01 April 2012

LIFE: Guiseppe (Joe) the Plumber

SARONNO, Italy - This week started with me calling my super fixer-upper Signor Michele, or as my daughter used to call him, Grampa 2, and asking him to come over and take a look at the faucet in my kitchen. It’s gone all wobbly and seems to have forgotten whether it needs to turn right or left to turn off. 
 You Gotta Have a Sense of Humor in this Business
I would have taken it apart myself but unlike most kitchen faucets which have a turn off valve for hot water and another for cold water under the sink, I have a vast collection of valves, some of which are color coded, none of which I have never been able to figure ou­­t.

You see my kitchen is in the space that was originally a bathroom, so the valves are the valves for the ex-bathroom sink, for the ex-bidet and the ex-washing machine, as well as the current dishwasher and the current kitchen sink. It goes back to the Italian habit of never removing anything once it is there. Need a new whatchamacallit? Don't take off the old one, just add another to the rest of the whatchamacallits and start a whatchamacallit collection. It’s the same reason I have two intercoms, an old one that doesn’t work, and the new one that does. Plus there are dozens of electrical outlets, some of which work, and most of which don't. You don't do away with something away just because it doesn’t work, do you? I guess that depends what country you are in.

But to get back to the kitchen sink problem, without being able to identify which cut off valve is which, you can understand why I am reluctant to start fooling around with the faucet. Seriously, what would I do if it broke off in my hand and water started spouting out like a fountain?  Stand there with my finger in the hole like the Dutch kid who had to stick his finger in the dyke?  And then what?

So I sent out an S.O.S. to Signor Michele. “Oh cara,” he says, “that is not my area of expertise. I can come over and take a look at it but, you really need a plumber. Tell you what, I’m gonna give you a number to call. The guy’s name is Giuseppe. Tell him you got his name from me, and he’ll take care of you.”

So I did, and one of these days he’s going to show up, I’m just not sure which when.  But I have learned the hard way, that it is better to wait for someone who has been “recommended” than do a loop-dee-loop with my finger and land on a name in the yellow pages, or worse, hire someone from an hand written ad in a tobacco shop. Some lessons I do learn.

When I first moved into this apartment I saw a small advertisement in the tabacchi for a painter, and asked if the shop owner knew him. He didn’t. He only knew he was a young guy with a family trying to earn a little extra money on the side. Perfect. I’d much rather give my money to a young guy with a family than a company. After all, it wasn’t a big job, I just wanted the living room, dining room and one bedroom painted.

So I called him. He came over. He gave me a good price. I gave him the job. There was just one stipulation: I wanted the walls in the living room and dining room painted cream. Not white, not beige, cream. No problem he assured me, he’d be back on Saturday ready to work. And he was. 
It's not Easter Egg Yellow any More
He set up his ladder and other equipment, I got out of his way and went into my office to work. An hour or so later he put his head in the door to tell me he had finished the living room, so I went out to see what he had done.  What he had done was paint this enormous expanse that is my living and dining room a bright Easter egg yellow. I almost fainted. 
This is not cream, I said. Don’t worry, he assured me, it just looks like that because it isn’t dry and he went to work painting the bedroom. White. 

Of course you know that Easter egg yellow is never, ever going to become cream, no matter how long it dries and so I was back to square one, handicapped by the fact that it was August.  If you have ever been to Italy you know what that means: every painter, plumber and candlestick maker is at the beach. It was the middle of September before I found another painter and got the whole mess straightened out.

So yes, I’ll wait for Signor Giuseppe. And hopefully it won’t be too long before I have water in the kitchen again.That will be nice.


  1. One of the most common issues in household is the plumbing. It has its own advantages, for really difficult problems, emergency and large-scale services, it will need to work with a professional plumber.

  2. A leaking faucet isn't just annoying, it also costs you money. Fixing it keeps your money from going down the drain. Roughly twelve and a half gallons of a household's water use is attributed to faucet, toilet, and pipe leaks. A dripping faucet can waste up to seventy-four gallons a day, a leaking toilet up to two-hundred gallons a day. A quick repair by you or your plumber now, will save you money in the long run.

    danvers MA plumbing

  3. You did say "apartment", right? I don't know about Italy (although I've been there, a few times) but in the US, if you rent an apartment, the landlord/owner is responsible for repairs.

  4. Your story is hilarious! That is why, when we can't fix the problem ourselves, it would be better if we hire a reputable contractor to do the work for us. Working on a problem yourself can prove to be useful if you know how to deal with the problem, but when you’re just trying your luck, you run the risk of spending even more on further repairs than saving money. Being recommended by Signor Michele, I bet Giuseppe is really good at what he does.

  5. Hiring an expert on the job is really important as you are confident that he’ll be doing it right. There’s no need to worry about anything especially when the plumber was being recommended by someone you trust. So, what happened? Did the plumber quickly fix it? What can you say about his work? :)