The Postscript: When the phone rings at 4 a.m.

Published 4:58 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2018

By Carrie Classon


I guess everyone has nightmares.

When my husband, Peter, is tossing and turning in his sleep, it’s a pretty safe bet he’s been transported back to his days as a children’s camp director. It is not the kids who are giving him nightmares. It’s the plumbing.

Apparently, running a summer camp involved a lot of marginal infrastructure and, with a hundred happy campers on site, the plumbing was the first to go. Peter will wake with a start and, if the dream was bad enough to wake me up, he will proceed to share the grisly details which—don’t worry—I won’t share with you, given that some of you are likely reading this over breakfast.

So last Wednesday, when we got a call at 4:00 in the morning from our neighbor, Peter’s nightmares literally came true. (People rarely call at 4:00 in the morning to share good news—have you noticed this?)

We live in a condominium and our night owl neighbor called to inform us that it might be wise not to run any water as we no longer appeared to have functioning plumbing. Our condo building is old and, along with the charm, comes a lot of outdated plumbing. A sewer pipe had collapsed—somewhere—and we had to find someone willing to first locate the pipe and then repair it.

Peter felt we were doomed. All his nightmares had materialized in broad daylight and, it’s true, finding contractors who are excited about jumping into a project that involves old construction and no good records is not easy.

But we were lucky. We found a very cheerful and optimistic plumber named Fred who immediately started to dig. He removed the large flagstones and began carefully piling dirt in the center of our patio.

“It should be four to five feet down,” Fred informed us, once the backhoe arrived.

They kept digging. At six feet, the pipe was still going down. At eight feet, the backhoe could no longer reach the bottom of the pit. Another, larger machine was sent for.

“How deep do you think it could be?” I asked Fred, peering nervously into the hole.

“Oh, I’ve had to dig them as deep as twenty-three feet!” Fred answered with pride.

“You don’t think we’re going to break any records, do you?” I asked.

“Oh no,” Fred assured me, just as an enormous backhoe rounded the corner.

Every day, Peter and I made forays to the local municipal park to use the functioning plumbing. (“I’m going to the park,” has taken on a permanent new meaning for Peter and me.) At twelve feet deep, the bottom of the pipe was located and, sure enough, it had filled with roots over the decades and collapsed. Fred had to do a lot more digging to repair the pipe. When I looked out the kitchen window, all I could see was a mountain of fresh dirt looking like a volcanic eruption about to blow.

But I was impressed by how quickly Fred got us operational again. Being without the use of a toilet seems to be a universally dreaded condition that everyone can sympathize with—even plumbers, who presumably see this every day.

We are finally “back in business” and, as I write, the mountain is gradually being reduced in size. I don’t know how things will look when they are finished, but Peter swears he doesn’t care. He slept well last night.

And I’m hoping that maybe, in Peter’s future nightmares, Fred might turn up—right at 4:00, right when things are looking the worst.

Till next time,


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