There’s something about the holidays that brings out the best in people.
And, in my experience, the worst in the plumbing.
I remember one New Year’s Eve when my mother was visiting and was doing the dishes. Somehow, she dropped a shot glass into the disposal and ground it up. The water rose in the sink.
My mother cried.
I crawled under the sink with my wrench and swore. Everyone else went outside to watch fireworks.
The next day, the plumbers came. The problem was not in the disposal, they found, but in the drain pipe out to the main waste drain. They came back, dug up the yard, replaced the pipe—a root had grown into it—and all was well again.
I thought of that in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
The Delta faucet on our kitchen sink had been dripping, so the day after Christmas I went to the neighborhood hardware store to get the washers I’d need to stop the drip. The store was closed. It would not reopen until Monday, I read on the sign taped to the door. I went to Lowe’s, found the washers, went through the automatic checkout, picked up my change, and went out to the car. I took out the key and realized I had left the washers in the sack at the checkout point.
Back to the store. Two men were at the same checkout point.
Did you find…?
These yores? one asked. Here y’are podner. He handed me the little packet, which he had taken out of the sack I had put in.
Back home, I replaced the springs and washers, and that took care of the drip. But when I turned the water back on, the hot water was a mere trickle. I must have put in a couple of hours opening the patient up again, closing, opening, closing, until I figured that rusted filings in the pipes might have clogged it. I needed a specialist. I called my regular plumber.
Sorry, he told me. I’m retiring on January first. Too many forms to fill out, too much red tape. After the first, I’m going to work for the parish government as an inspector. To be part of the problem, I thought to myself.
I called a plumber in the neighborhood. He confirmed my diagnosis and showed me a T that looked like a cross section of one of those arteries in the commercials that have me talking to my doctor. It’s a wonder any water got through at all. (Reminder: Be sure to have cholesterol checked at next physical.)
He replaced some pipes and got the water flowing well again.
Not what it should be, he said. This ‘uns pretty old, so you might replace it. When you get a new one, call us and we’ll install it fer ya.
We spent another hour together, the plumber and I, in the bathroom of the upstairs rental unit. The tenants had complained of the failure of the bathtub to drain properly, largely because, as I determined, they had no screen over the drain. They could have solved the problem with a trip to the hardware store, but it’s easier to call the landlord.
The toilet isn’t flushing right, either, the tenant had told me. It hasn’t worked well for a couple of months.
He or his roommate had taken the lid off so they could manipulate the innards to flush.
I had the plumber replace the Fluidmaster. I’ve done my share of installing Fluidmasters, and I figured I’d have the him do it, and I would take his fee off the income tax. I can’t do that with my own work.
Oh, yeah, the tenant said, all the electricity has been off in one room for awhile.
That I fixed with a click of the circuit breaker. Then I picked up all the fuses that someone had scattered around the room that holds the electrical boxes (one box with breakers, one with fuses).
On the way home I stopped at the hardware store in my neighborhood to pick up a strainer for the tub. I had measured the diameter of the opening with a folded dollar bill. 1 ½ inches in diameter looked perfect. But when I went back the next day, I found that the strainer was just a bit larger than the hole. I went around the corner to the hardware store near the rental and got one that fit. Then I took the larger one back to my neighborhood store.
My father always told me, things will be better after the first of the year. He just didn’t tell me which year.