Back when I was a very confused teenager trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, my options were nursing (nope – hated blood and didn’t have the patience), teacher (I wanted to but they didn’t want me), or college to do whatever. Call it societal snobbery, familial aspirations, or white-collar expectations, further education of some sort was a given. I went to the Career Guidance counsellor and brought home a leaflet on being a Prison Warden but this was immediately relegated to the nearest figurative bin. That one wasn’t doing time. Likewise my brief dalliance with being a long-distance truck driver. I did end up going to college and hated every minute of the one year I spent trying to fathom cost accountancy and failing miserably.
In 1980s Ireland, at least in my corner of the world, tradesmen, like plumbers, carpenters, electricians, didn’t suit as suitors. Again, call it societal snobbery, familial aspirations, or white-collar expectations, or whatever you like. I still remember one of the nuns pointing out the unsuitability of a particular chap I’d been seen with, with little more to back up her assertions than that his dad worked on a building site and he wasn’t ‘suitable’ for me. Personally, I couldn’t have cared less; it wasn’t his dad who thought my feet were cute.
But then the boom came, and all those doctors and lawyers and accountants (the ones that nun reckoned would be more suitable) found that the plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, and electricians were in much greater demand and getting higher hourly rates. Amazing how the world turns. The universe has a way of levelling snobbery. I’m still laughing at the good of it and wonder what that nun is thinking now.
Finding a man (or woman) who knows their trade isn’t as easy as it sounds. They’re as rare as a vitamin in my medicine press. Sure, some might have the knowledge and the skills, but lack the necessary punctuality, reliability, and dependability that goes with them.
I’ve been without my kitchen sink for a week now.The first plumber was a lovely chap. He arrived at 6pm on a Saturday evening as a favour to a friend (bless him) and spent three hours doing what he could, growing increasingly frustrated. He came back on Sunday morning and spent another three hours before he admitted defeat. He’d gone down 10 metres and couldn’t find a thing. And he only wanted to charge me for a tap he replaced while he was underneath my sink- a gem. (I won that battle.)
Then, the dreaded call to the House – the people who look after the building- the közös képviselő. I called a mate who is better versed in dealing with this sort of situation and wasn’t as likely to resort to tears as I might (and can speak native Hungarian and knows the business). He called on Monday morning and within a couple of hours, a second plumber arrived.
Another lovely man who spent just an hour under my sink before, he, too, said he couldn’t find the problem. And he’d gone down 13 metres. Given that my ceilings are about 4 m high, that, to my uneducated plumbing mind, would situate the blockage somewhere between the second and third floors.
Were I brave enough, I could have gone down to my neighbour – she who lives below me and is prone to leaving little notes on my door when I’m in need of a reprimand – but I’d had a latish gathering on the Friday night and from experience know that it takes about a week for her to thaw. But anyway, there was no need, because plumber No. 2 said that he would have the boss man talk to the House and they’d find out where the blockage was and see whose wall they had to break down. But it wouldn’t be mine. I tried not to smile in relief, honestly I did.
At some stage on Monday afternoon when I was out, the boss man came to see my kitchen sink for himself. I wasn’t there. But he called my helpful friend and asked when I would be home. I gave my visiting hours on Tuesday and he was to call. He didn’t. I gave my visiting hours on Wednesday (cutting a very lovely lunch short to be home to suit) and waited in to no avail. I cancelled my plans for today and sat in all day because he promised. Yes, promised. And he still didn’t call.
So a week without a kitchen sink. A week of no cooking. A week of washing dishing in the bathtub. And I’m reminded that these are first world problems. I know that. I know that millions of people would welcome me with open arms were I to offer to swap my problems for theirs. And I know I’m being selfish, and petty, and whiny, and a right pain in the arse. Enough, Mary! Enough!
But knowing all that still doesn’t take from the fact that my boss man plumber is ignoring me. He says he will come tomorrow morning at 8.15 but I’ve heard that before. Promises, promises. It’s on days like this that, if I had my life to live over, I’d have married that man whose father had access to a plunger of plumbers and the nuns be damned. What was his name again, Sister?