It's not about the house.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rest In Pee

Okay, so this toilet that won’t stop running…

It’s in the new bathroom. Sort of a three-quarter bath, I guess, that we built (in a corner of what was once the rotten room) waaaaaaay back in 2004. And 5. And a little bit of 6.

We had a pair of plumbers, John and Bobby. John tall and white-headed. Bobby shorter, with dark hair and a hernia that made him look like he was smuggling footballs under his shirt. Johnny’s known them both for years, from a bar he used to drink at in South Boston. I first met them in, I think, 1998, when they installed the gas dryer in our apartment. They were already retired then, just doing little jobs like that for little money.

John’s the one with the license – come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure whether Bobby was ever actually a plumber or if he was just John’s best friend, keeping him company and handing him wrenches in their golden years. Not to disparage anyone or anything, I just don’t know. Maybe he was.

Anyway, John was the one with the license. He got the permit and met with the inspector and everything. But Bobby was the one that talked to me. And I liked the way Bobby talked to me. He’d joke and mutter, translate all John’s sentences from plumb-speak into English. And he didn’t treat me like a girl. He didn’t tell me dirty jokes or anything, but he treated me like I belonged there, like there was a chance I’d understand what he was saying.

It wasn’t fun, this plumbing project. They were, like I say, retired, so they would show up when they felt like it – every day, but at whatever time – take a break for lunch at noon no matter what had gotten done, and leave when they were tired but never later than, say, three o’clock. I’m no judge of what’s a fair price and what isn’t, but the inspector estimated the cost of our permit based on two times what they charged us, so who was I to comment on their routine?

My grandfather was a plumber, and though I never went to work with him or anything I’d seen him do some work in my folks’ house. Watching white-haired John on his hands and knees with a monkey wrench in his hand reminded me of Grampy, and so I kind of liked having him around. And, like I said, Bobby talked to me.

When the toilet was finally installed but not yet functional, I discovered that the tank wobbled if I tipped it with my finger. The boys said yeah, that was odd, but that’s the way it’s made: the bolt holes didn’t square so there was nothing they could do. I called the manufacturer and the manufacturer said um, yeah, no, it was not supposed to wobble. I called the inspector and he said um, yeah, no, a toilet with a wobbly tank would never pass inspection. So I called the boys and told them um, yeah, no, but they were going to have to figure something out.

They nailed a block of wood behind it on the wall. So it wouldn’t, you know, wobble anymore.

Ingenious, no?

Eventually they did get the bolts to go, and eventually it all did pass inspection. But it’s been making this weird dripping sound since almost the first time that I used it – not constantly, just when you sit on it and then for a while after. It sounds like its coming from under the floor, except for under the floor is a crawl space with dirt, so how could I hear water landing there?

And now it won’t stop running. That, I think, is just cheap plastic innards. I know how to fix it – I did it in the other bathroom about six months ago – but I haven’t gotten around to this one yet because I’m so annoyed I think that it should just go fix itself.

The other day John called to tell us Bobby died. Apparently his father passed away, then four hours later Bobby was taken to the ER short of breath. I asked about his mom but it turns out she’s been gone for years – so that’s a blessing, I suppose, on a day like that.

I still don’t know if Bobby ever was a plumber, but I know that he was my plumber – along with white-haired John. And, though it may not be the most sacred of memorials, I know that I will think of him every time I use the toilet they installed.

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