Sunday, February 10, 2008

Renaissance Plumber

Our plumber--who paid his first visit to the house this morning--is a self-proclaimed libertarian with hair like David Carradine. He knows everything about Chicago plumbing history and sketched out this drawing of our system.

Between the lines is a theory that sits nicely with me: simple folk remedies should hold us steady for a while. A little water down the basement drain and catch basin, and we'll be fine for the short term. As he put it, "I'm only here to tell you the truth. My family's been in this business since the 1800s, but you don't have to believe me." Then, after a pause, "We're really not looking for work."

He explained that what we might eventually want to do is exactly what's depicted on this drawing. This sketch, no joke, is a feat of engineering. It shows an intricate before-and-after plan, whereby our kitchen stack would be rerouted from the catch basin to the soil stack, where everything would feed into the city plumbing system instead of the small reservoir under our back stairs. I know, I know, tedious stuff. But it actually made perfect sense to John, which only proves the secret language of the handy.

Our plumber answered no question simply. He explained the art and science of pipes and drainage, because it was important, to him, that we understood the mechanics. He was worried about our hot-water-heater, suggesting we light a match near one of the metal hinges next time someone is taking a shower, just to see whether gas is escaping. Then quick as he'd come in, he was out the door.

"Wait," I said. "What do we owe you for the visit?"

"Nothing, nothing," he said, and our storm door slammed behind him as he bounded down the stairs in his giant, unlaced rubber boots.

1 comment:

tracy said...

I'm envisioning this turning into a scene from the movie "Brazil," for some reason. Does the plumber drive a funny futuristic utility vehicle?