Wednesday, August 05, 2009

War stories from the plumbing shop

There's a plumbing shop just next door to the big chain home center here, and I go there whenever the home center comes up short on parts for my faucets, which seems to be most of the time for my faucets.

Last week I went in and requested a replacement hose for my pull-out kitchen faucet. The home center had a "universal" replacement with at least two additional fittings at each end, meaning six potential leaks. There was a customer in front of me in line, very confused about what needed to happen to repair a broken bathtub drain (the conclusion: call the landlord and let him deal with it). I think the guy behind the counter was relieved to have a patient customer with an easy, specific request, but he didn't happen to have the part in stock. He took down my name and number and promised to call when they got it.

He phoned me today and I returned to collect the hose. There was no one else in the store. My pen conked out mid-signature, and as I restarted with a different pen, I remarked that I could probably sign it "Mickey Mouse" and no one would ever even care. It being a slow day, he was inspired to share a couple of stories. He used to be in the military, and some admiral "got a feather up his tuckus" and put a picture of a chimpanzee on his ID card. As the plumber tells it, the good admiral proceeded to take this ersatz insignia onto every ship in the fleet without being challenged about it once. Needless to say, many people got taken to task about identification needing to match the people carrying it.

It was our hero's turn to guard the door when the admiral came around (I didn't get whether this was the same admiral), so he made a point to ask for ID, as he should for everyone to enter. For his trouble, he got an earful about how he should know who his commanding officer is and so on and so forth. His response, as he tells it, was, "Yes, sir, I do believe you, but may I please still see your ID?" The admiral proceeded to produce valid ID and proceeded on his way. He heard later from others that it was a good thing he stood his ground. He'd have gotten much more than an earful had he not.

I've never been in the military myself, so I shared a story I had read. I'm pretty sure I'm paraphrasing from a book called The Compleat Practical Joker. An enlisted fellow was frustrated with the amount of paperwork his job entailed. In addition to the heap of reports he routinely filed each week, he made up a report of his own and added it to the stack. His bogus report listed a count of the flies caught on the flypaper at either end of the mess hall. The result: those back at headquarters noticed the excess report and started wondering where every other unit's flypaper report was.


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