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Nothing but a pipe dream

Don McLean sang about the day the music died; I'll instead write about the day the water returned.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) mused in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

I had and have often seen it quoted as “but nary a drop to drink,” which is to say, I've seen it misquoted. I wonder whether there is an source to this misquoting, a time and place from which later misquotings originate ... I doubt it.

As reported yesterday Saturday evening was not the best of times (nor, it seems, the worst of times) for my plumbing, by which I do not mean my internal plumbing, the type for which I would not call a plumber—what? Am I stuck in euphemism central?—, but rather it was truly a matter for real pipes, those of metal and petroleum byproducts, an upper-midwestern proto-Steampunk but without the steam or punk. But lots of pipes, analogous in a sense to the “series of tubes” that Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alask) imagined (imagines?) the Internet to be.

a warning!
a warning

My landlords (aka, the management company) had placed a warning of sorts on the main entrance a week or two ago, advising us (the residents) that due to the cold temperatures there was a huge risk of pipes freezing. I was hoping for a humongous or ginormous risk, yet faithfully did I do my best to follow the tenant tenets and so my apartment remained uncomfortably warm at times, my lower cupboards were left open (again, we are not playing World of Euphemismcraft), and I let my faucets flow freely frequently.

And yet then came Saturday evening, sometime between the wine and the White Russian, and poof!, BAM! ... snap, crackle, pop(e) ... no water ran from my kitchen sink and I experienced a sinking feeling in my gut, something perhaps verbalized as “Oh, shit.”

kitcen over the porch
the kitchen
the porch

One of my concerns and hypotheses regarding how and why my pipes froze had to do with the position of my kitchen relative to ... well, relative to the rest of the building. A portion of my kitchen—the portion that houses the sink—, it appears, is quite different from the rest of my apartment, which sits on top of the 1st floor 2-bedroom. That part of the kitchen instead hangs over the porch, which means that my kitchen pipes not only run near a poorly insulated outer wall, but that section of my poorly insulated kitchen floor, through which said pipes must pass, is and was also subject to the far-below-zero wind chill experienced the other day.

thawing the pipes

Monday morning I snagged one of the signs from the door (they had taped two) on my way out and upon arriving in the department I called Colonial Management (it's as if the British already came and are now running things). After two rings I had Sherry (or perhaps Sheri, or some other variation on a theme) on the line and I told her my story, of the pipes, of the measures I took, and she was more freaked by this than I, felt it a more urgent emergency than even I, insisted, in fact, in sending out a repairman right then, and I—not being one to argue—agreed.

pipes in the corner, going up
going up?

I planned on returning home by 2p.m. but found myself caught up in a few post-teaching things-to-do-in-the-office activities, and so I did not catch a 4 until 2:20, after hurrying down Bascom Hill, walking briskly down State Street, dropping off three DVDs (four if you count the bonus DVD to one feature), and making my way back to the nearest stop.

pipes in the corner, going up
and up?

Upon entering the building I noticed a little yellow device resting upon the cinder block that usually props open the inner door, and this little yellow electrical device, cross of sorts between space-heater and snow-blower, an industrial-strength hair dryer, if you will, was directed toward a series of white pipes running up and down a wall. These, I realized, were my pipes. On the first floor they disappear into to a wall belonging to the first floor unit, but for all I know they might very well take another turn, zig rather than zag, perhaps, and head to the ground. I looked up, and notice that the pipes went up. And up. Into the ceiling.

into the cupboard

I returned to my apartment, and between my door and the jam I found a neatly folded yellow carbon copy of the maintenance request (Solicitud de Mantenimiento); the work requested (Trabajo Solicitado) read “Frozen Pipe (bad sign) 7p.m.—8p.m. (Kitchen), Frozen. Over 70 degrees. Upstairs. Faucets open.” I added my own punctuation; it comes with years of editorial experience.

In red ink at the bottom near the JOB COMPLETE (Trabajo Terminado) box was a note from the maintenance person to “Please leave a small steam of water running at night time. Thank you.” I walked to the kitchen and tried the faucets. Hot & cold. I promptly picked up the phone and dialed the maintenance company, and asked them to thank the repair person for me.

under the sink
under sink

They appreciated the call; I appreciated the running water. Everyone was happy. Except, perhaps, for that vulgar, swearing Paris Hilton (“A new tape from Paris Hilton shouting slurs. Showbiz Tonight's Brooke Anderson reports [February 5]”—her use of the n-word and f-word [not ‘fuck’]).

Although they have not replaced my old gas stove and range with a newer model, and they have not yet refinished the surface of my tub, they were efficient in the patching, plastering, and painting of a moldy bedroom corner last October, they've always been friendly in person and on the phone, and with little effort on my part and prompt service on theirs I now have a working sink for washing dishes, preparing food, and collecting water for tea and coffee. Who am I to complain? I'll recommend Colonial Management, LLC at 222 North Street, MAdison, Wisconsin, 53704 to potential renters.

Thereafter I looked under the sink and in the cupboard to view (and photograph) the path of the pipes.

I managed a brief, below-zero trip to the co-op for pita bread, and a stop by Star Liquor, where I did not buy anything despite my ernest desire to part with my hard-earned cash.

Back in my toasty abode I soon found myself watching Heroes; I got the weekly Hiro fix and Sulu fix, and even if Christopher Eccleston is gone from Doctor Who we can call him Claude.

Coleridge continues, and I conclude:

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

My pipes did not burst, the floor did not flood, and fixing this problem required little sweat or tears or blood.

—February 5 2007