Coffee heat rising

Plumbing Update

So…what happened after I showed Steven the (Avaricious) Plumber the door? As you may recall, when I couldn’t reach my regular guy, I’d called another local plumbing outfit which sent a gent around after making me wait upwards of five hours. This character complained that the plumbing under the sink (which has worked fine since I moved into this house 11 years ago) was an out-of-code mess, could not be roto-rooted, and needed to be disassembled and reassembled to clean it out. Proposed fee: $545.

Right. Sure. So I sent that jerk on his way. Posted a query on the Facebook neighborhood group’s page. Two neighbors recommended Maloney’s Plumbing, an outfit I’d never heard of. Gave them a call. And forthwith had a new fella in here.

What. A. Difference!

The guy has got the drain working fine for the nonce. He removed the lever-operated drain plug — an invention whose appeal has always mystified me. A rubber plug I happen to have in hand works just fine and does not annoy, annoy, and annoy some more. He was honest. He was straightforward. He was astonishingly hard-working. And he was very clearly NOT trying to rip me off.

Yes, he did have to take Satan’s do-it-yourself pipework apart to do the job, and yes, it no doubt was a PITA, and yup, it took the poor guy half the afternoon.  But he didn’t try to persuade the Little Old Lady that the job couldn’t be done without disassembling the entire damn bathroom and rebuilding it from the foundation up. For an entire afternoon’s work, he charged me $326.

This, as opposed to the $525 (for starters) the first guy offered up — for starters. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Maloney’s Plumbing has got a new customer for life…or at least for as long as they treat me fairly.

Soooo… When the dust settles from this damned tooth fiasco, first thing that happens next is I’m hiring those folks to install plumbing to code under that damn sink.

Plumber Frolics

The sink in the center bathroom vanity has been running slower and slower and…slowwwerrr…and this yesterday afternoon effectively stopped up.

Called my favorite plumber with a noticeable IQ and then some. No answer. I figure he’s either gone out of town for the 112-degree August moments, or shut down his business for the duration of the plague.

Call another outfit I’ve used in the past — they’re mostly in the drain cleaning business, which, I figure, probably fills the bill.

He says he’ll get here between 8 and noon. By 10:30 I figure…hmmmm….

More hours go by: no sign of second-choice plumber.

Put up a notice on the neighborhood Facebook page asking if anyone could recommend. Forthwith a guy posts that he’s watching answers, too, because when he called HIS guy, he was told the man had died at home from covid!

Aughh! I hope his guy was not my guy! Oh, my goodness, the guy is such a sweetheart. If he croaked over from this horrid disease, that would be a serious loss to just about everyone who knows him.


Meanwhile, the members of the ’Hood are agonizing on Facebook over we’re going to do about Halloween. Because we live in a middle-class to affluent enclave surrounded by low-income neighborhoods, we have a fantastical parade of wonderful little kids and teenagers (and parents!) all gussied up in crazy costumes, trucked to our precincts in pickups, sedans, and small buses. This begets a gigantic block party, where everyone hauls their gear out onto the driveways and sits around partying and admiring the style show. It’s the BIGGEST hoot.

Some folks are talking about maybe an event in the park, where candy can be handed out from tables. Others have pointed out that the way things are now, everyone is outside in the open air anyway, and pretty well “social distanced.”


Time passes…passes…passes

Just as I’m about to pick up the phone and call one of the neighbors’ recommended plumbers: Steven the alleged plumber calls and says he had “truck issues.”

Right. Sure.

Anyhow, he’s on his way. By now, though, I have two references to outfits the neighbors say can’t be beat.


3:21 in the afternoon…and Steven the Plumber shows up, only 3 1/2 hours late. Or 7 1/2 hours late if you figure in his demand that I be ready to receive his majesty at any time starting at 8:00 a.m: he was supposed to appear between 8 and noon. And…it’ll be his last appearance. Got two enthusiastic referrals to other companies from the FB neighborhood page.

And if I’d had an office job that I needed to get back to, while I was waiting an extra three and a half hours for this gent to surface??? Hmmmm…


The guy dorks around a bit and fails to unclog the pipe, which really just needs to be briefly rotorooted, right?

THEN he calls me in and gives me this WONDERFUL song and dance, to the effect that some amateur plumber has installed a messy lash-up under the sink and he can’t get his rooter in there to clean it out, and so he will have to take the entire thing apart and rebuild it. This will cost me $545.

I say well, that’s nice, but I don’t have $545, so I’ll just have to use the sink in the other bathroom. I send him out with an offer to pay the $145 base house call fee that he and his bosses had quoted earlier.

He, apparently certain that he has the hook set, says ohhh no, he’ll collect that when he comes back next Tuesday to revamp the plumbing…he still thinks he’s invited back, I guess.

