So last week a posse of workers came over to do much needed house repairs. Everything went well, except that by the time two toilet seats had had the plastic bowels in their water tanks changed and everything was checked and changed and checked again and yet again over the course of two days, the water pump downstairs kept keening every half hour or so even though no water was being used.
The boss, Chang Daeng (Red Craftsman), concluded there must be a leak in the pipes (underground or within walls) and I’d better call the local Waterworks unit to sound the pipes. I was foolish enough to pay him the last of his moneys. He left saying, ‘If there’s anything else, call me.’
A couple of hours later, I went up to the top bathroom. It was flooded. I cut off the water, went down, called Chang Daeng on his portable. He didn’t answer the call. Called again: line busy. Okay, I get the picture.
I went up again and found that the side shower-head was leaking, because they had used it a lot and didn’t notice its nose was twisted loose. Ah, so that was the problem! I screwed the thing back tight, feeling proud of myself and damning those careless fools in my head.
The next morning, I went up again: shit, the bathroom was flooded again! I dried it, then turned on the water feeding the tank and found right away that the leak came from the rubber valve at the bottom of the tank. Armed with this knowledge, I went to one of Chang Daeng’s places (he has two houses in the vicinity). He and his team were at the local temple, setting up a sound system. I went there, found one of the workers, told him the problem. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll come tomorrow.’ ‘You work on Sundays too?’ ‘Yes, yes, I’ll come.’
He didn’t. In late afternoon, I went back to the same house. Chang Daeng wasn’t there, but two of his workers listened to my plight and said they’d have their ‘water guys’ come the next day.
Two chaps did come the next day, the same fiddlers as before. The water was turned back on. No leak. We watched the damn thing for a quarter of an hour. The valve was dry. They kindly put it down to a case of ‘klua mor’ (fear of the doctor), laughed it off and left. I felt I had lost face. They’d guffaw about the crazy farang over their ‘Maekhong’–soda for many nights to come.
The water pump downstairs kept keening at odd times nonetheless, mocking me, spooking me.
Next time I checked, the bathroom was flooded again. I turned off the water, dried the seat and the tiles and left it at that.
The next day, my daughter called Waterworks. They’d come in a day or two.
They did: three of them, one driver and two courteous water doctors with ‘stethoscopes’ (long thin tubes with a sound captor at one end) who undertook to sound each and every tap in the house (never knew I had so many) from the ground floor up. Clean bill of health all along. Until we reached the top bathroom – flooded again! ‘The rubber valve is leaking,’ the good doctors diagnosed right away. I felt vindicated.
I called Chang Daeng. This time, he picked up the phone. ‘Oh, all right. The Waterworks guys are here, you say? I’ll send you someone.’
The old fellow who had been the one to fiddle with the damn water tank to begin with came round before noon. He could see that indeed there was a leak. And the leak, he proffered, came from the rubber valve. It took him several attempts to finally get it right – or had he? I spent the next few hours reading on the veranda … by the water pump, which kept mercifully quiet.
The old man had told me he’d come round in late afternoon. To save him a trip, I went to his place of work. He was actually lying on the linoleum of his hovel nearby. I thanked him profusely. If only he had done his work correctly the first time around…
PS: At exactly two minutes to 3 a.m. this 1st of August 2009, while I am reading the penultimate page of Roth’s Indignation, the water pump keens again.