Tuesday, 22 May 2012

JFDIY. Or Maybe Not

With car fixed and mobile again (see here for details), it's back to the important business of getting on with my life. It wasn't too painful. After having a go at dismantling the car myself and (after three or four hours of fruitless tinkering and colourful use of English) discovering I couldn't, I called a chap recommended by a neighbour. He turned up to collect the car the following day exactly when he said he would. He charged me a reasonable, sensible amount, which also concurred with his original quote. He called me with an update twice during the next three hours, then brought the car back on the same day, fully fixed up, and exactly when he said he would. What a man! If only it were always like this.

Sadly, it's not always like this, which is one of the reasons why people like me (tight-fisted and cynical) attempt Do-It-Yourself as an option in the first place. I was once charged an £86 (+ VAT) call out fee by a plumber who came into the bathroom only to say "sorry mate -- there's nothing I can do about your busted toilet". He was there for at least two minutes. I'd booked through a UK-wide web-based plumbing service and in the small print I was condemned -- he'd turned up, so I had to pay. There was nothing I could legally do about it, although I have kept my vow that I would never use this website's services ever again. It's one of the largest of such services in the country and, if you're UK-based, you will have heard of them. Be afraid.

I don't know; perhaps it's toilets. I haven't had much luck with faulty cisterns. For example, I had a problem in a previous, and more downmarket residence (London's pricey when you're young and just starting on life's journey). There, I had just one bathroom above my kitchen, and one day I noticed that the overflow was constantly... erm, overflowing. Suspecting a faulty washer in the siphon (I had all the talk, didn't I?), I opened the lid simply to size the job up before proceeding downstairs to fetch tools and turn off the mains supply. All I did was touch the top of the siphon before the end of it shot off and mains pressure water started spraying my bathroom. Oh dear! I stuck my finger in the end of the exposed and squirting pipe, much like the little lad with the dyke. The flow stopped, and my finger began to gradually cool down and ache.

I suppose the plumbing fixture had gradually been working itself looser and looser over a period of some weeks, and it now dawned on me, unhelpfully at this stage, that the washer was probably OK. I was stuck, alone in my little home, with no prospect of my flatmate returning any time soon, wondering how to refit the ejected component without starting a new staircase Niagara. Especially since said widget was nestled neatly out of reach on the carpet, some distance away.

After a while considering my options, it occurred to me I was faced with a stark and binary choice. As I think back now, I hear John Kramer in my head saying "I wanna play a game... make your choice". My choice was:
  • Try to reach the far flung pipey valvey screw-on thingy (I no longer had all the talk) that had been hosed to the other side of the room under pressure, then refit it.
  • Try to run downstairs as fast as I could, and close off the mains inlet valve.
Neither seemed much of a choice. If I opted for the first plan, this would result in water sprayed around the room while I fumbled for the part, then the ordeal of trying to refit the rogue doodah while high pressure water fought right back against me. There was no guarantee that the part would go back on. It may even be faulty. Plan B contained two certainties, although one was very unpalatable. I would certainly be able to staunch the flow, and I would certainly create a big splashy watery mess while on my way to the valve to turn it off.

It had to be the second choice. It had definition, a visible end-game. I mentally planned my route, imagining every possible twist and turn, visualising all the known obstacles. I readied myself, took a deep breath, then ran for it.

The torrent was immense and powerful, as I knew it would be. I felt like it was chasing me down the stairs, visceral and alive. As I made it to the bottom, I could hear the water roaring as it sprayed its way into the bathroom carpet and through the floorboards. I turned through the lounge and on into the kitchen, the aqua-monster now screaming its watery scream directly above my head. I threw the kitchen bin out of the way (this was always the plan -- it only contained empty beer bottles anyway, nothing too messy) and dived under the worktop to get to the tap. It was stiff, but thankfully it turned, encouraged by some of my more ripe and fruity rhetoric (the first known Middle English usage of which was published in The Proverbs of Hendyng, not later than 1325 CE). Then, the rushing sound stopped almost immediately, and the deluge had ended.

But what trouble would follow in its wake? Hopefully it wouldn't be too serious. I could see some soggy looking patches emerging on the ceiling above me. How bad could it be? I allowed myself to feel a sense of relief that it was all over, and as I mused, the kitchen ceiling collapsed. It dumped plaster and dirty water everywhere, and I stood sorrowfully in the middle of it all, newly coated in a damp patina made from my house.

I called in a plumber and a plasterer to oversee the repairs, while I mopped, vacuumed, shed a little tear, and said a little prayer -- "please God make that didn't happen." God had left His voicemail to field calls that day, and never got back to me.

If you're someone like me, you're faced with a non-choice every time a fault develops or some little job requires jobbing. Do It Yourself and risk a gigantic (and potentially soggy) cockup, or call in someone and risk paying a charlatan for nothing. Where there's a job, there's a scary looking toolbox or a bloke with a BlueTooth-attached chip-and-pin card reader ready to take your money and (perhaps) put it right. It's how the world goes round.

No comments:

Post a Comment

But what do you think? You can now comment anonymously, so please do -- obviously, if you want to leave your name etc, that'd be great.