Plumber vs. Lawyer (Humor Column)

People think lawyers have a built-in edge – an advantage which helps them cope with, and even avoid, life’s little difficulties.

Take plumbing, for example. To most people, a lawyer is an easy match for even the craftiest plumber. And if something does go wrong, so what? At least lawyers can visit legal vengeance, without going broke paying the price of justice.

Consequently, if a lawyer is victimized by a plumber, and is foolish enough to admit it, she shouldn’t expect anything resembling sympathy. Scorn is more like it, with a bit of barely hidden pleasure thrown in.

Her listeners may chuckle at her misadventures, and possibly pretend to sympathize. But what are they really doing? They’re crossing her off their list of lawyers. After all, any attorney who can’t hold her own against a plumber, can’t be much of a lawyer, right? Well not necessarily, but more on that later.

As you may have guessed by now, I’m one of those lawyers who have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous plumbing bills. I’ve also made the mistake of telling non-lawyers about my woes. Here’s their reaction:

“What’s your problem? You could always sue the guy.”
“You of all people should have known better.Why didn’t you get it in writing?”
“Why didn’t you check him out first?”

Now that’s what I call sympathy!

These are all good questions, of course. At least in theory. But what happens in the real world when you try to take a lawyerly approach to plumbing transactions? It doesn’t work – that’s what happens.

Sure, you can solicit references and letters of recommendation. You can call the Better Business Bureau and check the local courthouse to see who has lost the most lawsuits. These are all good ideas – I recommend them highly.

Unless of course your living room cushions are acting as flotation devices.

But if time is of the essence, and it almost always is when it comes to plumbing, you go directly to Step Two. You leave messages on every plumber’s answering machine within a 30 mile radius. Then you wait for the phone to ring.

How do you pick your plumber? It’s simple. The first one to call back, show up and actually agree to do the job some time this century, is clearly your man.

Price? References? Qualifications? Get real! If a warm body with some tools walks through that door, grab him. Even if he does demand your first born and your left arm as part of his fee.

Now that you’ve found someone who isn’t booked up until the year 2000, then what? Being a trained professional, you ask for a written estimate, right? Naturally he’ll be glad to give you one, once he’s had a chance to check out the problem.

Well that certainly sounds reasonable. Except for one thing. In order to check out the problem he has to find the problem, right? Somehow, this always involves drilling several pre-estimate holes through your plaster kitchen ceiling.

You now have an unusable bathroom and a ravaged kitchen, and you’re still awaiting that estimate. But that’s okay. He’ll be glad to recommend a plasterer.

Hours go by, and your plumber is still narrowing down the problem. You watch him, and try to decide whether he knows what he’s doing. This is quite amusing because you wouldn’t recognize a wrench if you tripped over it.

You can’t postpone going to the office any longer. So you give up awaiting the elusive estimate and leave this complete stranger alone in your house with all your worldly possessions.

Rational? No. Lawyerlike? Certainly not. But it’s either that, or become a plumber’s apprentice, and frankly, you’re not qualified.

Now that I’ve told my plumbing tale in public, I’ll surely never get another legal client. But that’s okay. It’s probably time to think about going into another line of work.

I’m not certain what I want to do, but I understand that plumbers are rather well paid. And I’m getting pretty handy with a plunger.

*****

(This column was published in Hysteria Magazine, way back when I was a baby humor columnist.)

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