Now I Know Why the Enraged Plumber Drinks


A giant of a man from Ferret Plumbing rang our doorbell.  He stood 6 ft. 3 in. and weighed close to 300 lbs.  He held a tablet and smiled gently as Judy and I explained that we needed a new sink installed in our gleaming new kitchen counter top.  He asked me if it would be glued (hopeful raising of his eyebrows) or clipped (ominous rumbling undertone) in.  I shook out a baggy of clips from the sink’s box.  The plumber’s face fell. He gave me a sad look, held up the tablet and said, “Let’s tote up the charges before we go any further.”

Click, click went his fingers for a minute or two.  Sad smile.  He said, “Got a pencil?  You’re going to want to write these down.  Ready?  It’ll cost you $300 dollars for me to attach the faucet to the sink.”

“What?  Don’t you charge by the hour?”

“We used to.  Now we charge by the job.  Let’s see.  I’ve got to look up the next step:  clipping in the sink.  Then there’s connecting the plumbing.”

“Wait a minute.  You’re breaking this up into three jobs?  Is this going to end up costing us $1000?”

“Yep, that’s about right.”

“That’s crazy!  We bought all the fixtures, and you’re charging a $1000 dollars just to put them in?”

“New policy, sir.  From corporate.  We lose money if we get tied up on a job for five or six hours when we could be going out on more jobs.”

(“That makes no sense,” I thought.  But then I remembered that they charged a fee for just showing up.  That was the money they were “losing”.)

“Forget it,” I said.  “Corporate can go fuck itself,” I thought.

The plumber smiled in relief and trudged out to his van.  It was the end of the day and he hadn’t wanted to do the job.  He returned to the front door to tell me, “They’re going to call you up to confirm that you cancelled the job, but they’ll try to charge you for my visit.  Tell them you met me on the porch, didn’t let me inside, didn’t take a quote for the job.  Come up with a reason.”

After the man drove away Judy said, “I can attach the faucet in 20 minutes.  $300!”

We dug out the instructions and made our first attempt.  A part was missing, a spout base ring.  I drove to Home Despot and exchanged our box for another.  The new box didn’t have a spout base ring either, but the lady at the customer service counter pointed to a metal washer and said, “That’s it.”  I noted that the instructions showed a part with grooves on the inner surface, and she replied, “You can’t pay attention to these directions.  They’re not that accurate.”  “Fuck me,” I thought.

I took the box home and Judy and I attached the faucet to the sink.  But there was a problem:  when we screwed down the base plate tight enough so that it wouldn’t swivel, the spigot couldn’t move from side to side.  Judy said, “That part’s missing.  This just won’t work.  We’ll have to get another brand.”

She looked up designs on the internet, found a few that were highly rated by customers, and went to the Home Despot site.  She looked up instructions for different models, and we chose one that required two simple steps.  I went back to Home Despot, got a refund for the faucet (“Why are you returning this, sir?”  “It’s missing a part.  This is the second one we’ve tried, and both boxes are missing a spout base ring.  I don’t know if they changed the design and didn’t bother to change the instructions, but either way this thing doesn’t work!”), and returned home with the new model.  We attached it in ten minutes and saved $300.

The next step was to apply silicone gel around the rim of the sink’s cut out, press the sink into it’s hole, and clamp the underside to the counter.  I fiddled with the clips and couldn’t figure out how to insert the damn screws.  I discovered that they turned lefty tighty instead of righty tighty.  I took one and slid on my back into the cabinet under our counter and said, “Ahhhhrrrrrgggg!” as the edge of the shelf cut into my back.  I reached up and fiddled with the clip, but everything I did, as I tried to follow the vague instructions, pushed the sink up instead of clipping it down.  I began to curse out loud following a family tradition that my father handed down to me:  a high decibel rant that questioned the clip’s parentage and the brains of the dumb**** who designed the goddamned thing as well as the language skills of the (expletive referring to a sexual act punishable by death according to Leviticus 20: 11) moron who wrote the instructions.

