In managing 24 apartments, 90% of my job is dealing with plugged up pipes. It’s a refreshing way to wake up in the morning - a knock at the door, a grim faced tenant reporting a backed-up toilet, and my slow walk to their apartment to scope out the damage.
Tenants rarely admit to knowing the cause of the clog. No no, it’s all ignorance until our plumber Pedro goes down the pipe and pulls out the offending object. He finds all kinds of things. Coins, balls, shampoo lids, and last week, an entire package of wet-wipes, flushed one by one down the toilet by a bored toddler. But by the time the plumber comes in and snakes the pipes, everything has morphed into the same thing: slimy, black and utterly revolting.
I tried to stay on friendly terms with Pedro since I call about once a week but a thorn arose in our relationship. Every time Pedro finished a job, he would come back to my apartment with a large bucket. “Do you want to see what I found?” he’d ask with a glimmer in his eye and hold out the bucket. I had to say yes. I knew whatever lay inside would ruin my breakfast, but Pedro was so proud of his finds that I couldn’t refuse him this one small joy to validate his chosen career.
Our cat Blanche used to do the same thing. In the mornings we’d open the garage door to find a dead bat, mouse or frog laying serenely on the welcome mat. Blanch wouldn’t be far off and would look at us eagerly for approval. My two year old draws a picture for me that is basically one big scribble and receives all glory, laud an honor for her efforts. But do I have to show this same motherly pride for the objects in my neighbors’ pipes? Dare I risk crushing Pedro’s little plumber spirit and refuse to coo at his hard earned treasures?
And so I’ve devised a new strategy. I’ve let Pedro know that yes, I am very interested if not excited to see what he finds. I then hand him a gallon plastic bag and ask him to please place his find in the corner of the garage where I can poke at it ad nauseum, show it to the people who it belongs to, and the apartment owner. He’s happy to oblige and comes to my door before he leaves to describe the gem he’s left for me downstairs. I thank him profusely and send him on his way. Then it’s just a matter of avoiding this particular spot in the garage. The maintenance man who comes once a week deposits the black baggies in the dumpster.
A plumber is a beautiful thing, I don’t dare risk damaging the moral of ours. It’s refreshing to know that honesty isn’t always the best policy.
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