We had a kitchen faucet that leaked. It was a slow drip. The only way to stop it was to move the handle slightly to the left when turning it off. We lived with this special faucet for approximately seven years – which was 6 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days too long, but we survived.
Down and to the left became a normal response when we found a guest standing at the sink unsure how to stop the gentle flow of water.
Down and to the left was the instruction given to the grandkids when they grew tall enough to reach the handle.
Down and to the left was our normal.
Then one glorious day, my husband and son installed a new faucet. It was a new day! A new dawning! I was certain there would no longer be the need for down and to the left.
And I was correct. Those five little words were successfully removed from our vocabulary. However, it did not changed our behavior. When not in use, the new faucet is in it’s old familiar position – down and to the left.
We have a new vocabulary now. Ouch! This water is too hot! You have to adjust the temperature! The problem? Down and to the left is the new hot. Really hot. Our sink is directly above the hot water heater, a direct line. It’s instantly hot.
Our old faucet forced us to learn a behavior the new faucet doesn’t require. Learned behaviors can be difficult to unlearn. It’s been 3 years since that new faucet was installed. Three years of mindlessly following the down and to the left rule. Three years of hot water blasting out of the faucet and 3 years of Ouch! This water is too hot! You have to adjust the temperature!
I am certain I have a lot of down and to the left kind of behaviors in my life. Things that I do on a regular basis that were once essential to my existence and are no long required. The problem? I still do them. Sometimes, I have to scald my hands a few times before it dawns on me that I could possibly be the cause of my own pain.
There is a couple of ways to fix this. We could switch the hoses and have the cold be hot and the hot be cold. My father and father-in-law did this once when installing a toilet. When you flushed, steam rose from the bowl.
We could get a new faucet, the kind with two handles. That would certainly bring an end to the down and to the left.
Or we could just learn to do it differently with gentle reminders that we don’t have to do it that way anymore.