Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Mind Is In The Sewer

Woo-Hoo! The sewer lines for the new bathroom are all hooked up to the main sewer line for the house. Gary came over and helped me with it, or, really I guess I should say, Gary came over and I helped him with it. I was very nervous about this. Digging up something that’s been in the ground since 1895, modifying it, and then burying it again makes me nervous. I had fears of finding a crumbling, rotted sewer line that needed to be replaced. It turned out it was in very good shape.

It switched from cast iron to clay pipe about 6 feet out in the yard so we cut in to the clay and the cast iron to put in the new fittings. Here’s some shots…

The little stretch of ABS you see at the top I put in yesterday. This is the new washing machine drain on the left, and then I finished what a started last year with the upstairs bathroom sink. That is the part that goes to the right. The piece you see on the bottom went to one of the old rental bathrooms. In the picture it has already been cut off and capped. This was all under the addition at one time.

Ta-da! The new sewer is all hooked up. We added a clean-out, which the house never had. It went pretty smooth. Gary was much more meticulous about measuring at putting everything together than I was on the parts under the house. He also used a lot more adhesive than I did. I hope I won’t have problems down the road. I don’t think I will.

And finally, here it is all buried again. Whew! When everything was hooked up and we were gathering up tools and such I made the awkward move to pay Gary for his time. He’s given me lots of plumbing supplies over the years, and bought lots of plumbing supplies for me at cost, and given me tons and tons of advice, but he’s never actually done any physical work for me. This was a first and I wanted to compensate him. In the past even when I didn’t give him actual currency, I always made it up to him in some way. What passed between us were neighborly gestures.

Yesterday I had to run over to his house for something. When I walked up he was getting in to his truck and it was all loaded up for a job. He said he was doing another bathroom for a friend. This one was much more involved than mine. It consisted of a shower, tub, toilet, bidet, and double sink. He made diagrams with pipe sizes and elevations. It was done very nice and very professional looking. He showed me everything he had drawn up for the guy and there was a parts list with prices. As I was looking at the parts list he said, “This guys not a neighbor, so I’m charging him for all of the parts and the drawing”. Gary wasn’t actually doing the work, he was just supplying all the right parts and giving advice on code and requirements. The cost for the parts for all the drains and copper came to $139.

So I went to the bank today and got 2 crisp $100 bills. My parts came to a lot less than $139 because mine was a smaller bathroom and a lot of it just came out of his garage. It’s just left over stuff. It was kind of tough to come up with an amount. I feel I might insult him if I give him too little or if I give him too much. Every time I’ve ever tried to give him money for parts or help he tries to give it back. So as we were finishing up today I said, “Well, I’m going to insult you if I give you too much or too little so take this and let me know if you need more”. I gave him the two bills folded and he said, “Oh, $100, no that’s fair”. I said, “Uh, no, there’s two of them.”

He immediately started in that it was too much money and I immediately cut him off. I ask him how much all this work would have cost if I brought in a professional to do it and he said it would have been around $2,000 for plumbing a new bathroom and tying in to the sewer. We also did the laundry room. I said, so take the $200. It’s more than fair and I feel guilty about giving you so little. He says something about taking his wife out for a nice dinner and then asked if I’m sure I can afford it. It’s a nice little dance. It’s a part of what makes society bearable. Even so, there was a part of me that feels I should have given him more. Maybe he was insulted and he was just being nice.

We gathered up the tools and extra parts and headed back over to his garage. I went on and on about how I was relieved about having that done (I really am) and I mentioned that now all I have to do is run the copper under the floor and all the plumbing will be done. Gary immediately ask if I have enough copper and fittings. I said I think I did and he pulls out 2, 10-feet pieces of half inch copper and hands them to me. He then grabs a bag of 50, half inch copper elbows and hands those to me. “You can never have enough of these. Just use what you need and bring back the rest.” I awkwardly and grudgingly excepted it.

He then asked me about the vanity and tub I’m putting in. He has a bunch of those flexible braided supply lines. He pulls open a drawer full and asks, “Do you need any of these”. I tell him how I want to do the ridged, nickel plated supply lines because the plumbing under the sink will be exposed. He pulls open another drawer and hands me 3 pairs he salvaged from some place. I said I only need one pair and he says, “Some of the plating is a little warn so use the best ones, and just bring back the rest”. I’m really starting to feel awkward now. We chat for a little while longer and I as I head back across the street with my latest cache of plumbing supplies I’m thinking to myself, if Gary was insulted and thought the $200 I gave him was not enough, he sure has a funny way of showing it.


amanda said...

You have a really truly awesome neighbor.
Isn't it terrifying to dig up the old drains? Ours are 20 years newer than yours, but we had to break up the basement slab to get to them and we were terrified that they would just fall apart when we touched them. Isn't uncovering them interesting? I felt like I was on an archeological dig. Good luck with the rest of the plumbing- oh and I don't think that your neighbor was insulted by the payment. If he had wanted/expected anything, he would have asked, especially since you've made it pretty clear that you feel bad about accepting the free parts and help. It probably makes him happy to teach someone who wants to learn for himself and do the job right, as opposed to some clients who probably just yell at him if something leaks or whatever.

Jodi said...

Ummmm, can you adopt us so we can share Gary?

We just spent numerous hundred dollar bills redoing our entire house's plumbing. We did it ourselves so that saved us some but it was still expensive.

You are a very very lucky neighbor!

slateberry said...

My grandmother might have been a bit like Gary. Anyone who came to her house left with a hot meal in their belly, a bag of fresh produce from her garden, and something nice they needed. "Oh I just had this lying around." I can hear her now. It finally made sense when I took an enneagram personality class. She was a strong type 2 (giver). Maybe Gary's got a touch of it. Behind the giving is a desire to feel needed or to feel control. You can satisfy this by continuing to ask his opinion about things (for the needed part) and show that you really enjoy the interaction with him, and also by telling him that you really owe him (that's for the control part), and that if he's ever stuck and doesn't know who to call, he shouldn't hesitate to call you. And he'll probably never call you on it. But for a different personality, a blank check like this would be a disaster, so proceed with caution. The funny thing about this type is that the giving of things, no matter how gratefully acknowledged, does not actually fill the need to have their very person validated, so they keep giving. I can just see it. "Gary, I like YOU. I really, really like you, just for you." He'd either burst into tears or head for the hills.