Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Tuesday, September 24, 2002 I have to hire a plumber, and so far I’m sucking at it.
I’ve done a little light plumbing of my own since we’ve owned the house. I replaced the kitchen faucet a few years ago. When I was done, hot water came out of the cold side and vice versa, but it worked. Besides, that wasn’t my fault; the hot water hose wasn’t long enough to reach, but the cold water hose was, so I had to swap them just to get them both connected. I had no choice.
Also, I was really getting tired of being under the sink by that point.
I liked to pretend that the catty-wompus arrangement was a deliberate manifestation of my penchant for non-conformity, but nobody bought it. That might have had something to do with Trash rolling her eyes like 20-sided dice at my B.S., but whatever. Now that the faucet works the way it’s supposed to (thanks, Dad!), I tend to keep quiet about it. Um, er, usually.
Another project that went okay was when I replaced the innards of our toilet last summer. For whatever reason, we were getting about a teaspoon of water per flush. Maybe that’s good for the environment, but not when the environment in question is your bathroom. When you have to keep an emergency kit next to the toilet containing a plunger, another plunger, a plumber’s snake, and a box of cherry bombs, it’s bad enough. When you have to crack open the kit every time you want to flush something less water-soluble than cotton candy, that borders on untenable. But I eventually got around to fixing that, and now you have to open the bathroom window every time you flush or the house implodes from the pressure differential.
But at least the water’s going down the pipe. Now the problem is that it’s not all going down the inside of the pipe.
I don’t know when or how this happened, but we’ve developed a leak from our toilet. Every time we flush, just a little bit more water splashes into our basement. The pipe runs down through the little-used utility room area of our basement, which is why we don’t know how long it’s been happening. Obviously, things would be different if every flush doused people on the other side of the basement while they were sitting on the couch watching TV. We’d have to take immediate action in that event. That couch would be moved so quickly that the cushions would appear to hang suspended in air for a moment.
But since the water is currently dripping into buckets we’ve placed on the concrete floor, the situation is, as they say, desperate but not serious. Since it’s not an emergency, I can take my time finding the best plumber for the job, and the one who will do the best work for the best price.
That’s a task that almost makes me wish I had raw sewage flooding my kitchen. At least then I could call the first plumber in the book and not wonder if I’m getting screwed. There’s really no price that most folks won’t pay to make the sewage not be in their kitchen any more, so it’s practically impossible to get more screwed than you already are. But when all you’ve got is a little drip, you feel obligated to keep the repair cost down to one house payment rather than two or three.
This is where it gets tricky. First of all, there are hundreds of plumbers in the phone book. Secondly, they all have full-page ads. And none of them give you the information you really need, like “We acknowledge the passage of time before you get your bill” or “We wear overalls to every job.” So you have to call them all to find out how much they’ll charge you. And even that doesn’t tell you anything. Some plumbers charge by the job rather than by the hour, and those guys won’t even give you a guess as to how much it’s going to cost you until they get out there. And it’s going to cost you this week’s grocery bill just to get them out there. Some of them charge less, but they make up for it by tossing in a truck fee, as if their vehicles run on sawbucks instead of gas. Trying to figure out how much your bill is going to be with those guys is like solving for x on an algebra equation that consists of x=x.
But I’m still reasonably sure that that method is going to set me back less than the plumbers who do charge hourly. That’s because they don’t charge hourly. Like the other guys, they have a minimum fee for each visit, plus an additional one-hour minimum that could potentially amount to trading a PS2 for a drain clog, plus a quarterly-hour rate that would be equal to having a parking meter in your house that you have to keep feeding with Spanish doubloons. Solve for y when x*y=y*x.
The bottom line is that I just don’t have enough information to make an informed decision, and that makes me crazy. I’ll probably just end up going with one of the companies that don’t charge extra for after-hours or weekend calls. Either that or talk my wife into sitting around the house some afternoon waiting for a guy who probably won’t show up until 10:30 p.m.
And no, trying to fix it myself is not, I repeat, not an option. I’m the reason “plumber” rhymes with “dumber.” I didn’t mind fiddling with the toilet when I was on top of the water, but this is entirely different. Furthermore, if I screw it up, I run the risk of effectively turning our basement into an open pit latrine. And then nobody will want to come over and watch Buffy with us.
On the other hand, if that happens, I get to stop shopping for plumbers and just pick one, because there won’t be time to call around. Hmmm… posted by M. Giant 3:23 PM 0 comments