Don’t Mess With Gramps

In the 1930s, my grandfather lived down the street from a beer garden.  He wasn’t a teetotaler and didn’t mind if others had a good time, but grew tired of the disruption of hooting and hollering drunks and the debris they left behind.  One summer night, a car full of women pulled up in front of his house.  He sat on his porch smoking a cigarette and heard their drunken conversation as they got out.  He was hidden in darkness, and the women had no idea they had an audience.  One lifted her skirt, squatted down and left a deposit on the lawn.  They laughed as they tottered away to top off their evening at the beer garden.  Grandpa fetched a shovel from his garage after they had gone, scooped up the pile and deposited it on the back seat of the ladies’ sedan.  A few hours later he heard a car door slam followed by screeching, cursing and crying.

Grandpa and Grandma rented for many years before Grandpa’s business began to generate a comfortable income.  Grandpa liked to fix things and to garden, and he left every house in better shape than he found it.  One time he put new tile down in the kitchen.  The landlord came by for the rent, saw the improvement, complimented Grandpa and thanked him.  A month later he evicted them.  My grandfather figured out that the landlord wanted to use the gleaming kitchen floor as an enticement to lure renters willing to pay more.  Grandpa moved his family out to a new location, but before turning in the keys he tore up the tiles and left the broken bits for the landlord to clean up.

Grandpa eventually bought a house on Pritz Avenue.  Ten years later, the city of Dayton put an east/west highway through the town, and bought out the place through eminent domain.  Grandpa got less than the worth of the house, but made do with a story-and-a-half he purchased a mile away in Belmont.  The new house sat on a corner, and Grandpa found tire tracks running across his lawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Some motorists liked to cut the corner.  Punks in a hot rod made a point of churning deep ruts into his lawn one night.  Grandpa began to collect stones about the size of bowling balls.  When he had ten or so, he placed them at intervals at the edge of his lawn along the corner where cars cut through.  He painted them white to give the wayward drivers fair warning, but took some satisfaction when he heard tires blow and axles grind late at night.  Word eventually spread, and Grandpa’s lawn went untouched.

My Grandpa’s shop sold and installed Venetian blinds, curtains and valances.  One day during the beginning of a hectic holiday season, a woman wearing a fur coat and pearl earrings came up to the counter and gave Grandpa a list of demands.  Her house had to be redecorated before Christmas, and Grandpa must put aside his other jobs and give her preferential treatment.  She was an important person.  Grandpa told her that she’d have to wait her turn, that he wouldn’t bump other orders.  She exclaimed, “But my family is coming to town and I need this!”  Grandpa put down his pen and pushed aside her order form, pointed to the displays in the showroom and said, “Lady, there isn’t a single thing in this store that you actually need.




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.