The pipeline to great wealth

Kevin Cowherd

May 13, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

IF MEMORY serves, I was in an exceptional mood, rolling along and singing a song when we discovered the leaking pipe in the upstairs bathroom.

What made the discovery so chilling, of course, is that now I had to call a plumber.

Certainly there are few things in life more frightening for a homeowner than summoning a plumber, as these plumbers charge $200 an hour or some such ridiculous figure and constitute the latest form of organized crime.

In fact, after making the call to the plumber, it was many hours before I could stop my head from twitching violently from side to side, which was upsetting the children to no end.

The plumber arrived the next day. He was smiling. Plumbers are such happy people. Have you ever noticed? Part of this has to do with their naturally gregarious nature, but I'm sure part of it has to do with their $500-an-hour fee or whatever it is that finances their fancy cars and waterfront property and cabin cruisers.

I myself occasionally think of going into the plumbing business, these thoughts generally occurring as I sit before the word processor and discover my mind to again be a vast, empty, billowing cloud of nothingness.

Plumbing, I think. Hmmmm. That could be my ticket out of this rat race.

First I'd get myself a little red pickup truck. Then I'd fill that baby with all sorts of tools, hoses, seals, flanges, toilet tank repair valves, threaded valve shanks, couplings, tank balls, float rods, bracket guides, the whole nine yards.

On the side of my truck, I'd paint a cool sign. Something along the lines of "KC Plumbing -- 24-hour service -- Don't call after 9 p.m."

Then I would sit back and wait for the calls to come in. And the calls would come, too, believe me. You would think the $700 an hour or whatever it is that plumbers gouge from the working public would discourage a lot of homeowners from enlisting their services, but that is not the case at all.

Plumbers are always busy. Have you ever noticed? Rarely do you dial a plumber and hear him say: "Y'know, I was watching 'Geraldo' with my feet propped on the coffee table and a Coors longneck in my hand when you called."

No, you never hear that. At least I never hear that.

Anyway, as soon as the plumber arrived, I showed him the problem, although he probably could have found it himself, as the water was now gushing into a downstairs utility room and creating quite a racket.

After examining the upstairs bathroom, he returned with a disturbing bulletin.

"Looks like a bad seal on the toilet," he said.

"Is that a big job?" I asked.

They say you're not supposed to show fear in front of a plumber, but I'm sure he could read the alarm in my voice.

"Depends," he said in that laconic style favored by plumbers everywhere.

Maybe it was me, but his smile seemed to grow wider. In fact, he was whistling merrily when he went back out to the truck to get his tools.

Plumbers are always whistling. They're such happy people. Have rTC you ever noticed? Now a lot of that has to do with the fact that they're musically inclined. But a lot of it has to do with the $900 an hour or whatever ludicrous sum they manage to extort from customers (often senior citizens and the handicapped) and squirrel away in their secret Swiss bank accounts.

Auto mechanics often whistle when they work, too. And TV repairmen. It must be wonderful to be so happy while you work. Very few writers whistle while they work, by the way.

Anyway, the plumber spent the next hour or so upstairs banging on pipes and grunting loudly and doing God knows what to the toilet.

The bill came to $50 or something like that, I'm not quite sure. It was very reasonable. In fact, I was sort of out of it at this point, babbling on and on about how happy I was that the plumber could take time out of his busy schedule to help a nobody like me and begging him to let me make him lunch.

I'll tell you, these plumbers really work hard for their money and take a lot of undeserved criticism when, if you think about it, their rates are quite reasonable for the skilled work they perform.

Come to think of it, I might have even blacked out for a minute or two, as I don't remember him handing me a receipt.

Yet here it is in front of me as I type this on the word processor, the tap-tap-tap of the keys the only sound in the house right now.

Unless that's another pipe leaking.

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