I love how when I wear Carhartts, I walk differently. The heavy canvas pants—hand-me-downs from Brian—are cut generously through the leg leaving plenty of room for long powerful strides. When I wear Carhartts, I feel like my gait becomes slightly wider, like my legs swing more straightly from my hip sockets, and I feel more like a cowboy heading out to rope and ride. All of which sounds a bit romantic—given that my wearing of Carhartts last weekend was simply about a plumbing project that kept us in the basement at the little place in Waldoboro all Sunday.
But, there is something about a pair of Carhartts. Let’s just forget for a minute that any woman who knows what Carhartts are knows that they do for a man’s ass what no other pant seems to manage. For me, Carhartts make me feel capable, as if someday I’ll actually have a pencil, tape measure, and level stashed away in all those pockets they give you, and I’ll even know what to do with them.
This past weekend, Brian and I replaced most of the supply line plumbing for the new-to-us, yet needy little house in Maine. The old copper pipes were suspect because the water is too acidic, so while we investigate a system to add base to the water, Brian thought it a good idea to replace the old copper with PEX, which would be easy for us to install—and would have the added benefit of being more resistant to bursting if the temp in the basement should fall below freezing for long.
The project was one Brian had done before—but was new to me. So the night before donning my mighty Carhartts, I sifted through the massive number of PEX fittings Brian had purchased from our local big box hardware store. It was like sorting my nephew’s Legos; I had no idea what shapes these fittings would take or how they related to the plumbing project as a whole. So, I simply laid them all out on the floor and sorted: half inch elbows, quarter inch straight connectors, half inch reducing connectors, manifolds, valves, plugs, and tees. I read the labels and made little piles.
In the morning, Brian and I sipped coffee from our new local bakery and headed into the dank basement to make sense of all of the connectors and piping. While the project was familiar to Brian, he still had to think through this specific application: Where should the new water filter be mounted? How much of the new PEX should we install before taking out the old copper? Would we have enough of the half inch white PEX to replace the copper all the way into the furnace?
After hours of work with me in the self-appointed role of apprentice, I started to get bored and my mind started drifting to a lobster roll that could be had in Wiscasset—if we managed to wrap up and leave with enough daylight. And, when Brian discovered that absolutely no Teflon plumbing tape could be found anywhere in any of our tool boxes, I was all too happy to dodge out into the late afternoon sun and drive to the end of the peninsula to borrow some from our buddy, Bill, at the Outsider’s Inn.
When we did finally pack up to leave, though, most of the copper had been cut out of the system. I had even cut some of it out myself with a pipe cutter, which turns out to be a rather nifty tool, and Brian had attacked the rest with the Sawzall, which turns out to be a very frightening tool. And by the time we slid our dusty Carhartts into the benches at Sarah’s Café for lobster rolls, I had learned how to use the PEX crimper tool and the PEX cutting tool. I understood how the various categories of fittings worked and what they were for, and the project was much less of a mystery to me, which kind of gets back to how Carhartts make me feel. Perhaps for some people, high heels and a power suit do the same thing. But for me, Carhartts make me feel like the kind of person who can learn to be a “do-it-herself-er.” They give me permission to get dirty and make mistakes. When I wear Carhartts, I don’t have to think about what my hair looks like; I just stick it up into a ponytail and into a cap, and my Sunday, work-around-the-house uniform is complete. They’re like my favorite ski pants or running gear; they’re not only the right apparel for the job, they seem a little like a secret weapon—that thing that might just give me the edge—or at the very least not bind and chafe. So, while we spent the whole day in the dark basement and didn’t even get outside for long enough to walk down to the water, we were treated as the full moon started to climb past the pines across from the restaurant just as we finished our dinner and sipped our wine. It was a day in the basement in Carhartts—well spent.
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