The Day our Plumber Went to Jail

You can’t plan for this stuff, folks! And believe me, I’m a planner.

After 9 months of planning, it was time to “birth” a new kitchen. It was labor time.

We checked the budget, ordered cabinets, hired subs, sweet talked Daddy, and took time off work.  We were ready to demolish the old and bring in the new!

After tile smashing followed with wall sledge hammering, the kitchen had been stripped bare, down to the concrete. Next day our trusty plumber, whom we’ve used plenty before, pounded the concrete with a sledge and jack hammer all day long. The dream: get under the house, move the drain pipes so we can move the sink to overlook the living room and create my “open floor plan”. My dream, however turned out to be a lot of work!


But he was a persistent one, that plumber. With his small wiry frame, deformed from a childhood injury, what he lacked in size he made up for in hard work and resilience. That guy could work circles around you.

And he was full of stories. Fun stories, crazy stories, sad stories. Talking non-stop as he worked, he told stories of his life that simply fascinated us. Was I to feel sorry for him or be in awe that he was even still alive? Was I to take what was said at face value or assume there was more to these stories?

Though cautious as always when it comes to subs working in the house, he rambled on long enough to find a soft spot in our hearts. Day one ended with a promise of an early start and fast finish tomorrow.

But tomorrow never came.

After several days of a stalled project and leaving many frustrated voice mails, I acted on a hunch. Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed he had been arrested again, that very next morning.

Sure we scrambled and sought out another plumber to take on the half-baked project. And eventually it got done. (Yet another time I had to swirl with it.)

Still we talk often about our original plumber.

We wondered how his life had become so twisted up. We had sympathy on the physical deformity that lead to pain meds that lead to addiction that lead to a world of bad choices. We wondered how we could have helped him. We ached for his kids, left high and dry. We debated what to do with his tools he’d left behind. And ever few months, we Googled him, still locked away.

I’m a pretty cut and dry, you-break-the-law-you-get-what-you-deserve kind of person.  But in this instance, I felt more sympathy and compassion then I did justification. The system seemed broken. My response was unique enough to catch me off guard, causing me to stop and consider.  Who knows? Was this the beginning of an episode of being “moved with compassion?”

I think he is out now. He never returned for his tools. But we kept them just in case. I wish him the best.


Back-and-Forward-ButtonThis post is part of my series 31 Days of Glancing Back and Leaning Forward: Personal reflections and life lessons from my year.

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