This post could be about a horrible experience, because it certainly started out that way. But what I am going to focus on now that it’s over (somewhat at least) is the good thing that I already knew, but it just reinforced – times ten.
Roy (my husband) and I have a leaky water main line to our house. We needed to get it fixed before the ground froze and we couldn’t wait until next year because our water bill was suddenly five times what it should have been, and we can’t spend $250+ on water we don’t use. Since I really can’t talk on the phone, Roy made tons of calls to potential candidates but few people wanted to do the job, it was too much work for too little money (I didn’t realize $1,000 was chump change) or the people who did want to do it weren’t licensed which made us nervous because this is more than five feet underground with a natural gas line nearby (and closer to the surface) so we weren’t okay taking any chances. Roy finally found a guy who agreed to do the digging, the plumbing and put the dirt back for $850. And he had his own company, with rave reviews in a small community, and he was a licensed Master Plumber. Perfect.
Originally he scheduled it for 8:00am last Tuesday (the 11th). We were worried because there was a major winter storm complete with snow and freezing temperatures that day, so we asked him on Saturday if he could do it before then. We were completely open. He ignored us, and then he didn’t show up until 4:00pm on Tuesday. His diggers came out ahead of him, but they were waiting in their car for him to show up for more than four hours. We might not have loved that he was so late, but as long as it got done we really didn’t care.
But then he told us that because it was so late (he had only been here for an hour) he didn’t want to put the dirt back, and because of the new pipe, he didn’t want to turn the water on. For my husband who was nursing a migraine and me who felt a little ick – we both really needed a shower. But that wasn’t going to happen. We went to Walgreens to get bottled water, and my husband ended up shaving out of a bowl full of bottled water the next morning because he can’t go to work unshaven (well technically he can, but it isn’t recommended). 😛
He promised he would show up the next morning by 9:00 to turn on the water, check everything and then bury it. Except he didn’t get here until after 11:30, and he did turn the water back on around 2:00, but he didn’t bury it. He promised he would be back no later than 8:00 to do just that. He needed to warm up the dirt because it froze overnight (since he didn’t take care of it Tuesday like he was supposed to). So he used our tarp to cover it, and put a space heater in the hole to warm the dirt. He told me to keep an eye on it, so it didn’t catch fire. Not uncomfortable at all! Me being me, the eternal worrier, checked outside to make sure the tarp wasn’t ablaze every five minutes, and that isn’t an exaggeration. But of course, he didn’t come back. We didn’t hear from him until 2:00 the next day. I was pretty upset, Roy was pretty irritated (which is as close to upset as he gets) and to make matters worse the plumber sent his digger, who is not a plumber or licensed in any way to check the pipe and bury it.
This was not okay with me. I wasn’t worried about the pipe being up to code or functional – I questioned many things about this plumber (his word, sense of time, professionalism were all high on this list) but I did not question his abilities. Listening to him talk, is like listening to me talk about good writing or Roy talking about investments – he loved what he did, and he is an expert in the field of plumbing, though again everything else I did question (and so did Roy). But the reason I needed someone who was licensed or knew something about pipes was because I worried if the space heater had done the job. That night it dropped to below zero. It was frigging cold. I wasn’t worried about the job he had done on the pipe; I was worried about the integrity of his work, more than 24 hours later because of the weather. And this kid (he was 20, so I can totally call him that) by the plumber’s own admission, did not have the experience, hours or licenses to be able to tell for sure. This is the only way he can get the experience the plumber argued, but I said I didn’t have a problem with him doing it, I had a problem with him doing it alone, unsupervised, where the only other person around was me, and quite frankly a gnat probably knows more about plumbing than I do.
The plumber refused to come out, and said he wouldn’t be able to make it for at least eight days! Then he tried to charge us an additional $300 for wasting his time, and then he told be the quote was $1050. But I knew better. He told me my husband agreed, but I knew that wasn’t true (I asked him later anyway, but it was redundant) because that was more than a quote we got from another licensed professional, and my husband would never sign off on it without talking to me first. He doesn’t have a death wish. 😛
The phone call went downhill from there. He started yelling at me when I asked him to repeat himself. I asked him the same question six times, before I could not stand to be screamed at any longer. “I am not trying to be difficult, but I cannot hear well. I am on a listening device, so when I ask you a one-word question, I just need the one-word. Explanations or whatever else you’re saying I get like 40% of, if you’re talking slowly and clearly.” It was no use. He hung up on me, or we disconnected to give him the benefit of the doubt.
His digger, I started calling him his minion after this incident, grabbed the space heater and took off. I ran outside to ask where he was going and he just said another job. His boss had ordered him elsewhere. No further explanation was given. I asked him to leave the space heater and he refused. I didn’t like being worried about fire, but I didn’t want the water line, which was completely exposed to freeze when it was less than thirteen degrees outside. I freaked out and called the plumber back who treated me even worse than he had before. Though this time, I was much more confrontational than I had been before (because before I hadn’t been at all) though I didn’t curse, yell, threaten or call names. He blamed my lack of hearing on the “confusion” over the amount owed, when there wasn’t any confusion at all.