Judy remained calm and looked up a video on youtube.  We discovered that the head of the screw in the clip slid into a groove on the underside of the sink.  I flopped down under the sink, said “Ahhhrrrrgggg!” as the lip indented a rib a few sixteenths of an inch, reached up into the darkness, found the groove and slid the clip in.

We applied the silicone, pressed down the sink into the hole, and I began to slide and screw in the clips.  30 minutes later I emerged from the underside of the sink covered in sweat.  My back and arms ached.  Judy put in the drains and sealed them with plumber’s putty. She sealed the edges of the sink on the top side with silicone gel.  I cut two pieces of plastic pipe (tailpieces) using a hacksaw and miter box, and screwed them in place so that the sink drains connected to the drain pipes.  Then I connected the water lines.

Before I opened the water valves I asked Judy if I should place a bucket underneath.  I expected my handiwork to explode under pressure.  Judy said, “What the hell.  Let’s just try it.”

The damn thing worked.  We felt a brief moment of triumph, and then Judy retreated to the bedroom and lay down for a nap.  I pulled out a bottle of whiskey.


Digital Defenestration: The Urge to Toss My Computer Out the Window

My dad taught me at an early age to take personal offense when inanimate objects failed to perform up to expectations.  He spent many an afternoon in our garage cursing carburetors that no longer allowed moderated amounts of gasoline into our cars’ engines.  A nail that shot sideways when hammered instead of embedding itself further into a plank could have the legitimacy of its birth questioned.  “You dirty son of a bitch!” my father would swear.  A wheelbarrow full of cement that tipped sideways before reaching its destination would be the recipient of a string of Anglo-Saxon oaths all ending in “ucker”.

I’ve proudly carried on this tradition, much to my wife’s dismay.  She thinks that it’s unreasonable to get overly excited by anything not related to a loss of life, love and limb.  She leaves the room whenever I drop a fully loaded paint brush onto the carpet, hammer my thumb, or break a piece of equipment.  And she’s particularly unsympathetic when I take umbrage with my computer.

I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to feel betrayed when the computer decides to arbitrarily refuse to perform a task it’s done several times before.  I click on a window, follow a command, wait patiently while a little wheel spins and spins and spins on the screen until…nothing happens.  The uploaded picture is lost in the ether, and I’m invited to try again, or to wait until later, or I’m told that the file didn’t meet specifications.  The computer and I both know that I photoshopped the shit out of that image until it fulfilled all the requirements, but the laptop refuses to admit its fault.  It’s like the bad girlfriend I had thirty years ago who put the blame on me when she kissed another guy.  I try again with the same results, and now I know that the lying weasel is just messing with me.  “Go ahead,” it hisses to me.  “Change the proportions, the DPI; save it as a TIFF, as a jpeg, as anything on the menu.  I’ll spin my little wheel and make you sit there for five minutes, ten minutes, and just as you start to get your hopes up…wait for it…wait for it…I’ll bomb you with a stop sign icon and invite you to start all over.”

I agree with my wife that getting frustrated with a tool, a piece of technology that is generally helpful, is a bit silly when compared to the bigger problems that we face.  I know that it’s rude to break the peaceful quiet of our home with a string of heated curses.  But the little bastard winds me up gradually, and after an hour or two of frustration I lose all perspective. I start to hammer at the keys and jerk at the mouse.  My hands begin to itch with the urge to pick up the laptop and hurl it through the window where it will land cracked and dented on the driveway.  I long to see the background image crackle and die on its splintered screen.

I would never do that, of course.  The little fiend is way too expensive to destroy in a feckless moment of rage.  And it does have consistent good graces:  it plays movies with a high resolution image and allows me to listen to music from bands that I’ve newly discovered.  But it is a treacherous machine, one that promises much but delivers only when it pleases.  If only I knew the key to attuning myself to its whims, to soothing its electronic crankiness.  If only there were a minor god that accepted alms in return for a life of digital tranquility.  I’m willing to convert.