Friday, December 14, 2012

twice on the pipes

Last Friday, my wife went into that mysterious cabinet under the sink to get... whatever it is that we keep in there. To make a long story short, one persistent musty smell and a pile of wet dishtowels later, we had a call in to a plumber.

Now, like any homeowner, we've had our share of unexpected plumbing adventures — some routine, some emergencies. The reliable plumber that we have used for years was an old-school pipe tightener who would happily crawl under or crawl behind any sort of dark confining space in order to fix a leak or replace some sort of threaded and caulked apparatus. Unfortunately, I believe he is now retired (or possibly deceased), so another plumber was called based purely on his proximity to my house.

My wife made the call to the phone number advertised as "24-hour service". An answering service asked if the predicament was an emergency. Unlike most people who see a few drops of water and panic, we assessed that the leak as more of an inconvenience and, since it was late and nearly the weekend, the service call could wait until Monday.

We went the entire weekend without turning on the kitchen faucet. We ordered Chinese food for dinner so Mrs. P wouldn't have to cook. My wife also loaded the dishwasher with any stray dishes, mugs and flatware so it would be ready to run once the plumbing issue was resolved. So, bright and early on Monday, she called to remind our potential new plumber of our under-the-sink leak, repeating the details once again. We were told that a representative would be arriving within the half hour. I was home on Monday, using one of my few remaining vacation days of 2012. So, Mrs. P and I waited. And waited. And waited. She fiddled with her phone, playing online games. I shifted in a chair at the dining room table, asking the significance of the "boops" and "beeps" emanating from her handheld device. Finally, there was a knock at our front door. I opened the door and greeted a leathery, white-haired man who stunk of tobacco. In one hand, he gripped a bucket filled with a collection of fearsome implements — darkly patinaed, toothy and glistening with recently-acquired moisture. In the other hand, he held a snake-like spotlight.

"Well," I thought to myself, "he certainly looks like he knows what he's doing."

I led him to the kitchen and pointed to the gaping maw that the open doors of the cabinet presented. He poked his spotlight around, bumping the plastic container we had shoved under the pipe to catch any residual water. He craned his weathered neck this way and that and finally stood up and said, "I don't have the right pipe with me. I gotta go back to the shop."

Now, I don't live in some sort of crazy, futuristic prototype home that uses experimental still-under-development plumbing technology. Nor do I live in a 14th century thatched roof dwelling where my water is supplied by a network of sap-lined hollowed-out tree trunks and paraffin-covered leather buckets rotating on a series of pulleys and hemp rope. I live in a house. A regular house. With pipes. You know, regular house pipes. And this guy knew for three fucking days that he was coming to fix a leak under a regular sink in a regular house. It's like calling a guy to cut your grass and, when he shows up, he says, "I'll be back in a little while with the lawn mower." Or having a carpenter tell you he has to return to his workshop to get the nails.

Guess who'll be looking for another plumber.

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