Monday, November 21, 2011

Little knowledge that gives you an edge

A DECADE ago, when I first moved into the condominium I had purchased from the original owner, I found that a plastic bibcock in the dry kitchen's wall had a hairline crack.

Water was seeping out of it, so I bought a brass bibcock to replace it. In the process of removing the faulty bibcock, it broke at the neck and the piece was embedded in the pipe.

Since I did not know how to remove it, thinking a special tool was needed, I called a plumber.

When the chap answered my call, he asked me to describe my problem in detail.

Then he told me his terms - he would only come if I agreed to pay him RM60 up front as consultation fee. I agreed.

When the chap arrived, he immediately asked for his fee before even stepping into the house.

Extra costs would be billed separately, he said, after which he went straight into the dry kitchen to look at the broken tap.

Then he took out a broken hacksaw blade four inches long, shoved one end into the pipe, and started sawing the embedded plastic tubing in several places.

In less than 10 minutes, he removed all pieces of the embedded plastic tubing, cleaned the pipe's thread before screwing in the new bibcock.

Another time I had to call for help was when a can of air freshener fell into our toilet bowl.

My wife had tried to flush it down the drain pipe. Unknown to her, the can had got caught in the "S" joint of the drain pipe.

A day later, as more toilet paper got into the toilet bowl, the pipe became blocked. Soon, the water in the toilet bowl was about to overflow.

Fortunately for me, I had befriended a building maintenance officer weeks earlier.

When I asked him how to unclog my toilet, he came right away to the house.

Having looked at the toilet bowl, he asked for a mop. He submerged the mop in the toilet bowl so that all the strands of cloth filled the hole.

Then he gave the mop several strong plunges - just as you would do when pumping a clogged sink. Within seconds, the toilet bowl was unclogged.

Although the chap did not ask for a fee, I paid him for his time and petrol expenses. He told me that plumbers usually charged RM60 as consultation fee per house call - even if it was only to take a look at the problem.

It was expensive, he said, but having seen how to unclog the toilet bowl using a mop, he had learnt how to deal with a similar crisis without having to call the plumber.

Since those incidents, I have learnt to fix broken stuff myself.

The small savings did not make me laugh all the way to the bank, but they liberated me from having to depend on so-called "experts".

At a time when there are so many experts around, what little you don't know will give the next person an edge over you and be your consultant instead.

After all, didn't someone say that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is the king.

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