Fortunately, I DO have another bathroom sink that I can use, because I can’t afford $545 on top of thousands of dollars worth of dental work: it’ll just have to stay unfixed. Privately I think THANK YOU FACEBOOK for providing a Neighborhood FB page, whereinat after I called this outfit three people gave me the names of their most highly recommended plumbers.

Shoo him out the door and forthwith call an outfit doing business as Maloney Plumbing. It comes equipped with rave personal reviews from three of the neighbors.

They promise to show up tomorrow afternoon. And waddaya bet they get it fixed in about 30 minutes?


Y’know… I moved into this house in 2009. That was 11 years ago. If Satan, the previous owner, had screwed up the plumbing as baroquely as this character says — he went on and on about how bizarre it is — that sink would’ve backed up long before this. (See the baroque photo, below…) And it has NEVER backed up until now, not in over a decade.

It is true, Satan was an inveterate do-it-yourselfer. And it is true, the lash-up in the middle bathroom looks different from the lash-up in the back bathroom (which is made of stainless steel, not plastic and is much simpler in design). But the lash-up in the kitchen, which was installed by real plumbers in my hire, is FAR more complicated, all plastic, and it never plugs up.

What d’you bet this guy figured he saw an easy mark and gave me a line of bull? Now, it’s possible that the sorta double U-turn you see there may be difficult or impossible to root out. But…whyyy do I doubt this? What, really, would be involved in unscrewing the black U-shaped section and cleaning out the pipes from there?

Welp, we’ll find out tomorrow. The guy from Maloney Plumbing is coming by between 12 and 2. This should be entertaining…

Allegedly baroque (or broke) plumbing

In which Funny risks her life for a drainpipe

Now, you see…I cannot understand all the whinging from folks who claim to be bored numb at having to hang around the house. What kind of houses do they live in? Around here, there is truly never a dull moment. One high adventure after another! Just yesterday, for example, we had the life-threatening saga of the drainpipe.

The bathtub has been draining slower…and slower…and s.l.o.o.o.o.w.e.r of late. It’s always been a little languid, but since I have hair down to the middle of my back now (being prohibited from visiting Shane the Miracle Stylist has not helped), I figured it was hair balling up in there, and so just plunged it every now and again. Even though I use a hair strainer, those things don’t catch all the hair that drops out or breaks off naturally….and the penicillin I enjoyed with the dental infection caused my hair to fall out in skeins.

So I gave WonderPlumber a call. And to my surprise, he was willing to come over.

With all the covid mania, you may be sure I was not happy to invite a near-stranger into the house and into the bathroom. But it was that or bathe in the backyard hose until the contagion subsides.

He fiddled with it for awhile…didn’t do much good. So, out came the techno-artillery.

He has a camera and a light on the end of a long wire. This gadget, it develops, talks to his cell phone, sending a video of whatever it encounters in the drainpipes.

I’m watching this and thinking, wow! That’s cool!!

Shortly he finds an object, stuck at the place where the drain would turn to head out of the house toward the sewer. “What is THIS?” he wonders.

Me, too: I peer at the image and dunno what it is. It looks like the cross-wise surface of a piece of copper piping.

“Somebody dropped this thing down in here, whatever it is.”

“Not me! I’ve never dropped anything down the drain. If it wasn’t the cleaning lady, then it must have been the previous owner, who was a happy handyman.”

One of the happy things this guy had done was to remove the drain plug — you know, those things on a lever? That device is missing from the drain, so I have to use a regular rubber plug. This is fine, though, because it also allows me to set a hair strainer in the drain after unplugging, which filters out most of the long flowing locks that get shed into the water.

WonderPlumber goes back out to the truck and comes back with a device that consists of a set of little grabber claws on the end of a rod. It also has a light on it.


So he fiddles and fiddles with this gadget, catching the WhateverItIs but dropping it before he can pull it all the way out.

Finally he says, “We’re going to have to cut out the plastic tub surround and also the other side of the wall behind it, in order to get at this thing.”

I say, “Well, I can’t afford to do that. In the first place, what’s on the other side of the wall is a shower, and the previous owner tiled the shower stall with travertine tile! There’s simply NO WAY I could afford to replace the tub surround here and then retile the shower. And in the second place, thanks to the covid panic, my 401(k) has lost $149,000. There’s no money to pull the bathrooms apart and put them back together.”

Backstory here is that Satan, the prior owner, did a pretty good job of applying travertine to a shower stall that previously had hosted another plastic surround. The thing had developed a leak under the plastic floor, so he and his buddies hacked the plastic shower surround apart, pulled it apart, rebuilt the floor in there, and then fancified the bathroom with a DIY travertine job.

