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Joe the plumber? No

Long before I had the wit to identify and employ full-time help, I was blundering about alone at home nearly full-term with my first child and trying to manage both a blistering Madras summer and a tap that would neither turn off or on. A steady trickle called for a plumber. So when my husband said that he had arranged for a plumber to come by, I waited optimistically for the solution to my problem of the week.

Those days, the locality we lived in was so silent that you could hear cars turning in from the main road and the call of the sellers of spinach or kolam powder some minutes before they appeared. It was a time of visiting knife-sharpeners, bakery boys, soothsayers and sellers of ribbons and balloons and home-made toys. They all made their fortnightly calls. Rather sooner than expected, the doorbell jangled through our first floor flat and I went downstairs as fast as my unborn daughter allowed, and opened the door.

A tall, well-built and efficient looking man presented himself. Ah the plumber! “Come upstairs, come upstairs,” I said as I conducted him up to the flat and into the house leading the way to the bathroom.

He was so silent that I wondered whether he had grasped my feeble Tamil. “Look, this is the problem,” I said, pointing to the offending tap. He bent over it and straightened up. “Well, I can fix it but I will need some money to buy a new washer.”

“Of course, wait here.” In full view of the stranger, I opened the cupboard and drew out my last big note and handed it to him. “You’ll come back soon, won’t you?”

He left saying, “Half an hour. An hour at the most.” I went back to cleaning the kitchen when the phone rang. Another clumsy gallop through the hall! It was my husband. “We are in luck. The plumber is free. He’ll be along shortly.”

“But he’s already been here and will return with the washer he needed to fix the tap,” I replied. “I gave him some money.”

“But that was not our plumber.” “Then, who was he?

When I considered how easily that silent visitor might have knocked me on the head before removing my bangles, I thank my stars. Evidently the “plumber” had had an attack of conscience and left with just the money he did not have to earn.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 9:52:26 PM |

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