Wednesday, February 2, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 33: Accidental Psychology

Cross-posted from my new blog, 365 Jobs:

Tuesday, February 2, 1988

Wilma lives in Santa Cruz but has a house in La Honda.  Today she calls me and says, "My tenant is a bit of a whiner.  He's complaining about toilet odors.  Will you fix it?"

I'm expecting something like a bad seal between toilet and floor.  A one hour job, a $1 wax gasket.

At the rental house I find a tenant named Gary who's caring for an infant while his wife is working.  He leads me to a pretty little bathroom and a stench of sewage coming, oddly, from the wall.  It won't be such a little job.  I try to call Wilma but she's not there.  She said, "Fix it."  Meanwhile Gary is fussing that the odors are possibly poisoning the baby. 

When I start a job, I hate to stop.  So I tear an exploratory hole in the wall and find a crumbling, crusty 4 inch cast iron vent.  Again I call Wilma; again no answer.  Gary says he doesn't mind the mess and he wants those odors gone right now.  I rip out more wall, cut out the pipe and replace it with ABS plastic and a no-hub joint.  The bathroom now looks totally raped.

I really should've talked to Wilma before I did all that.

In the evening I finally reach Wilma and say, "This is the kind of phone call I hate to make."

I hear an intake of breath.  "Is Gary going to sue?  He's the type.  Oh I knew it was the septic tank.  This'll be thousands of dollars, right?"

"No, actually, it was the vent pipe."  I explain that the odors are gone but I still need to repair the wall and replace the roof jack.  "It'll be about six hundred dollars."

"Oh thank heavens!"

Unwittingly, I used the right approach.  A trashed bathroom, a $600 plumbing repair, and she's happy about it.

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