Friday, November 20, 2009

Son of Plumber

“The mayor and his aides are extremely sensitive about his luxury lifestyle.” Quoth the Times on Mayor Bloomberg’s victory celebration, at an exclusive restaurant in Paris.

I don’t think the Mayor will be getting a lot of sympathy on this issue from the hoi polloi, especially since he came out against a bill, before the City Council, that would give the little people who park at meters and observe alternate-side parking a five-minute grace period before getting ticketed. Now that he is in his last and final terminal term, Mayor Bloomberg has no reason to court us wee voters anymore, and it’ll be No more Mr. Nice Guy. Our days of sleeping in when it snows are over.

The parking has been easy for me lately. I came back from Rockaway last Friday evening, having seen the ocean under the influence of a nor’easter, and slid into a Tuesday-Friday spot. Returning to the car on Tuesday morning—at eight-thirty sharp—instead of double-parking and sitting in the car for an hour and a half, I adjusted my attitude and went hunting for a Monday-Thursday spot. I found a beauty, on a street I haven’t parked on in ages.

On Thursday I had an appointment with the plumber in Rockaway, to turn off the water in the bungalow for the season. It always makes me sad to turn off the water. For one thing, I know that as soon as I turn off the water, the temperature will go up to sixty degrees. But the longer I wait, the more likely it is that a routine procedure will turn into an emergency, and the plumber and I will be out there between the bungalows in icy sleet and gale winds, our fingers frozen around frigid wrenches. Brrrrrr.

As it is, this year I waited so long to call that when the plumber called me back he was already in Florida. But at least he called back. He said his son Gary would turn off the water for me. Jimmy the plumber is bound to retire one of these years, so I figured it was just as well to begin the transition. I got everything prepared for Gary, and even started the job myself, cutting off the gas to the hot-water heater and fitting the key over the underground valve to turn the water off, a feat that, to my utter amazement, I accomplished in one swift try. (I used to allow three hours for this blind maneuver alone.) I was trying to connect a hose to the hot-water heater to drain it when Gary showed up, with a pump and a better hose. We went about our business, flushing toilets and opening valves and removing plugs.

It had started to mist a little. “I told my father, ‘It always rains when we turn Mary’s water off,’” Gary said. I loved the way he talked about his father. He said his father has earned those winters in Florida.

Gary went back to the truck for the compressor that he uses to pump any standing water out of the pipes. “Feel this,” he said, letting me heft the vintage gizmo. It was heavy, all right. “It’s copper and brass.”

“A family heirloom,” I said. “So are you in business with your father?”

“I take his calls in the winter,” he said. “I’m an accountant. My business is accountancy.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, you’ll never starve.”

Gary saw that I had been working from notes, and before he left he told me to check my list. Let’s see, red plug in waste pipe, check. Antifreeze in traps, check. Antifreeze in toilets, tanks. “Did you put antifreeze in the tanks?” I asked. He said it wasn’t necessary, and I could see that he’d scooped every last drop of water out of the tanks. “You want me to pour some in?” he said, taking the jug of antifreeze from me. “Will it make you feel warm and fuzzy?”

I had filled a bucket with hot soapy water, like a proper cleaning lady, and after Gary left I mopped my way out the door. Both of us had left muddy footprints. I emptied the bucket in the storm drain on the street. Then I moved the car to the next block, into a Thursday 8:30-10 spot, where it will be good for two weeks. I seem to have decided to stay in town or take trains over the holiday. Then, instead of getting on the train, I walked up the boardwalk to the next station up. The iffy weather was getting worse. A few bouquets were tied around a pole, a tribute to a surfer who drowned last week. It had been a horrible story: the leash on his board got wrapped around some underwater pilings and trapped him underwater. There was a hand-printed sign on a pole that said “Memorial Services for Alessandro Will Be Held at Cassese Funeral Home at 101-07 101 Avenue, Ozone Park, 6 PM-9PM. All Are Welcome.” There were a few surfers in the water.

At the train station, I found out that the shuttle wasn’t stopping there—they are reconstructing the 90th Street station—and I had to ride back in the direction I’d come from, cross over, and ride back up again. The weather got worse and worse. It took forever to get home.


erieblue said...

Such a sense of impending doom in your last paragraphs!

MJN/NYC said...

It's true, you don't often see a bummer of a blog post, do you? But something always happens in the fall to put an end to the season, which I cling to like a Hindu widow. I changed the title and the end for you, so that even though I had to go straight to the office, eventually I got home.

erieblue said...

"cling to like a Hindu widow"--fabulous. Must read changes now.

erieblue said...

But now I've forgotten how it's different. Anyway, I'm sometimes fond of impending doom (as long as it's not personal).

Andrew said...

Great post.

Plainsong said...

holy shimoly, what a nice blog