Water woes and unsung men
There comes a time in all our lives, I s’pose, when we have trouble with our water. My grief began mid-winter, smack dab in the middle of March.
The first indication of a problem was reduced flow.
Oddly enough, Dearest Duck was the one who discovered the weakened stream.
“Harry, my hearing-loss honey,” she said, “there’s a hiss in the bathroom and the pressure in the taps is reduced to about half.”
[Oh, I don’t s’pose you thought I was talking about bladder dysfunction, did you?] Anyway… “I don’t hear anything,” I said, leaning over the bathroom sink and fiddling with the taps.
“That’s because you’re half deaf,” Dearest Duck said in my ear…
…the ear I proceeded to lodge right on top of the faucet spout. Tisssssssssh. “I ‘ low there’s a leak in the waterline,” said I.
“Oh my,” said Dearest Duck, reaching above the sink, opening the medicine cabinet and reaching down my economy-size bottle of nerve pills.
Cupping a handful of water from the dribbling tap, I glutched down half a dozen big fat tablets.
Helping me sit on the edge of the bathtub, Dearest asked, “What do we do now?”
Struggling—with the aid of nerve pills as big as jellybeans—to deal with the fulfillment of a lifetime fear of broken pipes, I managed to gasp, “Call the town council.”
And so, when I was composed sufficiently to operate a telephone, I did.
By the time the public works foreman arrived at our gate, the hiss in the taps had become a roar in the wall.
Clearing snow — this was March month, remember — with the toe of his boot, then using a rig resembling a stethoscope, the public worker listened at the curb-stop like a doctor double checking an ailing heart.
“Definitely a leak,” he said, a dire diagnosis. “Probably at the main.”
Dearest Duck shook me out a couple more pills and — for good measure — swallowed one herself.
Next morning, shortly after the crack of dawn, an excavator appeared at the top of our driveway and commenced, like a clanking dinosaur, to plow its way through the six-foot drift stogging the lane.
When the digger extended its claw to hook open the ground, water was bubbling up through the sod like oil in Jed Clampett’s garden.
With the first scoop of frozen soil, my water woes ended — sorta — because repairs were in motion and I soon began to hum a tune for unsung workmen. The council crew. You know such men are universally derided for leaning on their shovels, eh b’ys?
That depiction isn’t fair. Not by a long shot.
While, unnoticed, I supervised from the patio, a couple of fellows stood on guard, shovels in hand, waiting for the excavator to… well, to excavate a hole — a hole that rapidly filled with ice-cold winter water — deep enough for them to jump into. Which they did with a will. Water as cold as Jack Frost’s … well, let’s say Jack Frost’s water, slopped over the tops of their rubber boots and sopped their stocks.
Soaked to their knees, despite a pump straining to suck away the welling water, they plied their shovels energetically, following aged copper pipe towards the main, into the bowels of the pit like eager miners tracing a vein of gold in search of the motherlode.
I repeat, it was a sub-zero day in March.
The men in the hole had to be freezing. Sure, inside my snow boots on the patio, my poor feet were numb. “Harry!” Like ants, or busy beavers, or something or other working industriously, the council men dug and splashed and flowsed in the wet until they located the stopcock on the main…
…the stopcock that spurted like Old Faithful, drenching everyone in range.
One unsung hardy — kinda like that Dutch boy at the leaky dike — plugged Old Faithful with his booted toe while the sump pump wheezed.
Then the bravest of them all hauled off his gloves, grabbed a wrench and dove in up to his elbows, submerging his naked hands in icy water to turn off a valve that choked Old Faithful.
On the patio, I tucked my mittened hands into my armpits, hardly able to look at buddy’s hands blue from the cold.
“Thanks, b’ys. Thanks,” I said when a brand new waterline was installed and buried. I hope I grovelled sufficiently. Now here’s the thing. Whatever their present salaries, those men aren’t paid enough, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.