the calendar for the kids to meet me at the park between the Amon Carter Museum and the Kimbell Art Museum. About twenty kids showed up. We sat around in a circle for a few minutes and then one of them asked what we were doing.

    “This,” I answered. “All we are doing this afternoon is being together.”

    We spent an afternoon like that almost every week that followed for the whole summer. It was the most popular youth event by far.

    Though this post is starting to smell as though we are heading for a “You see, Timmy” moment, I’m not looking to teach a lesson as much as mark the time. Somewhere around four o’clock on Thursday, October 26, 2006 I realized how the Statue of Liberty will end up buried in the sand: one grain, one faucet, one package of Go-gurt at a time, stacked one on top of the other.



    1. Well, this was encouraging….

      Sigh. Unfortunately, you’re probably right. I take comfort in the fact that you can deliver even the most depressing news with aplomb and wit.

      I ALWAYS apreciate you writing, Milton! Good luck with the faucet…

    2. Beth

      I’m all for aplomb. What a great word. What I feel like I keep learning over and over again is hope doesn’t just happen; it grows out of intentionality. We don’t have to end up buried in the sand, but — as Annie Dillard says — we do have to keep dusting.


    3. On The Subject of Gogurt

      I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and my 5 year old prefers the yogurt presentation of Gogurt over the traditional container model.

      If you are having yogurt it is a fragment into your day. You are required to sit down at the table, use a spoon, and wait to be cleaned up by mommy once you finish eating. In contrast, with Gogurt you can eat in the living room, the bedroom, outside in the yard, etc. Gogurt treats my kids to the fun of eating and playing at the same time….

      My 2 year old is more like your mom (one of my favorite posts you ever wrote) and she believes eating whether a snack or a meal is an event to be savored. My little one loves every step of the traditional yogurt model. She pines over the drawer choosing the perfect spoon, she mulls at the door of the fridge choosing between Dora Yougurt or Diego Yogurt. She climbs in her seat and eats with great joviality.

      So it’s just a preference to a child’s personality.

    4. I get so frustrated with parents who think they are doing their kids a service by having them miss church events to do sports events. Yes, sports will teach them how to be part of a team, but church will teach them how to be part of life. Kids are going to spend a whole lot more time being in life than being on a team. And in the end, when your kid is faced with a serious life decision, would you like to have him or her think, “What Would Jesus Do” or “What Would Coach Do”?

    5. See the nail. Hit the nail. Squarely on the head.

      A few years ago, we decided it was time to replace the leaky, creaky hot and cold faucets in the bathroom. The kit looked simple enough, but when I started dismantling the old stuff, I very quickly realized I did not have the tools to even take it apart. It was the strangest assembly I’ve ever seen.

      Called the plumber. He came by a few days later and installed the new stuff. He called Jody in when he was finished and she saw a LOT of wrenches on the floor. “Good call,” he said. “Which wrench do you think I needed to use?” Jody guessed at one. “Nope. All of ’em.”

      I had no chance from the get-go.

      Good luck with your project, and thank you for writing!

    6. Did you have plumber crack? Just kidding…sort of.

      The whole Go-Gurt thing is stupid to me also. I liked your calendar day of just sitting, talking, and spending time together. We need more days like that. Some call it laziness, I call it biblical (last chapter of John).


    7. The “You see, Timmy” thing was funny. I’ve been accused of giving those wrap up admonitions over at my blog, which I think i do so it won’t just be an online diary. But anywho…that was funny.

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