On the day before the house transferred to me, Satan and I did the obligatory walk-through. His parting shot to me, as I was testing the faucets and plumbing in that bathroom, was “Oh, by the way… This travertine has to be stripped and resealed every six months.”

Say WHAT, White Man???????”

This fine bathroom is the size of a closet, and it has no ventilation. Well. It has one of those tiny little foggy-glass sliding windows that contractors put into tract houses: it opens about six inches, and it’s maybe a foot high.

Since there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to expose myself to whatever chemicals are in stripper and sealer even once, to say nothing of every six months, I never use that shower.

So I say to WonderPlumber, “But I’ve got to have a bathtub!”

Resigned, he tries again — and this time he does manage to snare the thing. Gets it halfway out, and it drops back down there. And third time’s a charm: this time he succeeds in lifting it out.

What is it? Seems to be the top part of a squirt-bottle assembly: the plastic cylinder with the hole through which the product is dispensed. It’s like nothing I’ve ever used: has a white plastic body and the raggedy remains of some sort of gold paint on the top, which is what must have been reflecting the light to suggest copper.

I figure some former owner must have dropped the thing down in there. Maybe that’s why they took the plug out…so water would flow around the gadget that they couldn’t remove. I figure it’s got to have been Satan and Proserpine, because you can be sure they wouldn’t have wanted to deconstruct their beloved travertine shower.

That’s almost a likely scenario. But on reflection, I recall that I had a friend stay for some weeks, between the time her husband went up to San Francisco to start a new job and establish a beach-head for the family and the time her contract ran out here, so she could go up and join him. It’s not impossible that she could have dropped the part down there and figured, since the tub continued to drain, that it washed down into the sewer. She loved nice cosmetics — so the gilded spray cap would surely fit. Since I’ve been in this house for 16 years now, it seems likely that it would have clogged the drain before this if it had belonged to Proserpine. On the other hand, it’s been several years since my friend’s temporary roommate experience. So…who knows.

This adventure done and Our Hero off to save another day, it occurs to me: Holeee shit! We did NOT maintain any six- or thirteen-foot distance. Far from it! I was hanging at his shoulder watching him do his thing, and he certainly wasn’t cringing away. We were both engrossed, hovering over the drain, in what he was trying to do and in what his iPhone camera was showing.

Uh-oh. I’m done for!

Well, on the hopeful side, he certainly looked and acted plenty healthy.

In his case, he wasn’t likely to catch anything from me, since my son has me trapped in the house. 😉 The kid is doing ALL the shopping, so I don’t have to go out other than to walk the dog and loaf in the garden. But in my case…uhm…wait, what? This is a guy who’s mucking around in bathrooms and kitchens all across the Valley….

Well, so that means once again another two weeks of suspense to see whether the bug develops — assuming a two-week incubation period. This is the third putative “exposure” for which I’ve had to wait two weeks to see whether I was going to come down with the disease. The first was the wee-hours trip to AJ’s, for the special Old Folks Shopping Frenzy. The second was when the pooch and I walked, unwittingly, into a cloud of dust and dirt blasted up by a lawn man’s blower off a public street that everybody and his little brother, sister, and dog walks on every damn day. And this is the third. So it’ll be May 5 before I know whether this one gave me the bug.

Seriously, this panic is getting out of hand. Arizona has 7.29 million residents. As of this morning there have been 5,459 confirmed covid-19 cases. That is .075 percent of the population. The implication, then, is that you have about 7.5 chances in 100 of catching this bug. Quite possibly less than that if you’re white and middle-class or affluent. In our parts, black folks and Native Americans are most vulnerable to this disease…and it’s on the Navajo as we speak, killing off people right and left. The tribe has reported over 1,000 cases. I haven’t heard about the Apache, the Hopi, the Pima, or the Papago, but I would assume the situation is comparable there.

Maricopa County, home of lovely Phoenix and its many exquisite suburbs, has 4.85 million residents, 2,846 confirmed covid cases, and 97 recorded deaths. That would suggest .059% of the population has fallen ill and .002% have died.

Did you know that when the Spaniards began to explore the New World in the 1500s, of course they brought the smallpox virus with them? Smallpox was endemic to Europe at the time. When it hit the native peoples, it spread so fast that it moved ahead of the explorers’ parties, so that by the time the men would reach a village, most of the residents would be corpses and any survivors would have fled. Some scientists believe that 10 million people in the Americas died from smallpox unwittingly imported by the Spaniards and, to a lesser extent, by the English and French.

We creatures of the 21st Century seem, as a population of victims, surprisingly resistant to a virus to which we are imagined to be naïve. Compared, that is, to the peoples of the New World when confronted with the variola virus.