When the works stop working


By Sue Curtis



Living in the country has many advantages, plus a few interesting side challenges. Adding to the country lifestyle is a very old, interesting house with similarly interesting electrical and plumbing systems. Our house has had additions several times since it was first constructed in 1811. The first addition was in 1823. More than a century passed when a kitchen was added in the 1950s. At the turn of this millennium, we added a family room.

All these additions meant that electrical and plumbing work was inspected, and occasionally altered or improved. Yet, we still have the plumbing in the main part of the house that was installed in…well, whenever indoor plumbing became popular. According to Wikipedia, that was in the 1930s, and that’s probably about right.

The work was excellent, as evidenced by the fact that the plumbing still runs fairly well. Of course, no house has indefatigable plumbing and ours is no exception. I don’t mind the occasional problems, but I do find that they tend to occur at the worst possible moments. Not that there’s ever a great time to have your sink, tub, or toilet back up, but seriously, there are days when this would cause less angst.

Twenty years ago, our niece was married on our property. It was an outdoor wedding, but certainly guests expected to be able to use the facilities. The day before the wedding, we had a massive back up in our system. On a Friday night, naturally. Wonderful man that he is, our plumber was able to clear it out and fix it, literally minutes before guests were due to arrive.

Two years ago, we hosted the first of what is becoming an annual family reunion (my side of the family). Naturally, the day before guests were due to arrive, the kitchen sink and downstairs bathroom back up. Again, a Friday. But the plumber arrived, was able to clear it out, and we didn’t have to pay weekend rates!

This past weekend, we were catching up on quite a bit of laundry. We had work clothes from a week of heavy painting and gardening, plus my summer clothes (which I am in the process of adding back into my closet), and the normal laundry. About mid-way through the third load, the toilet in the bathroom began to gurgle. The bathtub began to fill with ugly water. It was Saturday morning.

We stopped doing laundry, closed the bathroom doors, and stopped washing dishes. In the meantime, we decided to wait until Monday to call the plumber, since we still have the bathroom in the main part of the house on a different “line” than the downstairs. God bless old houses!

Plumbing reminds me a lot of technology — it is wonderful when it works, annoying when it doesn’t, and usually problems are due to operator error. The only difference is that plumbing is a lot more essential (at least in our house). What things break down in your house?

Email me at suecurtis9@gmail.com.

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By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.