A leaking water line had led to a hiatus in my Twitter activities; here’s more of the story:
The leak-finder recommended by our plumber arrived on a sunny Saturday morning in a large, very clean, white truck. He was all smiles. He took out two black plastic suitcases and set them on the lawn. I retold him the story of the leak up to that moment – including about the large water bill, the call to the water company, the water company men checking the meter and telling me I had a big leak, and calling the plumber, who recommended him.
He checked the water valve. “Wow,” he said, “You’ve got a big leak, but I’ll find it.” He asked me whether we had metal or plastic pipes. I didn’t know. The line was put in long before we bought the house.
He surveyed the length of the line from the valve to where it connected to the house – probably 50-60 feet. He cocked his head and listened for a sound only he could hear.
“What’s in the black suitcases?” I asked. “My equipment,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll find your water leak.”
I asked him if he’d been a plumber before becoming a leak finder. He shook his head. “I was a bartender,” he said, and then he told me the story of the black suitcases and how he became a leak finder.
He had a surfing buddy who worked part-time as a plumber’s helper. One day his buddy was out on a job when a leak finder was brought in. The man arrived with two black suitcases, and proceeded to locate the leak in less than an hour and charged 3 times the hourly rate that the plumber received.
Although he wanted to know more, his buddy didn’t want to ask the leak finder too many questions and jeopardize his job with the plumber. So he memorized the name of the company embossed in the sides of the two black suitcases.
Later the two friends were sitting around watching TV, drinking beer and discussing how easy leak-finding appeared to be. They decided to get their own black suitcases with the magical leak finding equipment and go into business.
When they finally located the company that made the equipment, they ordered two sets. “Two sets,” the man on the other end of the phone line had said. “That’s fine. They cost $30,000 a set. How would you like to pay?”
The bartender and his friend sucked in air, and told the man they’d better put the order on hold for awhile – neither of them had any where near $30,000. But now they had a dream of improving their lives and their incomes, and a new goal to put together $30,000 and buy a set of the black suitcases.
Eventually they had the money, and the two buddies became partners and began to work with local plumbers to find water leaks. They were busy – all the time. They made enough money to buy a second set of the black suitcases, and new trucks, homes and many other things.
Later on they decided to go their separate ways – and there’s been enough business in the area to support them both.
That was the story the leak finder told me as he assembled his equipment and began to probe the ground with a long needle-like tool as he listened through the headphones attached to the probe for our leak.
First he determined that we had plastic pipe. He forced air into the line and began to probe around the stump of a fig tree. He occasionally pulled the headphones off when a car or truck drove by. “Too noisy,” he said. “I can hear the sound of the tires as they go by.”
He stuck the probe into the area near the fig tree stump and listened and smiled. He whipped the headphones off and proclaimed. “That’s it,” pointing at the probe sticking out of the grass in the last place he jammed it.
He went back to his truck and got a can of white spray paint, removed the probe and sprayed the grass. He placed his equipment back in his black suitcases. “Tell the plumbers to call me before they start digging,” he said.
It was over in less than an hour. I held the yellow copy of the bill and my check book. And yes, I had paid him about three times the hourly rate the plumber would charge.
Now I knew where I had gone wrong in choosing a profession. If only I had known about the two black suitcases and the magical equipment they contained.
The plumber came on Monday; but that part of the story awaits the next installment.