Diary Of A Plumber: The Shit People Give You

Everybody who works with the public is well aware of the shit customers can give you. This took that to a whole new level...
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Everybody who works with the public is well aware of the shit customers can give you. This took that to a whole new level...

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"Here’s one I made earlier"

You remember those words don’t you? I’ll never forget them. Especially not now.

As a job plumbing isn’t like it is on the internet, not every customer is a Betty Draper look-alike with rough trade fantasies, only the 'not-with-yours-mate' housewives proposition you, and the pay isn’t as good as it once was. The wise old head at the plumbers merchant’s who knew every part number off by heart retired years ago to be replaced by a spotty hood-rat who’d rather be playing Candy Crush than selling you the obscure part that the manufacturer’s help desk says his employer stocks. For every in and out in 20 minutes there’ll be ten jobs where some cracked piece of plastic means visiting four different shops, only to have to tell the customer ‘you need a whole new unit’. Then here’s the GBP – the Great British Public, and you thought your family was dysfunctional. Last week things reached a new low.

By the canal, in the east of Hackney there are a cluster of crumbling warehouses and old factories that have been ‘colonised’ by ‘artists’. The bearded public school boys have moved in, the sex club has moved out, the pizza is good but it’s a tenner, and an espresso is £2.50 - the gentrification of ‘The Wick’ has begun.

An artist gets in touch, he’s a friend of a friend, he lives in one of those subdivided factories where the walls are decorated with ironic graffiti and the stairs are lined with vintage pushbikes. He’s bored of sharing a toilet with his neighbours, so he wants a throne installed in his ‘art-space’.

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Last week I installed a macerator for him, a macerator is an electric box that’s attached to your toilet where vicious blades spin round and puree the shit before firing it down a very small diameter pipe. It's not part of the plan that the good lord revealed to Thomas Crapper, but if you really want a toilet in part of the building where there is no full size plumbing it’s the only option.  They make a noise; plugs, pads, Lego and pairs of knickers all block them and very few plumbers will even try to fix them – replacement is £400 + fitting. How much would you charge to disconnect a box of shit and dismantle it?

By the end of the afternoon we have new pipework in place, and the unit is wired up, installation is complete, I flush the toilet, water goes in and is pumped out. I’m giving the artist the good news and his bill when he says “aw we’ve got to test it” and disappears into another part of his art-space. He reappears looking exited, “Here’s one I made earlier”. In my naivety I assume that we’re talking some ironic turd shaped biscuit or lump of play-dough. Looking like a boy with a new toy he produces a Tupperware box. I’m no Gillian McKeith but even I can see that his diet is lacking in roughage. Seriously, the shit customers give you!