Mon 15 Dec 2008
I don’t want to make any of you wild with envy or anything, but today a plumber came to my house.
I know. It is not an easy thing to get such an event to take place. And it’s not like it happened just by magic. We had been waiting for quite a while–it was a couple of weeks since we made our first request–and we waited patiently, because when you are waiting for a plumber, attitude is everything. If you get mad, or worse, lose faith that it will happen, then the universe steps in and puts you back at the bottom of its invisible list. You must wake up every day, confident that the plumber is working his way to you. Do not let doubt creep in.
I can’t even imagine what it must be like to actually BE a plumber, a person whose services are so in demand that he cannot even stop to answer the phone. Ours is a perfectly nice man, a little on the taciturn, gruff side perhaps–but this is just because he is forever having to put up with people standing knee-deep in water wondering why he didn’t get there before. People are not at their best when they are standing knee-deep in water or are hearing hissing sounds from their pipes.
We were not knee-deep. We were big-toe deep perhaps, and even then only in one section of our garage, inside a closet where all the mysterious waterworks of the house seem to be located. I often go and look at them as they gurgle and hum and send water along its confident way through the pipes of our house. They seem quite sound. I hear the well pump go on and off, hear the chuggling sound of water in the pipes, notice its fervent flow when you turn on the taps.
But then a few weeks ago we stepped into the garage to find a puddle. We peered at the machines who looked innocently back at us.
I mumbled a few words, something along the lines of, “We are too busy for this right now. Stop it this instant!” (This sometimes works, and I always recommend trying it first when there is a household crisis.)
The leak stopped, we made it through Thanksgiving, and then it started up again. We called the plumber’s answering machine. The leak stopped. Then re-started. Re-stopped.
The plumber did not call us back.
Some days we would step into a puddle in the garage, some days not. Then there was a hiss, and a slight mist of water coming from the pipes area.
I emailed with friends, trying to plan our times to get together. “I don’t know when next week I can really see you,” I said to my friend Peggy. “A plumber is expected sometime.”
She wrote back that she was also in line for a plumber. She’d been waiting for two weeks for her plumber. It had gone on so long, in fact, that her mother felt sorry for her. One day when the mother had worked her way up to the top of some plumber’s actual list and actually had him in her house, she called Peggy and said, “Would you like to come over and gaze upon my plumber?”
So today my plumber came. I was still in my pajamas, wearing an old ratty sweatshirt and flipflops when he arrived, but I did not dare make him wait while I changed into real people clothing. You don’t want to risk him going off to some other, more deserving job. I showed him the non-leak (because of course it stopped when it heard he was coming.) He knew what was wrong, though, and replaced a whole section of copper pipe. Before he left, he ominously predicted that many, many more feet of copper pipe will be needed soon and for a lot more money. Our pipes, he said, remind him of aluminum foil.
“Happy holidays anyway,” he said. He really is very, very nice. He used to have a toilet seat riding on the grillwork of his truck. And sometimes he would bring his nice dog with him.
Lately, though, he is just busy being the most harried person in America, beleaguered by phone calls and hissing pipes and people standing knee-deep in water and yelling at him.
I didn’t yell. I like the brand new copper pipe, and I am currently just glad I can go to see my friend Peggy.
“Today,” I will tell her, “I gazed upon my very own plumber.”