I’m generally a pretty handy guy but there are a few things around the house I try to avoid doing.
Plumbing has always been one of those things because it genuinely baffles and intimidates me. I don’t know how to weld pipes or thread pipes or use pipe dope or weld pipe dopes, or… well, you get the idea.
At least that’s how it was for years until one day I was finally forced to cowboy up and learn a few basics.
How did this happen? Well let me tell you…
One Saturday I was busy minding my own business, happily ignoring the multiple small plumbing jobs that had landed on the Honey-do list. I was perfectly happy to continue ignoring them until our older kids complained that their shower was not working… like at all.
My first mistake was complaining to my wife about not knowing how to do plumbing. To this declaration of mine she kindly responded, “Why don’t you just call a plumber?”
Ugh, the Traitor.
Like a lot of guys I hate talking to other guys about Guy Stuff I don’t understand, which in the case of plumbing is pretty much everything.
I know that makes no sense, but let it sink in and you will find a deep, immutable truth there.
Now normally I would call my dad who happens to live next door. A guy’s dad is the one guy in a guy’s life who it’s okay to admit to that you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Unfortunately, that day my dad was unavailable for our typical Father/Son consult. I was on my own.
Ugh. Fine. I will <grit teeth> call a plumber. I had used Angie’s List in the past to find a sewer contractor, and I headed there at first. But then I came across a new service I had not used before called HomeAdvisor and thought I’d try it.
Here’s a tip for all you homeowners the next time you have to locate a service:
Use Angie’s List. Do not use HomeAdvisor. No, this is not a sponsored plug. This is a helpful tip from me based on experience.
You see, when I went to HomeAdvisor to get a service referral they asked me in exacting detail about the job I needed done so that they could make the “best referral possible.” That much was the same as I recalled from using Angie’s List.
The departure point however was what happened next: instead of simply providing me a list of possible contractors to call at my leisure, they instead chummed the service provider waters with my job request and then sat back to watch the feeding frenzy. I’m pretty sure popcorn was consumed during this process.
About 27 seconds after I hit the “Submit” button, my phone rang. It was a plumber named Sal… or should I say “SAL!” since that is how he said his name.
“PETER?! IT’S SAL! You lookin’ to get some plumbing done, Peter?! Hello?! You there?!”
I was temporarily dumbstruck. What was happening? I didn’t want to have this conversation yet. I didn’t have my job pitch down yet, whatever that means. I was just doing research!
“Ahhh, hi Sal. Yeah, I, ahh…” I hate cold calls, and despite the fact that I had put my job info out there, I hated this call already.
“So what’s the job, Peter?!”
Now I’m perplexed. I had just spent 20 minutes filling out a VERY detailed job description.
“Did you read the description I submitted?”
An audible huff. “No, I don’t read those, I just call and I get the job, right?! Okay, so what’s the job, come on!”
SAL! was talking very fast. SAL! was a busy man. I contemplated hanging up on SAL!
“Well there’s three bathrooms in the house, and I need work done in all three. In the first bathroom I need to have a tub diverter replaced and some caulking done.”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! Hold on, go back to the first one!” SAL! says in a chiding voice.
“That is the first job,” I say to SAL!
“Okay okay okay, so what’s a diverter? What are you trying to tell me?”
I freeze. Isn’t that what it’s called? Ugh, THIS is what I mean, THIS is what I hate.
“You know, the thing you pull up to make the water go up to the shower head,” I explain.
A quiet chuckle from SAL! I can feeeel his eyes rolling at me through the phone. “Okay Peter, we’ll call it that. A diverter, sure. What else?!”
BEEP! My call-waiting sound chimes loudly in my ear. I glance at the screen – another 800 number. Seriously? It’s been about 90 seconds since I clicked “Submit.”
“HELLO?! PETER?!” SAL! is getting impatient.
I send the other call to voicemail and continue: “Ahh, well then there’s some caulking around the -”
SAL! interrupts: “I don’t do caulking, that’s handyman work. I’m a licensed plumber, Peter. I don’t do caulking. Get a handyman for that. What else?!” I get the distinct feeling SAL! is starting to think that this call was not worth his time.
“You don’t do caulking? Like ever?” I’m baffled by this statement. How does a plumber not do caulking?
“No Peter, I don’t. What else?! You said three bathrooms. What else?!”
“Okay, well the diverter in the second bathroom is stuck in the tub direction. It’s frozen, it needs to be replaced.”
“Again with the diverter. We’re done with the <air quotes> diverter, Peter. What about the next bathroom?”
And so it went for another 3-4 minutes interrupted three times by more call-waiting BEEPS! until finally I was done. I was worn out. I could take no more.
Unseen by SAL! I tore out the piece of notepaper where I had been diligently taking notes, tore them up, and dropped them in the trash. Then without a word I hung up on SAL!
I have to cop to this people, right here and now: Hanging up on SAL! felt great! I felt bold, invigorated, I felt like a MAN again!
But mostly I feel annoyed. Super f-ing annoyed.
But you know what people? This combination of Need and Frustration and Intimidation and Annoyance is very potent. It is the perfect storm of emotions, the perfect state of mind in which to tackle the UNKNOWN.
Did I know what the thingy was called that sends the water from the spigot to the shower head? No! But did I let that keep me from going to the interwebs and searching Youtube videos until I found what it was called and how to fix it my owndamnself? No I did not!
Did I make two trips to Lowe’s, one to Kenny’s Plumbing, and three to Home Depot before ultimately ordering exactly what I needed from Amazon? Hell ya! But that’s not the point people. Or maybe it is.
I did it, and I learned some new things in the process (one of which, by the way, is that that thingy IS called a DIVERTER! F.U. SAL!)
You know what I think though? In the end I would have had this no other way. I like doing and learning new things all the time. Even if it’s frustrating and annoying and intimidating as hell, I love it and I’m so glad I was raised to always Try, and I hope like hell that I am passing this on to my kids. I should be so lucky.
So I take it back: don’t use Angie’s List. Go ahead and use HomeAdvisor. Maybe you too will be <air quotes> “inspired” to learn something new.
And you can tell SAL! I sent you.
Have you ever done something you were sure would fail but were pleasantly, stupidly proud when it didn’t? Tell me about it in the Comments below…