Friday, September 9, 2016

Brian the Plumber

Brian's Detritus
Brian the Plumber finally managed to replace my water heater, but he left the old one lying in my own back yard.
This year I've managed to take care a lot of maintenance issues with this house that should have been fixed long ago. Much of the greatest damage to this house came from an infestation of raccoons. Infestation it was too: they get under the house, in the attic, and between the walls, make spooky scratching sounds, and go bump in the night while they play havoc with the insulation. Their greatest achievement followed from their tearing large chunks out of the insulation wrapped around the CACH ducts in the attic. A Summer in Austin, Texas, swelters with heat and humidity, so when you have a duct of naked metal conveying cold air to the rooms below, water condenses on the outside of these exposed ducts just like a glass of iced tea forms beads of moisture on the outside. That moisture gets heavier than the surface tension can hold, so it drops down and lands on the attic insulation, where it filters through until it reaches the sheet rock that makes the ceiling. Sheet rock can hold a surprising amount of water, but the more water it holds, the heavier comes the eventual collapse of the ceiling onto my furniture below.

I suppose one can live in a house until the city condemns it and evicts its residents, but it made more sense to start taking care of maintenance, starting with the big gaping hole I now had in the ceiling. Many other changes happen as well. Drafty front and back doors get replaced. The old built-in range and oven get replaced with a Westinghouse range and oven. The new stove is cheaper than what it replaced, but technology is light years ahead of what it was when the old stove and oven were installed, so the new outfit is much better even though it is cheaper. The water heater gets replaced by Brian the Plumber, who has problems showing up. Finally on Friday, 22 April, he says he'll show up the following Monday. He doesn't. Here is a transcript of text messages between us in April and May.

Tuesday, 26 April, ME: Did you get diverted, Brian the Plumber?

BRIAN the PLUMBER: I'm so sorry.....I had a little emergency at this job.....I believe I can get it finished tomorrow afternoon......be it that I have all the parts I purchased today......I will be there after the dentist appointment......thank you, Mason..

ME: Ok no problem. I'm in no hurry. Just let me know your schedule when you can.

Wednesday, 27 April. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Hi Mason.....I will be coming down south in a little while....hopefully by 5:30ish.....I will try to get alot done today.....but I will be there later....thanks so much!....Brian.

ME: Ok.
That Wednesday evening Brian the Plumber shows up and swaps the new water heater for the old.

Thursday, 28 April. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Hi Mason.....just picking up some more fittings and I'll be heading south your way....see you in a little while..

ME: Sorry I missed your calls. Everything ok? Water hot & cold all good here.

Friday, 29 April. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Hi Mason, say I left my flood light there......I'm gonna be in town a little later....if no one will be at house, could you please leave it on the side of the house....and I can pick it up later today....thank you....Brian.

ME: Ok. Will do. Your beacon is in a chair on my front porch.

BRIAN the PLUMBER: Thank you!.....and I'll be there next week to prep for the inspection...

ME: Ok. Keep me posted.

Waiting for the inspection meant not hearing from Brian the Plumber again until late May.

Monday, 23 May. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Hi Mason, say I had something come up this morning, so I'm running a bit behind......I will be there today just in a little while....if you have to leave, please just leave the side door open.....thank you, Brian.

ME: That door is open. Remember, the city inspector cometh. Also please get rid of that old water heater. It looks so bad just lying out there.

BRIAN the PLUMBER: Ok....I will..

Tuesday, 24 May. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Hi Mason, today was not a good day to get back over there....had alot come up today.....I did buy what I needed, but I'll have to come tomorrow late morning to finish......I should be there around 11:30ish.......thanks, Brian.

ME: Ok. See you then. Maybe you'll be here when inspector comes?

Sunday, 29 May. BRIAN the PLUMBER: Good evening, Mason......I had to go out of town recently.....I'm back and wanted to call in the inspection for tomorrow......will you be home from 7:30am - 3pm.......he will come between those hours.....I've got it where it needs to be, but he might need something changed, so I definitely want to get this done.....please let me know as soon as possible if you'll be there and I will call it in for tomorrow.......thank you....Brian.

From 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. That sort of thing really bothers me because this is a seven-hour window, and I work at night, so this is close to my sleeping hours. I will translate this into the schedule of an average nighttime sleeper: "Will you be home between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.? The inspector will be there between those hours." And on top of that, these people get angry if I sleep through their knock. It was a big recurring problem during the whole construction and repair project. 

ME: Will you be here for inspection?

BRIAN the PLUMBER: I am not required to be......just the homeowner.....if anything needs to be adjusted they will send me an email.....he might come early, but definitely before 3pm......this needs to be finalized, so will you be around tomorrow.....if so, I'll call it in for tomorrow..

ME: Ok. The later he comes, the greater the chance I'll hear and open the door.

BRIAN the PLUMBER (whining now that I've hit him on the side of the head with the reality of this appointment): They don't let anyone know, but I'll call it in and let's hope.....other it'll cost me a 120.00 reinspection fee if noone answers and he wants to change something....but I"ll call it in and let's see....thank you....I'll let you know what I find out. [This was Brian the Plumber's last message to me.]

Finally, on the 31st of May, the city inspector breezed by to inspect the work. The first thing he looked at was the water heater, which, fortunately, he declared OK. He didn't even seem to notice the drainage pipes running along the floor that Brian the Plumber had worried so much about.

Now it is September, and I needed to have the lawn mowed. Michael, my yard man, was originally scheduled to come on Saturday at 9 a.m., so I had to drag myself out of bed after only two hours sleep, but he didn't show up or call. Finally on Monday at 4:16 p.m. he sent me a text:

Monday, 4:16 p.m. Michael: Hey, I didn't forget u. Had a big project, but I def get to u at 9:30 or 10 in the morn. Sorry about that.

ME: Oh, okay. That'll work. Only problem is getting up early when I work all night throws my schedule off. I don't mind now and then if it's for a reason. Or can you do tomorrow afternoon?

Michael: Yea[h] I can come in the afternoon what time is good for u?

ME: Noon or later?

Michael: How about 1 p.m.

ME: That's even better for me. Predicting tstorms tomorrow. We'll get there eventually.

Michael: Oh yea[h].

Tuesday, 1:18 p.m. Michael: Good afternoon be to u in 5 mins.

He finished most of the mowing, but he got stung by a yellow jacket. I gave him a zip-lock baggie with some ice for the sting, and I went ahead and gave him his check, and I immediately saw in his face that he would not be back to trim some bushes as he promised. Sure enough, today I heard nothing from him.
Photo by Dave Hitchborne. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.