Black mold? Come on.

I had this leak coming from somewhere behind the kitchen wall. After putting off getting it taken care of for much longer than I should have, I made an appointment to have a plumber stop by and take a look. Hopefully it wouldn’t be anything too serious, because I really didn’t have the cash for anything more than a quick-fix repair job.

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The plumber took one look around the kitchen and suspected that the problem might have something to do with the dishwasher.

“Is this appliance a plugged unit or is it hardwired in?” he asked me.

And just the way he looked at me when he posed the question, it was like he was expecting an answer out of me. I had no idea what he was talking about, but in that moment between his question and my eventual non-answer, here was a man, a professional plumber, treating me like, well, not like an equal, but definitely not like someone who doesn’t know at all what he’s talking about. I should have just said something like, “I don’t know what that means,” but I didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t want to let myself down, to diminish my assumed level of basic appliance know-how.

“Well,” I kind of fumbled around, trying to say something, what exactly, I didn’t really know. “It’s a … uh … it’s a standard unit …”

“All right,” he cut me off, I could tell he was a little disappointed, not in me so much, but in himself, he gave me the once over, he sized me up and took it for granted that I’d have maybe a base level of handiness. And now he was back at square one, or lower than square one.

He pulled the dishwasher out, revealing a puddle of dirty water. The cabinetry was wet on both sides, as was the drywall just behind, crumbling off where it met the tile, everything slightly warped from having been damp for who knows how long.

“Jesus,” the plumber said, which wasn’t really a reaction I was hoping for.

“It’s a leak,” I don’t know why I said that, because it was obviously a leak.

“Is that a direct line?” I don’t know why he asked, because I didn’t know what that meant either.

“A direct line?” I threw the question back at him.

“Look, we have to turn the electricity off before I can check out the pipes. You’ve got a lot of water damage here. And it looks like there’s mold growing.”

“Mold? So what do we do?”

“You got to get a mold guy, I’m not licensed for that sort of stuff.”

“A mold guy?”

“Yeah, look, and do what you got to do, all right, but this is something you got to take care of, all right, black mold is no joke.”

“Well, can you fix the leak?”

“And an electrician. You got to get an electrician over here, because I’d bet anything that the wires need some looking at, I’m just saying, you know, based on how these pipes look, and the mold, you got to take care of everything here.”

“But the leak?”

“You listening to me kid?” he called me kid, and I knew right there that whatever technical benefit of the doubt he’d given me when he walked in had evaporated.

“Yeah, I’m listening to you, I’m just … I just, I don’t know, all right? One thing at a time, right? Can you fix the pipe, or whatever it is that’s causing the water to come out?”

“All right, look, you’ve got extensive damage here. All right, you’re going to need a complete reworking of probably all of the plumbing here. You’ve probably got faulty wiring, and even though I’m not a mold guy, so this is like some off-the-books advice here, but it looks like you’ve got the beginnings of what could be a pretty nasty black mold problem. Now like I said, you do what you got to do, but this isn’t something you’re going to want to let go for too long.”

I said to him, “OK, but for right now, for today, what can you do for me?”

“I can patch up and reinforce the sides of the water main, right, and that’s going to buy you maybe a few months, maybe more, maybe less, again, I don’t know the extent of this damage, right, if this pipe’s corroded here, I’m sure the damage goes way back. So that’s today. And then tomorrow, well tomorrow’s Saturday, but Monday I suggest you call an electrician, and a mold guy, and then the three of us will figure out where to go from here.”

“How much are you thinking this is all going to cost?”

“Look, I’m in absolutely no position to give an estimate right now. I’m telling you, there’s a lot to do here.”

“But like what, a thousand? Two thousand?”

And the plumber just shook his head.

“What about for today? What about for that pipe patch or whatever you were talking about?”

“One forty.”

“Fine.”

“But look, I’ll give you some contacts, some guys I know, guys I’ve worked with before, or you can shop around, your call. But listen to me …”

“Yeah, I got it, I’ll take care of it.” I told him.

He patched up the pipe or whatever it was that he did, and the water stopped. And after he left, after I mopped everything up and scrubbed the tiles and the walls with one of those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, I have to say, I know that I’m not a plumber or an electrician, but it didn’t really look that bad. And there wasn’t any more water.

And black mold? Come on, it didn’t look any worse than the black mildew upstairs in the bathroom or in the basement. And the Magic Eraser works fine on that too. Besides, I’m thinking of repainting the whole place, just giving everything a couple of fresh coats. Because I really don’t know, that guy, ready with his trusted associates, maybe I’m not a plumber, but I can tell when I’m getting squeezed.

Black mold problem, please. I try not to use the word problem. I see it as more of a black mold opportunity. Because look, now I’m almost positive I’m going to paint. Maybe like next weekend, or the weekend after that. And who knows if I would’ve gotten around to it if it weren’t for that mold or mildew or whatever it is. Yeah, a fresh coat of paint is going to solve everything.

But man, I should get into plumbing. That guy was over here for what, an hour? And he charged me a hundred and forty bucks? Talk about a good gig. I’d love to make a hundred and forty an hour. And then I could tell all of my friends about it, my electrician friends and my mold friends, and they could hook me up when they get house calls. “Gee, I don’t know, you better let me get my friend Rob the plumber over here to take a look at this.” What a racket.

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