I have water troubles. No, not that kind, the other kind. The kind that you find dripping in the basement. A lot of my troubles seem to start there. If you remember, dear readers, I once found rats down there. If you don’t remember, you can read about them in a post I did called, curiously enough, A Rat’s Tale.
Let me admit right from the start that I am a complete infant when it comes to the management of domestic machinery. Even the operation of the sink is a bit of a mystery.
However, ever since I moved in here it seems that there has been a conspiracy between two of the scariest bits of the house: the pipes and the furnace. I’m sure that they’re colluding to turn me into a sweating, quivering mass and get me wheeled out of here a la Amityville Horror, if a little less grandly.
The first fall I was here and still in the honeymoon stage of new homeowner’s bliss, I turned on the heat but didn’t get a wink of sleep. Every time I started to drift off there were these loud bangs and the sounds of water running. Now, you might say to yourself, it couldn’t have been that bad, but believe me, it was. Close-range artillery had nothing on it. And then there was the fear that I might have to build an ark.
So I got a plumber, a guy who grew up with Moses and knew more about pipes than the oil industry. He poked, prodded, stared and blinked. Then he stood by the back door and spat. “Old system,” he said. “Air in the pipes. Need to take the pressure off. One hour. $100.00.”
It turns out that I’ve got something called “radiant heat” which circulates hot water around the house. During the Roman days it was a good system but mine dates to the 1960s, a time when engineers felt they had to tinker with perfectly good stuff and screw it up. That’s what I have. Not the old-fashioned, really good, reliable version. The screwed up version. Air gets into it and it makes a lot of noise and a river runs through it.
The situation I’ve got going on now is a lot worse, though. Everything has sprung a leak. I keep wondering if there’s some sort of message that I’m not getting. There’s one from the kitchen sink. One from the dishwasher. One from the bathtub. One from the shower. There’s also some sort of problem with the venting. If you didn’t know already, as I did not (big surprise), improper venting will cause all kinds of water to back up, particularly all over the floor.
The plumber who came in to take a look initially tried to be polite and keep a straight face but later I could see him choking back gales of laughter. He was red-faced and almost suffocating. He was holding it in so hard that if he had let it slip, he would have blown his teeth out. I thought that I might have to get the portable defibrillator.
He wanted to take pictures. I kid you not. There’s probably some secret website or other where they share plumbing stories. There are probably gasps of awe and wonder as they gaze in astonishment and exclaim, “What the hell is THAT?”
I apparently bought a house with not only a weird furnace but also with the worst plumbing on the planet. He estimated that at least four different people had had a go at it, and not one of them had read “Plumbing for Dummies.” My ex-narcissist, supposedly an expert on pipes, was one of the four. Why am I not surprised? Then I heard him muttering to himself something about it being a “handyman’s nightmare.”
The next thing he said was that if Mike Holmes saw my plumbing, he would have a heart attack. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Holmes is a renovation god who goes all over Canada fixing shoddy workmanship. His motto is “make it right.” Usually, he takes your house apart to do it. Now for me, hearing the words “Mike Holmes” and “heart attack” in the same sentence brought up one word: money.
“How much is this going to cost?” I wailed.
The plumber, a friendly young guy who was earnestly trying to be professional, starting shifting from one foot to the other. As we stood there, another leak sprouted. I skipped nimbly back and in the process mashed several toes on a storage box. He swished through the water and started listing out all the stuff that had to be done. I started hyperventilating, whether from the mashed toes or the cost or both. In the end, after several big drinks of whiskey, I was able to recover, if a little unsteadily and still trying to stave off visions of bankruptcy.
He’s either replacing, moving or repairing six pipes. Then there’s the vent. It’s going to cost $1000.00. Since it’s such a strange get-up, I temporarily had thoughts of throwing it open to the general public for a small admission fee, but he’s actually coming back in only a couple of days. Shot down again.
I’ll let you know how it goes and how the whiskey holds out.