What Goes Down...
"You stay alive, baby. Do it for Van Gogh."
My boss calls me up after I'm finishing for the day, says he's got a client wants a rush job. Boss tells me, "Guy says it's a real emergency." Then, more importantly, adds, "And he's willing to pay double." It probably isn't as important as this
rush guy thinks, but I know better than to get between my boss and quick cash.
Nine times out of ten the problem is simple. However, when people don't know the solution it seems impossible to remedy. That's the real secret of most businesses: trusting people to be ignorant. Talk to an accountant, a mechanic, a tailor, it all comes down to that one thing. As long as people don't know what to do they're willing to pay someone who does. And truth be told, you can't expect everyday people to know everything.
So I shrug (which is weird considering I'm on the phone and by myself) and say, "Dan, don't worry about it. I got this. Tell me where he's at."
I'm not going to lie. Rush jobs have a side perk. The people who beg for them, especially if they turn out to be a real emergency, like a flooding basement, are always super grateful. I once stopped a garbage disposal from projectile vomiting out this one lady's kitchen sink -- foul black shit just shooting out of the drain. Let's just say some innuendo ensued that got her husband glaring. So I always have fun, one way or another, on rush jobs.
I get sent to this brownstone on Jarvis in Roger's Park. The house is a nice looking piece of real estate. It's the kind of spot anybody would hope to settle down in some day. I can even see my future kids drawing on the sidewalk, while my wife and I sit on the porch thinking, "We did all right."
Stepping out of the fantasy, I go up to the door, ring the bell and knock. No answer, though I can hear someone walking around. Repeat the process. The door opens. There's a man standing there looking dressed like he's auditioning for the cover of GQ.
"You're here to fix the sink," he says. I nod. He ushers me into the house.
Night is coming on, but this guy hasn't turned on any lamps. There are a few candles burning, so I ask, "Power out?"
"No," he says in this tone like I'm stupid for asking, but I let it slide. I'm starting to think he's got a romantic evening planned and needs whatever fixed before his friend arrives. I can appreciate that kind of emergency. So I cut to the chase, "Where's the problem?"
"This way." He leads me straight back through the house. I follow him into the kitchen where he points to the sink. There's about three inches of scummy water sitting in the basin. I ask him what, if anything, he's done to try and fix it.
He says what I've found is an average response. Basically, he ran the water, noticed the sink filling up (says it's been draining slower and slower for months), stopped the water, ran it some more then paused, glared at the drain for ten minutes, and finally, after a few shabby efforts, he phoned for help.
First things first. I go back to my van for a bucket and my tools. Already I have a rough idea what's probably wrong. When I get back the guy is standing near the sink, arms folded across his chest. I don't want to be here any longer than I have to, so saying nothing, I plunge right into things. Use the cut off valves to turn off the water, open the p-trap, drain the water out of the sink, and check the trap. Sure enough, there's so much black scum coating the inside of the p-trap a half inch opening has scum-shrunk to a pinhole. I turn the water back on and clear the trap by rinsing it out at the sink into my bucket. Sludge plops out in solid chunks sparsely furred by strands of hair. Once the trap is cleaned, I put it back in place and run the water. It drains alright for a few seconds, slows, and slightly fills. So, long story short, I have to pull out his trap arm and do my best to funnel the sludge that comes out into my bucket.
It takes about forty minutes to be sure everything is working alright. Seems to be. I tell the guy to keep an eye on it, phone if it becomes a problem again, then give him the bill. He takes it with a smile. Rush jobs are the only time people don't usually get pissy about the bill.
So I'm getting ready to leave, putting my tools back in the van, when I remember I got to empty the sludge water out of my bucket. I'm about to pour the bucket out in the gutter when I notice something glitter in the filth under the street light.
Figuring this is some jewelry lost down the drain -- guy just didn't know about it or how to get it -- I reach in to grab the stuff. Turns out to be a handful of metal pieces. None of it looks special, so I pour out the water, making sure to pour slow in case there's more.
See, we got this guy at work, Richard, who likes to collect the odd bits he finds in pipes. Some people don't want things once they've been down a drain, and I guess he hates to see things go to waste. Like he's got a whole assortment of kids toys he snaked out of toilets the parents didn't want back. What he does with them all I don't know. Somebody told me he uses them for some kind of art, but whatever. So long as he isn't fucking any of it who am I to judge... maybe not even then. Anyhow, I gave him all the metal I found in my bucket.
About two days later he came in with the bits and shows me this rod with a serious of long pins through it. I go, "That's pretty clever man. You make it with all that junk I gave you?"
Richard shakes his head, "No, man, not really. This is what it is. I didn't make it. I put it back together."
"So what is it?" I asked, now feeling real curious.
"It's a rod and surgical pins. Like for when you have a broken bone."
"I'm not fucking around. You can ask my cousin. I showed it to him, and he told me. He works over at Children's Memorial, has to do this to skateboarders all the time. It's for holding fractures together."
"Son of a bitch," I said.
We probably should have left it at that, but...
COMING SOON! PART 2: Pipe Inspectors