“Wanna little plumbing 101?” the plumber turns towards me from the sink. “Good lifeskill.”
No. I don’t want a little plumbing 101. I want to muscle through a lot of work. Which is why I’ve turned away from him to my life at the computer. I want a quick, quiet repair job. I’ve waited long enough for him to come.
The plumber wears a blue t-shirt – 28th Annual McCann’s Horseshoe Tourney – and drops his plastic Foot Locker bag of tools on the counter, grunts as he gets down on his knees to look under the sink.
Well, the quiet I’d hoped for was shot. I go to the sink unwillingly. At least a quick job might still be possible.
He shows me the way to put plumber’s putty around the drain. “The word I use is gingerly,” he says of how I should treat the pipes under the sink. And I’m nodding, but it’s empty nodding because really my mind is turning towards my life at the computer.
Listen, he says. Sorry it took so long to get here. Cousin upstate died. “Four days in the hospital and kaput.” They’d been close as kids. Took baths together in the sink. Then, right after his retirement party, liver cancer. What are you gonna do?
Which cuts through my empty nodding. “I’m so sorry.” I pause. “Did you get everything checked out for yourself?” Yup, he got a colonoscopy. When he speaks to me, he turns towards me. Always.
“You know,” he says, “plumbing’s not my forte. I’m a stonemason, 35 years, third generation, didn’t go to college,” his pride lacks pretension. But, he points to his legs, bad knees. What are you gonna do?
And as he gets his plastic bag of tools, I get my answer, which I want to remember for 35 years or three generations or just forever: You’re gonna turn towards people. Always. You’re gonna have life now because who knows what could happen right after your retirement party.
– He heads out the door, You call me if you got any problems, ok? –
And you’re gonna appreciate that plumbing is one hell of a good lifeskill.