Looking For That Silver Lining

Shabbat was a really, really bad day for me. As I pottered about, making my early morning cup of coffee to take back to bed, with a slice of cheese-cake, I heard an ominous gurgling sound from the direction of the kitchen sink. As yet, however, there were no visible signs of the impending disaster. It was not until mid-morning that the sickening swirls of bilge-water flooded up through the plug-hole, filling my nice clean sink with foul black gunge.

I had been through this before and it had turned out to be a problem in the main sewage pipe of the building, and therefore, the responsibility of the Residents’ Committee, so it was to the Committee Chairman that I took my problem. He referred me to the Committee’s official plumber who came and checked it out and told me it was not a problem in the main pipe, but in the pipe leading from my apartment to the main pipe – and therefore, my own responsibility. He would unblock it – for 400 shekels.

I really had no choice, so I agreed. Matters were not helped by the fact that my upstairs neighbour, whom I had asked not to turn on her kitchen tap until the problem was solved, forgot and turned it on – after the plumber had opened up the pipe under my sink – thereby flooding my kitchen with the noxious black brew! After he had finished, it took me a couple of hours to clean the place up, and even after it had dried, I kept discovering previously unseen gobs or droplets of gunge in unexpected places. However, I realised that the cloud did have a silver lining, in that…

No! Why was there water all over the kitchen floor?! Where was it coming from?

I called the plumber, but got only his voice-mail box. I tried again – still no answer. Finally,  much later in the evening, I managed to get hold of him. His phone had been switched off, as he had been obliged to take his young daughter to hospital. He said he would come the following day, so I resigned myself to not being able to use the kitchen sink for the next 24 hours. I thought I could deal with that. After all, I could always wash up any dirty dishes in the bathroom sink, if necessary.

When I got home from work, the following evening, I found the plumber already waiting for me, together with the Deputy Chairman of the Residents’ Committee and one half of the young Arab couple who live directly below me. It seems that my downstairs neighbours had turned to the Committee, because water from my kitchen was dripping down into the ceiling of theirs. The plumber took a look and said that the pipe under my sink (about whose poor condition he had warned me the previous day) was leaking and needed to be replaced and that this would cost a minimum of 1200 shekels! At this point, I decided to call in my own insurance company (even though it was my personal opinion that he had somehow damaged the pipe himself, or else had shifted the blockage elsewhere). The insurance people told me they would send someone the following day and to find out when the downstairs neighbours would also be in.

Cut to today (Monday). Because the insurance people had told me the plumber would come “sometime between 2 – 6 pm,” I left work early and rushed home – only to wait an hour and a half for him to arrive. When he did, he insisted the problem was  in the main pipe of the building and was therefore not covered by my insurance, but was, rather, the responsibility of the Residents’ Committee. His repair estimate was something in the region of 2000 shekels!!! But when I called the chairman of the Residents’ Committee, the latter claimed that at the last Residents’ Meeting, it had been agreed that the Committee would only be responsible for burst (main) pipes but not for blockages, unless these were in the main manhole. It looked as if I was going to lose out on all counts!

Just as I was about to give way to despair, my neighbour Ruthie (who, unlike me, does understand plumbing) and the Deputy Chairman of the Residents’ Committee arrived and were joined by the downstairs neighbours. They all crowded into my kitchen and began arguing about where was the problem, was it a burst pipe or a blockage, and who was responsible. The plumber insisted there was no drainage box in the kitchen and Ruthie insisted he was wrong. The plumber left. After he left, we discovered the drainage box –  it had been covered over when the previous residents installed the kitchen cupboards. We called the plumber back, so that Ruthie could prove to him that he was wrong. Once again, my kitchen became the floor of the Knesset. The plumber admitted he had been wrong about the existence of the drainage box, yet still insisted that the problem was not there but in the main pipe. Then they all agreed (I was a mere supernumerary by now) that there might well be two problems – a blockage in the drainage box (my responsibility) and a leak in the main pipe (the Committee’s responsibility).  Furthermore, said the plumber, if unblocking the drain  required the use of an electrical machine,  this would not be covered by the insurance, which only extended to manual unblocking of pipes!!!

Once again, everybody started arguing (well, everyone but Yours Truly, who sank to the floor in despair, her head in her hands)…

Finally, the plumber offered to clear the drain all the way down to the main manhole with the electric machine for a mere 350 shekels, less than the deductible self-payment in either my insurance or that of the Residents’ Committee. After all this was explained on the phone to the Chairman, it was agreed that in that case, the Committee would accept responsibility – and the plumber finally got to work. It was a very stubborn blockage, and it took him a long time, but (touch wood), it seems to have worked.

Oh – and that silver lining I mentioned? Well, all the energy I put into cleaning up proved to be an excellent way to work off some of the excess calories I consumed over the past few weeks (Pesach, Independence Day, Jerusalem Liberation Day and Shavuot).

What with the workout and not having time to eat, over the past three days, I have lost a couple of kilos :-).

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About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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