This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me out of

Column by Jim Bishop

This is a long-overdue fanfare for the uncommon people – those who quietly go about their business repairing other peoples’ messes, often literally. Yet, their valiant efforts are too seldom recognized and appreciated.

There’s no question where to begin – with a group of men who came to the rescue at our home a week ago.

But I’ll back up (the phrase is appropriate) several days earlier when Anna and I started hearing a gurgling sound in the bathroom, especially noticeable if the washing machine was running.

When the disturbing noise kept recurring, I gave both toilets a workout with a plunger. The sound stopped. What? Had this mechanically challenged dude actually fixed a problem in our own home? Wife Anna seemed impressed.

The weekend was busy but percolated along pleasantly. That is, until we came home from church Sunday to find both bathtubs with several inches of raw, aromatic sewage that appeared to be slowly rising.

What to do? We were afraid to try flushing the toilets, and we sure weren’t going to take a shower. This constituted an “emergency,” so, we hesitantly called Ray Good, son of the late Emory Good who was the gentle man we turned to for our plumbing needs for most of the 37 years we’ve lived at our present address.

The answering machine came on and we left a message in our most plaintive-sounding tone, hoping that Ray wasn’t out of town.

The phone rang about a half-hour later; I answered on the first ring. It was an appeal to donate to a charitable cause that isn’t even local. I tried to be as polite as possible while declining the opportunity.

After what seemed an eternity, the phone rang again, and it was Ray. I explained our dilemma, apologizing for imposing myself on a Sunday afternoon, then cut to the chase – “HELP!” “I’ll be right over,” he replied.

A short time later, Ray pulled into our driveway and went right to work. He spent the next two hours using every tool in his arsenal, and eventually succeeding in getting the murky water to subside, but we could sense Ray’s frustration at leaving with the problem not fully resolved.

I called the Rockingham County Department of Public Works first thing Monday morning and reported a possible clogged sewer line. The lady who answered was cordial and said she would report it right away.

She obviously did. Anna told me a four-man crew was on the scene by 8:30 a.m. I wasn’t there while the men worked but Anna told me later that they labored non-stop all morning to unclog the blockage. They gave the “all clear” signal shortly after noon, packed up their equipment and moved on.

A flick of the Bishop’s mantle to Bud Hicks, Mike Cook, Robin Marshall and Boyd Cubbage for their superlative efforts.

Ray’s assessment was correct that the problem had to be somewhere in the main sewer line, and it was. Roots from a nearby maple tree were the chief culprit.

What became apparent later was that the slowly-rising corruption in our tubs was compliments of neighbors up the hill. The main line had backed up to the point that the flow was taking a detour into our living space. I don’t even want to think of the possible scenario that would have greeted us if we’d been out of town when the problem began.

And, get this: Monday evening, Ray called and asked if full sewer service had been restored. How many trades people would do this? Like father, like son.

I recognize these and other unsung heroes among us who work hard with their hands, usually taken for granted until we really need them – the waste disposal persons who show up faithfully every Thursday; the gang at Dave’s Recycling where I regularly drop off newsprint, aluminum and steel cans; Richard (Dickie) Layman and his crew who resuscitate our dead or dying vehicles; Harry Showalter restoring our ancient Maytag clothes dryer; and others.

It often involves dirty work, performed dutifully and efficiently with a sense of pride, but too often without adequate respect and sense of appreciation from us, the beneficiaries.

Please accept this public expression of gratitude for throwing out the lifeline when I’m in up to my neck. For all you do, this salute’s for you!


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