Thursday, January 18, 2007

Plumbing the Depths of History

Traveling on a regular basis presents certain challenges. In addition to the fact you’re hoping that the airplane will physically get you to your destination, you also hope that your luggage will arrive at or near the same time. Also, you’re always wondering who will be your seating companion and whether he/she used deodorant that morning and if he/she will be civil when it comes time to share the arm rest. But those challenges are minor in comparison to some of the other things that await you at home when you’re off “gallivanting” (it’s a word my mom always uses) about the country.

While it is distressing to be sitting in a remote hotel room that seems to get smaller each night you’re there and hear your spouse recount to you over the phone the rainbow of colors your son spewed all over the new carpet – four times – there’s nothing quite like coming home to a toilet that is mere centimeters from spilling over the brim with a substance that looks like only Hollywood special effects artists could create. And come to find out, it’s been like that for the last three days!

So, as I am delicately trying to insert and work the plunger without upsetting the “water” – I have to put that in quotation marks because I’m not exactly sure it can be called that – my two sons are standing behind me absolutely fascinated with the process. Of course, they want to help, and the first instinct is to shoo them away with a rubber-glove-clad hand. But that’s when it hits me. Not the malodorous muck brewing in the commode but an economic epiphany of the same magnitude as the inspiration for Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The money in our public school system would be far better spent teaching our kids plumbing skills than about the diverse cultures that dot the Saharan region of Africa.

Rather than paying a guy $75.00 just to show up at your house, plus materials, you could call one of your kids into the bathroom and say, “Have at it, champ.” They would love it, and they might even offer to pay you or waive future allowance for a crack at the next stopped-up toilet or the installation of a new garbage disposal. And all the while you have the peace in knowing that your kids are up to the task when they bring home their report cards.

“Mason, I see you got an A in pipe fitting, and an A- in septic systems. I know you can pull that up to an A, too, son. Just remember, it’s all about routine maintenance.”

Not only would such training in early childhood be an economic boon to us, the taxpaying adults, but I believe we would see a payoff later on down the line, too. For instance, had this training been instituted back in the early twentieth century, we wouldn’t have seen the rise of Communism or the aggression known as the Korean War. In both instances, they were just looking for the right to affordable indoor plumbing for the masses.

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