Caution: The walls are watching you

"If the walls could speak," we say.

Oh, but they do. At least, I am certain they react.

Everything they contain does, too - to whatever you are doing. We are all being watched: by the plumbing in the walls, by the fixtures in your bathrooms and kitchens, by the appliances whose only task is to serve your busy lives faithfully and well.

Here's my proof:

A few weeks ago, I dipped a roller in paint and began restoring our bedroom. Sometime during that labor, my husband, Ralf, called out from the kitchen: "I have to go to the hardware store, honey. The kitchen faucet is leaking."

He warned me that he had turned off the water so as not to flood the shelving below the sink. An annoyance, I decided, but we could handle it.

We did. Rather, my husband did. After replacing the faucet, he went back to painting.

The next day, as I went to the laundry room to load wet clothes into the dryer, I stepped in a cold puddle.

You guessed it: The washing machine was leaking.

"Good grief," I said to Ralf. "After nearly two decades we finally manage to take care of this one room, and the rest of the house and its resident appliances are begging for attention! What gives?"

"Joints?" Ralf asked. "Muscle tone? We are all aging."

"Well, that's not news," I agreed. "I'll call the repair people and then get back to painting," I said.

Sometime later, I went to the kitchen for some orange juice. Painting is thirsty work.

I opened the door. I was met with a rush of warm air and many indeterminate smells.

It seems impossible to believe, but as we worked on that one room, with its modest size and shape, the refrigerator had ceased operating, too. We defrosted, lived out of coolers and tried to save the perishables.

We had already scheduled a repair person to visit with our washing machine. We called to add someone for our refrigerator.

All the repair people came on the same day. We were grateful to have warranties for the appliances. At least the kitchen sink was working.

The repair folks were very nice; one had been here before and even recognized us. He was a gentle soul, and the refrigerator so enjoyed his attention that she began working right away.

The washing machine repair dude said only this of the crack in the drum: "I've never seen anything like this."

"It's because we painted our bedroom," I muttered, but I don't think he heard me.

In any case, I was busy answering my husband.

"Honey?" he asked. "Can you come here for a moment?" I found him in the main bathroom, staring at the bathtub faucet.

It was leaking.