So the plumbers came at 2:00 today. Since they were only charging me $300 they probably thought the job would take them an hour, maybe two. I hoped so because I had a PTA meeting to attend at 3:30.
The sawing and pounding began. A few minutes into the job I heard words that struck terror into this homeowner's heart. "It broke off, there at the bottom," the plumber's assistant said. "Do you have a torch?"
I lurked near the bathroom door, folding laundry and listening to snatches of irritated conversation and the sounds of tools I hadn't thought they would need, like a torch and a Dremel. What if they had to get the jackhammer out and break into the slab? What if they had to rip off the whole wall?
For a while I avoided eye contact as they went back and forth between their truck. At last I gave the senior plumber a questioning look. He pulled a straight smile and gave me a thumbs up. I hoped that meant that he wasn't going to charge me any more than the estimate.
"We're going out to get another coupler," the plumber said a few minutes later. "We'll be right back."
By the time they got back my older children were home from school, along with a friend each. "They're multiplying," the plumber remarked in surprise when he returned and saw all the kids. I wondered if he really thought that one three-year-old had strewn all the toys, papers, and junk all over the house.
I didn't think I'd make it to the PTA meeting, so I called the secretary to let her know, and then sent the older kids and their friends out to fetch the younger ones from school.
"We've got to get a few more couplers," the plumber said. "We'll come back."
As if I thought they'd abandon me with an open waste pipe in my wall. They wouldn't do that, would they?
My husband had come home by the time the plumbers returned. I introduced them, then started thinking about dinner. With all the commotion in the house I decided Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was all I could handle.
"We need a few more parts," the plumber told me. "Be right back."
All this time, of course, no one could use any of the plumbing upstairs. No sinks, no toilet. It would have flooded the downstairs bathroom with . . . you guessed it.
When my six-year-old finished his homework I rewarded him with a bike ride together around the block. On our second time around I saw the plumbers' truck coming up the street. "We're almost ready to rock and roll," the head plumber said when he came back in the house. I guess that meant he thought he had everything he needed and they were almost finished.
One of my children had to go to the bathroom. Instead of interrupting the plumbers I took him to the next door neighbor's house and asked to use theirs. I was beginning to feel that I ought to invite the plumbers to stay for dinner. Then again, it was only Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
At last, near six o-clock, the plumber asked my husband to turn on the water upstairs. No leaks! I applauded.
"We hit a few snags, but you're good to go now. How would you like to pay?"
I handed over my debit card. "I'm glad I didn't try to do that myself," I said.
A brief, rueful chuckle from the plumber.