Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Things That Go Plink In The Night

There is nothing quite like being awakened from a sound sleep by the almost imperceptible “plink” of a drop of water falling about a foot onto a tile floor. It’s not like a dripping faucet in a sink, nor is it like the drip from a shower head. Those are sounds you might be used to, and if they wake you up at 1:51 a.m., you know what they are and you think, “Oh, okay, I didn’t shut it off all the way,” and you go back to sleep.

But that distinctive “plink” sounds like no other, so when I heard it, I was awake and making my way into the bathroom in the dark. Suddenly there was a cold wetness under my toes. On goes the light, and blinking in the sudden burst of photons, I slowly focused on a puddle of clear water stretching from behind the toilet and across in front of the vanity to the little door to the outside. (Homes of this age in Florida have doors from the master bath to the outside; probably as a fire escape or an entrance from the pool… if I had one.) “Elbereth Gilthoniel,” I muttered; the only oath that came to mind at that hour was a Sindarin plea for divine help.

I did not hear any other water running, which meant that the valves and the mechanism inside the tank were intact, and a quick feel around the feeder line came up dry. “Plink,” again, and this time I isolated it: it was coming from the bottom of the tank. Specifically, it was coming from the bolt that held the tank to the throne. There were no other sources of water. I grabbed a spare towel, mopped up the puddle, shut off the water to the toilet, and drained it. No more “plinks.” I stuffed the towel under the bolt just in case and went back to bed.

While trying to get back to sleep, I am thinking, Do I know a plumber? No. Do I know someone who does? Yes. Should I call him? Yes, but not for at least another six hours. After all, it’s not emergency, and waking him up at that hour would have resulted in me finding snakes in my car the next day. The plinking had stopped and I have another bathroom. But still….

I got up at my usual hour, did my usual blogging, had my usual juice and coffee, and went in to work at the usual time. But I resolved to have the problem fixed before the day was out, so I signed in for only half the day, got the name and number of a good plumber, made the call and set the appointment. I left the office at the appointed time, got home before the plumber showed up and with little muss or trouble he fixed it. He even replaced some worn-out parts, and the charge was very reasonable.

I suppose I could have done it myself. I’m pretty handy with tools; after all, I am, according to at least one person, a skilled carpenter, and I did work my way through my first couple of years in grad school building scenery. But there are a few reasons why I let the plumber do it. First, when it comes to household stuff there are two areas I won’t go near: plumbing and electrical. Screw those up and you have a disaster. Second, I don’t have that many tools, and those that I do have aren’t for plumbing. Third, getting the parts and the right ones would have required a couple of trips at least to Home Depot. The plumber has them in his truck. And finally, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s just easier to let someone who knows what they’re doing — and is licensed to do it — have at it while I watch the rest of Young Frankenstein that I had TiVo’d the other day.

Sometimes the best way to do it yourself is with a credit card.