Tuesday, 19 October 2010

How many plumbers does it take to fix a leaky sink?

Oh, how I wish I were simply about to tell you a lame joke. Sadly, frustratingly, all I have for you is yet another story of my being caught up in a customer service farce. And this time we’re talking plumbers. Several of them.

I’ve got a leaky sink, see. Nothing particularly unusual about that, is there? Nothing you’d think would be beyond the capabilities of a man who basically did a NVQ in Sink Studies (that might actually exist, for all I know), a man whose sole aim in his daily working life is the fixing of things that leak. Mending stuff wot spurts water out of the wrong bit. Master of leaky pipes and whatnot. Leaky McLeakerson.

Yet, somehow, this elementary task has proved too arduous for not one but three plumbers who have been called out on my behalf by my letting agency. Two plumbers have been, botched and buggered off, while the third is yet to bother turning up; perhaps he took the Distance NVQ in Sink Studies and presumed he’d never actually have to turn up in person, even once qualified.

Two men have knocked on my door, had a cuppa in my flat, messed about with ‘parts’, tightened various pipes, stuck bits of tissue and glue in places under the sink, and then sauntered off, assuring me that their work here is done, only for the dripping to resume its slow and steady erosion of my sanity as soon as I do anything that requires the use of my water supply.

Yes, it’s all very marvellous and mended for a short time after each plumber has had his fun; the leaked water having been mopped up, and a pipe vaguely tightened, things look jolly good on the surface. The First Plumber even had the gumption to say to me on his way out, “I wish all my jobs were as simple as this one!” Ho ho ho, we chuckled, feeling all glowy and satisfied. Then, an hour later, I thought I’d like to make a pot of tea; I’ll run the tap to fill the kettle. Oh. Wonderful. Even more dripping. Absolutely nothing has been fixed after all.

The Second Plumber was rather less talkative and chirpy than The First Plumber. Apart from a request for a glass of water, and the sound of some tool or other, I heard nothing from The Second Plumber, despite my best efforts to engage him in small talk. I can’t bear making small talk with tradesmen (“Have you come far?” or “Been busy today?” or “The weather’s turned, hasn’t it?”), but it’s just what one does; it’s far less uncomfortable and rude than sitting there in silence as though he’s a servant who doesn’t deserve to be spoken to. This chap – think Michael ‘Lurch’ Armstrong from Hot Fuzz, but even less articulate – refused to indulge me even a few small comments. His legacy in my life was nothing more than a clump of white glue and kitchen roll stuffed down the pipes; a depressing, entirely useless mess that melted and flopped away onto the kitchen floor gradually that afternoon, allowing the leak to persist.

So, my hope now rests in the absent hands of The Third Plumber, who is already my least favourite, and the least effectual, of my Three Stooges, simply for failing to turn up. He was requested three days ago, and he called me yesterday to say he’d come round today. And now it’s today. And he hasn’t made his entrance. I called the letting agency and they’re chasing it up for me. Incidentally, isn’t it immensely annoying being a tenant rather than a home owner, and having to go through an agency for every tiny thing?

All I can do now is keep mopping the leak, keep pouring the gin to take the edge off my irritation, keep the earplugs in to block out the dripping sound, keep sighing, and keep hoping. I simply need a man who knows about sinks to come and fix my sink. It ought to be so easy, the most basic of customer service interactions, a short sketch with just two characters, me and The Plumber, and a very simple plot. Instead I’m locked into a seemingly endless, terribly unfunny joke. And nobody is getting any laughter from me when the punchline finally comes. Read more by Maddie.