Annals of home upkeep: again, the plumber

Two chapters in this story. One from 7/13, the other from yesterday, 7/19.

Chapter 1: the stopped-up drain. In the morning of 7/13, I scrubbed my face clean, but the rinse water didn’t drain, just filled up the sink. I wielded my handy plunger, repeatedly, with no effect whatsoever, so resorted to the big gun, extra-strength Drano. One application, no result in an hour, tried a second application, but it all just sat there sullenly for another couple of hours.

Oh alas, plumber time. Searched for some time to find a plumbing firm with a good reputation that worked locally. But yes: Plumbtree Plumbing in San Jose. Called them. Eventually, an afternoon appointment for Anthony Morin to come and see to things. I felt bad about asking someone to come and deal with a sink full of lye, but plumbers are apparently inured to such messes.

So: hours of waiting. Firm sends an e-mail message that Anthony is on his way. While he is in transit, my helper León announces that the sink has just magically drained. I run some water, and that just accumulates in the sink, without draining. But now I’m presenting Anthony with a sink full of water, not lye, which is a big step forward. He arrives, appears totally unfazed by my being seriously disabled, being attended by a barely English-speaking (but very earnest and able) León, and wearing a Queer As Fuck t-shirt. He is, in fact, completely professional but quite amiable.

He goes into the bathroom, and at that very moment, the sink drains again spontaneously before his eyes. He runs the water, and now it drains like a charm. He gets down on his knees, looks at the pipes and the trap in mild alarm, because the pipes are obviously not in great shape.

So the deal is, he could fix the pipes, but that would be a major, complex, and expensive operation. At the moment things are working ok, so we should probably just go with that for a while.

While he is here, he inquires hopefully, do I have any other plumbing concern he could see to — another drain that needs seeing to, whatever. But no.

So I ask him how much I owe him, and he says nothing. What about the standard $40 fee? No, not even that he says, I didn’t do anything, and I’ve only been here a few minutes. He tells me to buy a nice meal with the $40. Asks me to call him specifically if I have other plumbing concerns. How admirable is that?

Later, by e-mail, he asks if I will give him an on-line review, which I do, giving him very high marks all around, with details. It’s the least I can do.

Interlude: tradespeople. My dealings with skilled tradespeople (of all sorts) have almost always been very satisfying. Entirely satisfactory when they represent small operations (of plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, small contractors, repair services, and so on). Providing highly competent services at which they are, in fact, experts. And I’m comfortable with tradespeople, who live pretty much in the social world of my childhood.

Now, the person they confront in me looks like nothing from their social worlds. In a huge forest of forbiddingly technical books, and otherwise an intensely high-queer environment, and I’m usually wearing faggot-in-your-face clothing. Every single tradesperson I’ve dealt with rolls with this entirely smoothly. Occasionally they comment that some part of what they see is cool, and some are interested in hearing about the books or learning about my comic X-rated gay collages. I am obviously not like them, but that’s just intriguing to them. That’s a good way to deal with the world.

I contrast this with my experience with cops. Who come into my house, check out the environment and me and are instantly hostile, going on to try to find things to accuse me of. My dealings with them have been unrelievedly awful, to the point that I would be extremely reluctant to call in a cop for anything, and regret the last time I did, in reporting a home burglary.

(Cops are in fact from my childhood social class too — our next-door neighbor in Wyomissing Hills PA was a cop — but they’ve been socialized very differently from skilled tradespeople.)

Chapter 2: the self-disassemblying drain stopper. From a Facebook posting of mine yesterday:

Annals of home upkeep. The drain-stopping mechanism in my bathroom sink has somehow come apart, with the screw-on top just a loose piece and the shaft it screws on to completely vanished. Went on line to book a visit from my plumbers, but the on-line form repeatedly refused all my attempts to submit their form. So I just now (1:30) called their number, got a human being to whom I started to explain the problem, when she went ahead and asked “Is this Arnold?” (her system recognized my phone, and connected her to my customer file). I gave her the quick rundown, she said “Well, that’s odd”, and asked if I’d like Anthony (Anthony Morin, from my last, very satisfying, plumbing adventure) to come out again, she could put me on his 2-4 pm schedule. Wow. I said that would be splendid. We are on.

One piece of totally lame software (their website’s ordering form), one piece of almost eerily high-functioning software (their customer files). But with really good people dealing with customers and wielding the software.

Then a bit later:

The follow-up. Turns out that the shaft had rusted and then disintegrated, so it did more or less disappear (a bit of it went down the drain and into the trap, where Anthony retrieved it). Plumbers being who they are, he had a stock of random stuff saved up in his truck, just in case he needed a frammis or whatever. This included the exact replacement rod for this job, which was then quickly installed, and now the whole thing works as intended. Beautiful. Quick payment, largely managed electronically. Promised to call Anthony in if I had any fresh plumbing challenges.

A couple further themes flit by here. One is the handyperson’s inclination to save up great stocks of stuff just in case it might be needed for some project. My father and my man Jacques were both serious handymen — I am not — and both laid in great piles of stuff — some of which they actually did get to use. Because they were both forever engaged in maintaining, fixing, and improving things.

(In telling this story, I realize, not for the first time, that I married a man very much like my father. And, in fact, later in our lives they became good friends, with Jacques serving as a second son for my dad.)

A second theme is the placeholder word frammis, which my reader Mike Pope has asked about. Yes, there is a literature about these expressions, to which I have contributed, but I am at the moment too much engaged in a long and complex recovery from my gall-bladder surgery to assemble my material on the subject. But it’s a nice topic.



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