It’s after bedtime but I sit bent at my desk, reading a book and typing up some notes. I’m 44 years old but might as well be 18 and in college, immersed in writing an English paper. Even though I’m tired after a day of work and an evening of checkbook adventures—and apparently in far more debt than I had previously thought—I am also in my glory because I get to make connections between a really cool book and our own real lives, then I get to discuss these connections with other people who have read the same book! I’m not an English major anymore, but even better, I am Book Club Lady at the college where I teach English. If that’s not the coolest gig in the world, then I don’t know what is.
I’m paging through the book, Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, trying to turn my biting and snarky annotations into meaningful and thought-provoking questions for Book Club tomorrow. “OMG, how does his wife stand him?” turns into “Discuss how the author uses self-deprecating humor in a thinly veiled attempt to conceal his narcissism and machismo.” I think that’s a good one, and decide to reward myself with a stretch. I walk down the hall towards the bathroom and hear water trickling.
The thought that there is no good reason for water trickling occurs at the same moment that my bare foot smushes down in wet carpet. One more step and I’m in the bathroom, flipping the light on, sloshing around. I’m as panicked as I would be if a fire hydrant had burst. I kneel down and stick my face next to the toilet as I search for the source of the trickling. Water is bubbling up next to one of the exposed bolts.
This doesn’t make sense to me.
I try to turn the water off in the bathroom and the handle keeps turning and turning without tightening. I check the toilet’s bolt and nut again—still bubbling—so I slosh around until I have a bunch of towels on the bathroom tile, soaking up the water there and hopefully staunching the flow of water out the door and into my really plush carpet with super-thick padding. I throw more towels on the soggy carpet so green dye from the new one can bleed into my carpet and stay there forever and ever.
I squish over to the other bathroom and do the same thing, but faster.
Next, I think I should turn off the water to the house; I move a.s.a.p. back down the hall and outside to where the shut-off valve is. I inspect it and inspect it under the porch light, but can’t find the shut-off handle. I turn the garden hose on and off. I knew that wasn’t it.
Apparently someone has stolen my shut-off valve handle. Why else would I not be seeing it? I know this will make me look dumb when the plumber gets here. I call one anyway. I feel slightly better when I’m standing next to the shut-off valve with the plumber an hour later, both of us staring but still not seeing. Suddenly the plumber bursts into action, throwing himself down next to the exposed pipes much like I had thrown myself at the toilet an hour earlier. He digs and digs, flinging my yard’s finely crushed decorative gravel back at me.
“Here it is!” he says with relief, leaning aside to show me the lever.
“No wonder I didn’t see that thing,” I say, peering at it in the dark. “Why was it buried underground?”
“Haboob,” says the plumber, and we both nod like wise old men.
Twelve hours later I am on campus and strolling into Book Club, having put all thoughts of last night’s $1500 plumbing bill out of my head. I care not that my insurance won’t cover any of that or the stained carpet in my bedroom. I am imagining myself on the other side of trouble. I have mentally projected myself into my own happy future, where I will eventually feel like the last twelve hours were actually the best twelve hours of my life—except that I feel that way now.
In this moment of resilience, I smile and wave at the other Book Club members. I love the nicety of wearing name tags and can see that everyone has theirs on. We have such pretty ones this semester, and they match the book jacket too. Always happy to join my group, I remove the cap from a felt-tipped pen and reach for a name tag.
I begin by making my unique and assertive capital “S” for “Sewer”. Sewer Mohler to the rescue.