Friday, March 30, 2012


For those of you who think my family is somewhere close to sainthood, thought I would give you a typical slice from our life. This is one from last night and this morning.

Last night, my book club went to see Hunger Games, then for a bite to eat afterwards. After a terrific evening- great movie, great conversation, lots of laughter- I got home about ten. When I walked in the door, I could hear water running. The bathroom door was shut, so I assumed one of the boys was in the bathroom. A few minutes later, Kadeem walks out of his bedroom.

"I'm going to bed. Good night," he says, in one of those, you didn't do a good job mothering me/you should have been home cooking dinner" designed to induce mommy guilt voices.

"Where's the water running?" I say.

"Toilet," says Kadeem, shutting his door with a little more intensity than I thought necessary.

I resume my running water detective work, knocking softly on the bathroom door. "Isaiah?" I say, in my most pleasant mother/detective voice.

Isaiah doesn't answer. The door is ajar so I push it open just a little. No one is in there, but the toilet is, in fact, running like crazy. I take off the lid, preparing to move from detective to plumber role. I think that the floater valve is probably just hung up.  I know how to fix those.

Unfortunately, the floater valve does not seem to be the problem. I jiggle around all the jiggle-able parts I can see, then try flushing it again. I leave for a few minutes and go downstairs, hoping I have fixed the problem.  I haven't. The water continues to run.

I review my problem solving strategies. My next option is to turn off the water and call the plumber. I find the little valve behind the toilet (after saying some very unmotherlike words about my boys' housecleaning abilities!) and turn it off. I put a sign on the toilet DO NOT USE! and go to bed.

This morning, I got up and called the plumber. Because I am such a valued customer (plumber's code for someone is always breaking something, or putting something somewhere that it should not go),  I have a special valued customer account. April (yes, I really am on a first name basis with the plumber's dispatcher) tells me someone can come out between 12 and 2). I wade into the boys' bathroom and spend an hour scrubbing. (They usually clean their own bathroom, then I do my best to ignore it, but when someone, even the plumber, is coming over, a little elbow grease is usually in order). I discover that the drain in the sink also needs some work, and call April back. She says that will be no problem.  Somewhere during that hour I take a brief intermission because Kadeem insists he needs a shower. I resist the urge to say something unpleasant and unmotherlike about the boys' bathroom cleaning skills.

At about 11:50, the phone rings. April wants me to know that the plumber is on the way. Great. In the meantime, Isaiah comes out of his bedroom, goes into the bathroom, and slams the door.  I tap (Ok, maybe I banged a little) on the bathroom door and tell him he needs to get out of the bathroom because
A) the toilet doesn't work and B) the plumber is on his way up to the door. I tell him he should use my bathroom instead. He comes out of the bathroom and goes back into his bedroom, shutting the door with a lot more force than necessary, and saying, "I'm not an idiot," in a less than pleasant voice.

The plumber arrives at the door. "Hi, I'm Paul," he says. "You're having a problem with your hot water heater?"

"My hot water heater?"

Paul smiles and nods.

"No, I'm not having a problem with my hot water heater. I'm having a problem with my toilet and with the sink not draining."

"You're sure you're not having a problem with your hot water heater?"says Paul.

"No, my hot water heater is fine." I'm not too concerned by what seems like a mixup, because I have worked with this company for several years, and they have always done a great job.  I take him into the boys' bathroom to show him the toilet and sink.

"We usually have special drain guys," says Paul, "but I'll take a look at it."I comment that April had said that the drain would not be a problem. Paul looks at me like he's not sure I'm telling the truth, runs the water in the sink (I think to check if there really is hot water), looks at the drain, and then gets on the phone to call April.

"There's not a problem with the hot water heater," he says. "She has a problem with her toilet." Paul evidently has the phone on speaker because I can hear every word April says. "There's no problem with the hot water heater?" she says.

"No," says Paul. She says that no one is available this afternoon to do the drain, but that they can send someone tomorrow. Inwardly, I groan at one more day of my rapidly disappearing spring break being taken up waiting for a plumber, but I really need the work to be done, so I agree.

Paul rolls up his sleeves and starts to work. I stand in the doorway, waiting for his assessment of the toilet situation. "So how old are your boys?" he says conversationally.

"Sixteen and eighteen," I reply. "Do you have kids?" He does, an eight-year-old boy and a baby.

"Where does your eight-year-old go to school?" I ask.

"In the mountains. He lives up in the mountains with his mom."

This seems like it could be heading toward one of those foot-in-mouth conversations, so I change the subject. "How long have you worked for **** Plumbing Company?"

I have moved away from the bathroom and can't quite hear his answer. I move back to the door.

"I've worked for them for a year," he says, "but it's not **** Plumbing Company. I work for **** (another plumbing company)."

I am a little confused. I wonder if **** Plumbing Company, the one I use, is subcontracting work to this other company.

I must look confused, because Paul points to his shirt. "I work for *** Plumbing Company."

"But that's not the company that's supposed to be coming," I say, hoping for some clarification.

"Isn't this 2557 G Street?" says Paul.

"No," I say, "This is 2577."

"Well that explains the water heater issues," says Paul. "I'm supposed to be repairing a water heater at 2557 G Street." He picks up his materials and I escort him to the door, pointing him two doors down, to where my neighbor is evidently waiting to have her hot water heater repaired.

My plumber shows up ten minutes later, and charges me about $300 to fix the sink and toilet. He laughs when I tell him about my new friend, Paul.

I write the plumber a check and he leaves. I go to let the dogs in and discover that Isaiah has climbed out his bedroom window and  is out in the backyard. The basketball hoop has somehow made its way up onto the wooden deck. A large board on the deck is now broken in half, leaving a hole in the middle of the deck.

"How did that happen?" I ask.

"Basketball hoop," says Isaiah. I sigh wondering where the money will come from to fix that.

"And your stupid dog bit a hole in my basketball," Isaiah continues.

"Did you leave it where he could get it?" I say.

"It's a basketball. It's supposed to be by the hoop," says Isaiah.

I resist the urge to respond.

And this, my friends, is a probably more accurate slice of our life today…


Michelle said...

A slice of all our lives! Oh, I had to laugh at the plumber mix up! Can you even believe it? And boys will be boys will be boys. Hang in there and try to remember to laugh. These moments will soon be gone . . . thanks for a real slice of life!

Jaana said...

Hilarious! You painted a very clear picture of your day! Truly a funny plumber story!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Carol! This is hilarious! I'm glad you were able to A)get the bathroom cleaned B)get both toilet and sink fixed C)see the humor in the situation D)write about it. Enjoy what is left of your break!

Karen said...

The honesty of a parent's life is sometimes painful but can be humorous in retrospect. Thanks so much for sharing so honestly. Here's hoping the rest of your break goes more smoothly!

Dana said...

Oh my gosh, that plumber story is 1 in a million. The odds of that happening? CRAZY! Hilarious. I appreciated the honesty in this piece. Sounded like the normal ins and outs of family life.

Linda B said...

How could the odds be that 2 plumbers would be sent from the same company to places so close? This is funny, Carol, but I guess it didn't much feel that way that day. Plus, ah the teenagers. fun, not funny. You do bring it all back. Some days they're so nice, but the evil side shows other times. Hard to take, & you sound just so nice, & patient. It's a tough call when 'not' to stop raising your voice. Cheers!

MaryHelen said...

Typical day- yes with teenagers. What a hoot with the Plummer mix up.

Mary Lee said...

Happy Spring break! Hope you get to enjoy your last couple of days without too much drama!