A Tale of Two Nights

By Thad Plumley

I had not been home long when an alarm started chirping loudly in my basement.

I went downstairs and saw my sump pump was finished. A battery-powered backup was signaling to me it was now on the clock. And it was working hard; it was a Sunday evening and it was pouring buckets of rain outside.

“I just hope the backup doesn’t die,” I thought to myself.

I was still in the basement contemplating whether the backup could make it through the night and I could avoid Sunday-night plumber rates when the alarm started beeping a different frequency. This one meant the battery backup had indeed went kaput. I grabbed my phone.

“I just hope the plumber is not too busy,” I thought to myself.

The phone call did not unfold as expected. While I certainly didn’t want the plumber to come to my house—he really didn’t want to come out.

He asked if I thought things could hold off until tomorrow. I pointed out the downpour outside. He then responded how he’d hate to have to charge me so much for being at my house at 10 p.m. on Sunday night.

“Whatever your fee is,” I replied, “I know it will be cheaper than replacing a flooded finished basement. And you know how I know this? I’ve replaced a flooded finished basement!”

There were a few more exchanges, but he reluctantly told me he would be out within the hour. He was, he replaced everything, and I wrote a hefty check.

The fee wasn’t what stuck in my head, though. It was the phone call.

Perhaps it was because the alarm blared minutes after my wife and I returned home from a weekend in which we exchanged our city life for a small town nestled along the Ohio River.

At one point the night before, we saw people begin lining the sidewalks. We stopped and were suddenly jolted by fire and emergency vehicles parading down the streets, lights on and sirens blaring. First responders were hanging off the trucks passing out fliers about fire preventions and handfuls of candy.

Everyone was having fun. The first responders were working on a Saturday night, but seemed to want to be no place else.

What a different appearance they gave their profession. I saw a pair of high school students obviously on a date taking in the spectacle. I thought if they don’t know what they want to do for a living someday, this had to leave an impression.

What if those students had lived in my house the next night? What if they had seen me practically need the precision of an attorney’s closing argument to get a plumber to respond to an emergency? What would they have thought about the plumbing profession?

Always remember you’re always selling your company—and your livelihood.


Thad PlumleyThad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.

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