Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Plumbing Pain

Following up on a previous post, I am now hopping mad.

The plumber had to return yesterday to replace the toilet flapper he should have fixed on Saturday. He said then that his boss was too disorganized to tell him to bring the part we needed, even though I'd told his boss which part we needed twice. And he told me he had that part twice. (So we paid $195 for him to jerry-rig the broken flapper with my sewing needle! Next time, I'll do it myself.)

He brought the part on Monday, plus some metal washing machine hoses to replace our elderly rubber ones. It seemed prudent to have them replaced, especially since he was charging us for another half-hour visit anyway.

He fixed the flapper, replaced the hoses, told a few good stories about weird plumbing stuff he finds in old Boston houses and left.

I didn't realize that he'd left behind a lot of kitten haz-mat scattered in the corners of my bathroom.

Those hoses come wrapped in lengths of stretchy, knotted elastic cord. When the plumber cut them apart, pieces of the elastic flew all over the bathroom, and he didn't bother to pick them all up. This morning, we awoke to the sound of Possum the kitten choking. I pulled a length of elastic I'd never seen before from his throat.

When cats start to swallow something stringy, they can't change their minds and spit it out. They have to finish swallowing it, or choke. I have no idea if Possum found more elastic pieces and swallowed them whole. He loves to play with anything he finds on the floor. Strings and other foreign objects can cause life-threatening obstructions, requiring emergency surgery. I am very careful to keep our apartment safe from yarn, rubber bands, hair elastics, and other hazards.

I do not expect my plumber to leave such stuff lying around. I expect him to clean up after himself. And he knew we have cats, so I'd expect him to be extra careful. I found more elastic pieces on the floor, in the trash, and on my bathtub. In the end, I had five little pieces but they didn't add up to nearly enough to secure two coiled hoses.

The plumber was a nice guy, and I believe he just wasn't thinking, so I didn't get angry. I left him a message; he called back. I asked him for more details about how much elastic there was, and he had no idea. Since he uses these hoses all the time, I figured he really had some idea, so I pressed a bit more. I explained that my vet would likely be asking how much elastic the kitten might have swallowed, so we could decide what to do next. He was very vague. He said that he might have stuffed some more bits of elastic in his pockets and thrown it out later. He really couldn't say. Sorry. Bye.

I asked if I could talk to his boss. I said I wasn't trying to get him in trouble, that he'd done a good job, but that I wanted more information. (I believe in being polite, quiet, and reasonable; it helps get things accomplished smoothly.) His boss grabbed the phone. In a bored, pontificating voice, he said that he wasn't about to listen to me.

It's been a long time since I've felt talked down to because I am nothing but a silly little woman, but I recognize that tone. I know he wouldn't speak to a man that way.

He said his plumber was a great plumber, and he trusted him completely, and that he had nothing more to add, and he was going to hang up the phone now. I only got a few words in edgewise. I told him I wasn't angry. I said I just wanted a sense of how much elastic is used on those coils, because my cat had probably eaten some. "Cats can eat anything and be perfectly fine," he said. "I've had cats and you wouldn't believe what they ate." Then he said "I am hanging up now." And, sarcastically: "HAVE A NICE DAY." And he hung up on me.

That's when I became Angry. Following the vet's advice, I get to spend the next few days dosing Possum several times a day with Laxatone and keeping watch for an intestinal blockage in all four cats. Possum won't eat Laxatone. He really hates it.

In sum, it's hard to justify carelessness, rudeness, and lack of concern on top of the fact that this plumbing company doesn't really fix things all that well. The only reason they came here last week was to fix things they'd "repaired" before that had broken again. If it takes them two visits to replace a flapper, I now say, Run Away.

Plus there was that odd coincidence where my trusty Toto toilet broke exactly one day after the plumber repaired my tub and sink faucets.... do these guys just have terrifically bad plumbing karma?

This little adventure cost us $318, not to mention any future vet bills. 

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