Not too long ago some plumbing broke in our house. This came to my attention when somebody flushed the toilet upstairs and the ceiling in the basement family room crashed down onto one of the cats.
After giving the cat a bath and a mild sedative, my first impulse was to set up some colored spotlights, designate the area an Ornamental Fountain, then sell the house.
The first guy I reached said he could get to us sometime in November, 2015. The second one could come over in two weeks, but he wanted an immediate cash deposit that would cover his next 18 Mercedes payments.
I finally found a small ad for “Kevin the Plumer,” and rationalized that skill with pipes probably didn’t have all that much to do with spelling. As luck would have it, Kevin had some time on his hands, and he didn’t require a deposit, so we agreed that he would stop over and “have a look.”
Kevin showed up in a pickup truck that was pretty much held together by the dirt caked on it. An apparently random collection of rusty tools, connectors, wire, ladders, brackets and bits of pipe had bounced around in the truck’s bed for years, fusing into a sort of grimy abstract sculpture.
Kevin himself was well-matched with the truck, wearing a brown quilted jacket, stained by years of contact with unthinkable substances, and the name “Alvin” inexplicably sewn on the front. He carried a plunger and a small sledgehammer.
Kevin started with the bathtub. He considered the clogged drain thoughtfully in silence for a few seconds, then attacked it violently with the plunger, spraying the bathroom walls and ceiling with black sludge. He had just picked up the sledgehammer and was staring at the porcelain tub with the hungry look of a crow gazing at fresh road kill, when I stopped him, handed him a $50 bill and thanked him for coming by.
Shaken by my experience with Kevin, I decided to do it myself, with help from my friend Paul. Paul is not a plumber, but he has lots of cool tools, and he knows what a lot of them are used for.
A few days later Paul showed up with new parts and a fairly comprehensive selection of those cool tools. We quickly established a working rhythm, Paul whaling away at the pipe, and me slapping wrenches, pipes, brackets, or beverages into Paul’s hand as he needed them.
The job actually went fairly smoothly, except for accidentally cutting the phone lines. And the electricity. And a couple of supporting ceiling joists. And that little fire. And, of course, what we now simply prefer to call the “pipe-clamp mishap.” In any case, we eventually got everything installed, spliced, reinforced, extinguished, bandaged, and cleaned up.
So if you are ever faced with a similar situation, and you are not yourself a plumber, I advise you to:
a.) become a plumber;
b.) buy some colored lights, then call the real estate agent; or
c.) get to know Paul.
Copyright © 2005 Michael Ball