He really struck a nerve I didn’t think could be struck, because it was really the first time. I mean I have had people assume I am stupid, an airhead, snobby, uninterested or cold because of my deafness (though usually this is because they don’t actually know that I’m deaf) but rarely has anyone tried to pull one over on me because of it. I mean I can think of no more than two or three instances in more than five years. And this is the FIRST time someone has actually blamed what they were doing on my deafness, as though I was defective.
My default when I am upset or scared or feeling exposed and vulnerable – is anger. I’m a redhead, and I have had to overcome a lot of things, so this is my natural reaction. But the nerve he struck didn’t bring out anger, I mean I was pissed off sure, but how I reacted – it just deeply, deeply hurt. I almost never cry, even by myself, but I went to bed and cried. It wasn’t a loud cry or a snotty cry, just a quiet soak the pillow with my tears kind of cry. Angel (our dog) went up with me and she licked my cheeks after awhile to give the pillowcase a break. (When I do cry by myself she is always there to kiss my tears away.) And me being me, I hate admitting that he got to me or that I cried. Because it is such an irrational response, and I am supposed to be so much stronger than that. But I was really upset.
When I think about it now, I’m not exposed, upset like I was, but I still can’t believe how he talked to me or what he did. Aside from being unprofessional, he was so out of line as a human being. But I digress. I did my cry and took a nap for once (again I was that upset, I can never just sleep during the day under normal circumstances) I got back up and went back into “fix it” mode. As soon as the guy took off, before I went up and cried, I contacted anyone local friends we had to see if they knew of or knew anyone else who knew of people who could come over, look at the pipe, and help me figure out the best way to keep it warm. I figured a space heater was an option, if we could get our hands on one, but also wanted to consider options that didn’t scream fire hazard.
Friends made calls and had friends make calls while I went to out across-the-street neighbors’ house to see if they knew anyone and to see if they had a space heater. Now I have often bragged about my neighbors, because we love our house, but both Roy and I feel like we hit the lottery with our neighbors, and not just one family, but every house surrounding ours and several other nearby… they’re just the best people ever. You know the kind of people who watch out for you and your house, and surprise you with sweets, shovel your driveway, welcome you to the neighborhood – the way people always wanted neighbors to be. And again, to have one family like that is lucky, but to have several – lottery.
So this neighbor, called another neighbor who he thought could be able to let us know if the pipe was all right, and they both came over (Roy was still at work) to inspect the hole in our yard and pipe at the bottom of it. And it was freezing at the time. The neighbor who lived a few houses down who the across-the-street neighbor thought to call went back to his house and came back with two things of insulation. He also told me he had a fast, safe and effective way to heat the dirt, and let us borrow a special kind of heater to do just that. Another neighbor dropped off his space heater. In a matter of thirty minutes four different neighbors had stopped by, offered to help, or tried to contact someone else to help. And that’s kind of amazing. Add in that it’s late, dark, everyone one of these families have kids (many with small children), and the fact that it was so flipping cold and it is more than just kind of amazing, it is f*cking amazing.
This is what I am choosing to focus on. Just how amazing our neighbors are, and how lucky we are to have them as neighbors. Several of my neighbors asked about the plumber and why he left. I didn’t go into detail because the idea of sharing with a bunch of grown men that some guy made me feel like shit and then made me cry was well… I felt five. I just told them he took off because he had to be elsewhere and we had had a hard time getting him to show up (complete truth, even if it wasn’t the whole story).
The plumber did come back today. His minion yelled at me about putting the insulation in, but I bit my tongue and took the high road, which is not my usual style. And when the plumber came by and finished up he acted as if yesterday never transpired. So at least that’s done. Monday I’ll get to deal with it again, when he tries to charge us his bogus amount to find that the card was cancelled yesterday.
Hopefully “settling up” with him won’t be as upsetting as this whole process that should have been a day, and instead took a week, was. We want to find some sort of compromise with this guy because his job includes a warranty, which is another reason we went with him, but that warranty isn’t worth his new quote and quite frankly, he needs to give us some sort of discount for putting up with his not showing up, not communicating, going without water when we shouldn’t have, last night when our neighbors had to come to the rescue, and how he treated me. We’re not looking for something crazy like 30% off, but quite frankly he needs to do something, and the warranty needs to be in writing. Because the thing I question the most is anything that comes out of his mouth.
But I digress… Again yay for awesome neighbors! I think I am going to have to whip them up some cupcakes or something, but in all fairness I was planning on doing that anyway. 😉