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SUNDAY, JANUARY 16, 2005
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TOM WRIGHT

When do-it-yourself doesn't work

My brother-in-law Don is a master of do-it-yourself, but he knows his limitations.

He knows mine, too.

"It's time to call a plumber," he said recently, as he and I wrestled with a busted water pipe at the Blount County farm. A vehicle, probably a heavy-duty dump truck, swung too wide to avoid oncoming traffic on narrow Inland Lake Road and ran smack over the water meter.

That caused a chain reaction of stress and trauma to the pipe going into what the plumber later would call the gate valve.

Don and I called it something else as we attempted to free shards of PVC pipe from the valve. Each move took us one step closer to the reality that we needed a plumber.

With two six-inch pieces of pipe and an elbow joint already dislodged, Don capitulated. "It won't take a plumber long to fix this," he said.

I agreed, kicking mud caused from the leak off my shoes.

But a plumber on Saturday afternoon?

Yep!

There was one as handy as the telephone, and he was apparently out there cruising around waiting for us to give up and call.

"He'll be there within the hour," the voice on the other end of the telephone line said.

Emergency service is understandably more expensive because of the principle of supply and demand.

"How much is this going to cost me?" I had asked, not wanting a surprise.

The service call was a flat $79, which I thought was reasonable.

Twenty minutes, two pieces of pipe, neither of which was longer than 6 inches, and a quarter-inch elbow joint later, we were almost back in business. We waited another 20 minutes for the joint cement to dry, while Mr. Roving Plumber talked on his cell phone.

"The bill will be about $125," Don estimated. I said $150 — $100 for the trip out and the supplies, and $50 for labor.

Wrong.

The best I can figure, labor came to $135, or about $200 per hour, which is not bad for a young guy out cruising on a winter's Saturday afternoon.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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