“Hey, Sean! How’s everything going this morning?” Billy asks as I entered the supply house.
“Going really well actually, thanks for asking,” I reply.
“What can we get for you today? I see you have quite the material list going there.”
“Yeah, I’m installing a steam boiler down in town tomorrow morning.”
“Alright, let’s knock the list out for you and get you on your way.”
I then began to go through the list, which included fittings, piping, thread sealants, and flue piping and fittings.
“Alrighty, no sweat. I’ll have all this pulled in five minutes,” Billy says.
“Great! Actually, I have one other thing to add, if you don’t mind. I need two of those mainline steam vents,” I reply.
“Not a problem,” he says.
Just as Billy turned around to head to the back to pull the material, I notice a Staples big, red button sitting on the counter next to his computer. It read, “That Was Easy!” I decide it would be funny if I gave it a push, so I do. “That was easy,” the button responds after I push it. I laugh and joke with the mechanic next to me.
Billy stops in his tracks, turns around, smiles and says: “You shouldn’t have pushed that button. Whenever you think it’s going to be easy, it always turns out to be more difficult.” He smiles and laughs and I hit the button again.
“I don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” I reply. Billy laughs and continues back to the warehouse to start pulling the materials from the list.
“You know, I once pushed that stupid button last year and I was cursed for the entire job,” the mechanic to my right says. I continue to laugh.
“No, I’m dead serious,” he says. “I never touch that button. I don’t even look at it.”
Several minutes pass by and I started to get worried they wouldn’t have the material I need. Just as the thought crossed my mind, the same mechanic grabs his materials and says: “Taking a little long for your materials, huh? I told you. This is only the beginning.”
More time passes and Billy finally appears from the back. “OK, so I got everything you had asked for. However, we don’t have those two mainline steam vents. If I remember correctly, you did push that darn button, didn’t ya?” he says jokingly. “Everything on your list initially, we have. However, once you added those steam vents, you then pushed the button. I’m telling ya, a lot of guys do it and it always happens.” I continue to laugh, sign the receipt, grab my materials and go on my way.
The next morning, the guys and I arrive on the boiler job and it is probably one of the most challenging installs we have ever done! If it could go wrong, it certainly did. From removing the old boiler to getting the new boiler down the narrow stairs; it was a nightmare all around the block from beginning to end. When we finally finish the job later that evening, I begin to think to myself, “Was that darn button really cursed?”
Not so easy
A few months pass since the horrific steam boiler job and I receive a call from a customer of ours.
“Hey Sean, it’s Steve. I have a leaking 40-gallon water heater over here at my condominium. Can you swing by this morning and replace the unit for me?” he asks.
“Sure. I’ll be over there in a few to check it out,” I reply.
Shortly after, I arrive at the condominium complex and ring the front door to the unit. Steve answers and is in a real bubbly mood.
“Hey, Sean! Thanks for coming right away,” he says. “This job is going to be super easy. Piece of cake and it should only take you an hour, tops.”
I instantly cringe and say, “Steve, you know when a customer says those words, it’s the kiss of death to us plumbers.”
He laughs and says: “No, no, no. Please, that’s ridiculous. This is going to be really easy. One, two, three — you’ll be finished in no time. Follow me.”
He turns around and starts to walk down the hallway to show me where the water heater is located. He opens the louver door, flips the switch and, low and behold, there she is.
“There it is!” he shouts. “Like I said, a piece of cake.”
I instantly begin to scan the surrounding area and the difficulty of the installation. There are several issues right away with the job. “Steve, I told you those words were the kiss of death to every plumber out there,” I say.
“Why? What do you mean?” he asks. “Just disconnect it and drag it out. We have no stairs to deal with since we are on the ground floor.”
“Yeah, it may be an easy removal once I get the unit out,” I say. “But getting it out is not going to be a piece of cake. We have to completely disconnect your stackable washer and dryer first and remove them from the closet. Then we have to shut down your gas to the condominium because the gas feeding the air handler is in the way. Lastly, we’ll have to shut down your main water to this unit to replace the old, corroded gate valve that’s dripping on the cold inlet side.”
He is completely shocked and can’t believe all the work to be done. “You’re kidding me!” he says. Four and half hours later — filled with cursing, swearing and curveball after curveball — the job is completed.
“Jeez, I did curse you with this job, huh? I’ll know to never repeat those words around any tradesman,” he says as he laughs.
I’m sure every single one of you can relate to this kiss of death when working in residential homes. It never seems to phase me anymore when a customer says: “It’s really basic. It shouldn’t take you long at all. I’d do it myself but …. Piece of cake.”
I still cringe when I hear these phrases and they always seem to be the more difficult jobs out there. I would love to hear your similar stories, so please email me and share! Still, to this day, I haven’t touched that big red button sitting on the counter. Happy plumbing!