The hot water kept cutting out. You’d have to turn the shower off, wait a bit, get cold, turn it back on, wait for it to get hot again. Then it would cut out again just as you were trying to get the Pantene out of your hair. Anyway, in the middle of winter it was all a bit of a pain.
Tony the plumber came to help.
‘Tony, the plumber, mate, here to help,’ he said animatedly, extending his hand out to me at the door.
‘Peter, I need help,’ I said taking his hand.
‘No worries, Peter, no worries, we’ll sort it out, don’t worry, mate,’ he said, shaking my hand vigorously.
‘Good, come in.’
‘Thanks, mate, no worries, OK.’ He finally released my hand.
Tony was, of course, an Italian plumber and an old-school one at that, his name chain-stitched into the breast pocket of his jacket, the one he’s worn every winter for the last thirty years, the one with dark stains around the cuffs that will never came out now.
‘It’s my hot water, keeps on cutting out while I’m in the shower,’ I said leading him through the house to the back door.
‘Keeps cutting out, hey, I don’t like the sound of that but we’ll sort it, for sure, don’t worry, Peter,’ he assured me.
I led the way to the hot water unit out the back. He took the cover off it and poked his head inside.
‘Want me to run a tap?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, mate, run a tap, let’s see what happens here,’ he said with his head still inside the boiler.
I went into the kitchen, the closest room, and turned the hot tap on. It ran. I waited.
I went out again. ‘Anything?’ I asked.
‘Nothing, mate!’ exclaimed Tony.
‘It usually stops working when the shower’s on.’
‘Well, whatta you doing running the kitchen tap, run the shower, mate, crank it up, let’s see what it can do here,’ said Tony, all in the one sentence.
I went back in, turned the kitchen tap off, then went into the bathroom and ran the shower. I waited. Steam started filling the room. I waited some more.
‘Anything?’ I asked coming out the back door again.
‘Nothing, mate!’ repeated Tony. ‘Works like a dream, mate, perfect, constant gas flow, nice flame, no up and down, what more do you want, I don’t know?’
‘I don’t know either,’ I said and slapped my hands down on my thighs haplessly.
‘What you want me to do here, mate, I don't know, I mean works beautiful, I don’t know, let’s see this shower of yours, Peter, come on,’ he said, again all in the one sentence.
I led Tony to the bathroom. He walked straight into the wet shower and inspected my shower head carefully. ‘Bit rusted, maybe,’ he said.
‘Bit rusted,’ he confirmed. He then got out of the shower and turned the hot tap on. We waited. Steam started filling the room again. Neither of us thought to turn on the fan. We just waited.
He finally shut the water off; it was getting a bit hot and we could barely see each other.
‘Anything?’ I asked even though I knew.
‘Nothing, mate!’ he said.
‘Nothing, mate,’ I repeated dispiritedly.
‘I don’t know what you want me to do here, mate? I mean works all right, you see...’
‘Let’s go back to the kitchen, talk about this and whatta we gonna do, OK, Peter,’ he said.
‘OK,’ I said glumly.
‘So tell me the problem again, Peter, what’s going on here, mate?’ he asked as we walked back to the kitchen.
‘Well, like I said, the hot water runs OK for a few minutes but then cuts out and you have to wait a bit,’ I tried to explain.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ Tony interrupted, ‘wait a bit for the gas to clear in the boiler, yeah sure.’
‘Yeah, and then it works OK for a while but then the water goes cold again.’
‘Yeah, how many times this happen during the shower?’
‘Two or three.’
‘Two or three times, he says,’ said Tony, head tilted to the side, nodding. ‘How long this been happening for, then?’
‘Three months, he says,’ he said, again head tilted, nodding. He looked quite funny like that. ‘Just you here or you got a missus here, too?’ he then asked.
‘There’s a girl,’ I confirmed.
‘There’s a missus, OK, OK,’ he said nodding like it was all starting to make sense. ‘And how long you lived here?’
‘Less than a year.’
‘Less than a year, he says...’
‘And how long you had that regulator installed on the boiler outside?’ he then asked.
‘Regulator?’ I replied dumbly, not really catching on.
‘Yeah, regulator, little thing outside, controls the gas, make sure the water don’t get too hot when it come out the tap.’
‘Err, six months,’ I said, totally guessing.
‘Six months, he says,’ he said and nodded his head in that funny way again. ‘Six months with the regulator, he says...’
‘Maybe,’ I said. I really had no idea.
‘What, water too hot before, was it?’ he asked quite pointedly.
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘Didn’t want to turn the cold tap on, make it less hot, just put a regulator on instead, hey?’
‘I don’t know, I guess,’ I said shrugging my shoulders.
‘So tell me, you call the plumber to put that regulator on or the missus call the plumber to put that regulator on?’
I really had no idea about this bloody regulator, when and why and how or who? Still, this sounded like a very loaded question and I wasn’t going to implicate myself in any wrongdoing, that was for sure. ‘Err, maybe the missus,’ I said sheepishly.
Tony nodded his head thoughtfully once again. ‘OK, OK, and who called me out now, you or the missus too?’
‘Missus too,’ I confirmed warily.
His face totally dropped. ‘Oh, fuck me!’ he exclaimed. ‘Oh, fuck, no good, Peter!’
‘What no good?’
‘The woman! The woman!’ he cried out, gesticulating wildly.
‘She’s good, she’s good,’ I said.
‘The woman always makin’ up the problem, never happy!’
‘No, she’s happy, she’s happy,’ I tried to tell him.
‘Always making up the problem, even when you tell her but she still complain and make up the problem for you!’
‘No problem, no complain, honest,’ I pleaded.
But he wouldn’t have a bar of it and threw his hands out and ranted some more. ‘Always with the complaining, never stop! Always with the different ideas, do this, do that, do this again, you know?’
‘Yes, I know, I know,’ I said trying to placate him.
‘Here, I tell you what I’m a gonna do, I know now!’
‘I’m a gonna replace the shower head for you because it’s a little rusty and when the missus come home you tell her that I not only replace the shower head but I also put in a new regulator in the shower itself to make sure the water flow good and that the gas not cut off no more, OK, Peter?’
‘OK, I think,’ I said, a bit confused by so many words in the one sentence.
‘Remember, keep old regulator outside, but new regulator in the shower that don't really exist, you tell her,’ he made clear.
‘I tell her, Tony,’ I told him adopting a faint Italian accent for no justifiable reason.
‘Because I can’t see no problem with your boiler, it work beautiful, but maybe that little regulator the missus had installed on it six months ago, you know, is causing it to play up a bit, I don’t know, but we gotta do something otherwise she won’t be happy!’
‘She’s happy, she’s all right,’ I tried to tell him once more.
‘Of course, she won’t be happy,’ he said, totally not listening to what I was saying, quite frankly. ‘We do something now, I be back soon,’ he said and went off to his van.
‘Remember what I tell you,’ said Tony getting into his van after the work had been done. ‘Remember, Peter, my friend.’
‘I’ll try to, Tony,’ I said.
‘You tell the missus about the shower head and the regulator in the shower that don’t exist, OK? Don’t worry about a little lying, it’s OK, trust me, I do it all the time, mate.’
‘OK, Tony,’ I said adopting that poor Italian accent again.
‘Then she’ll be happy and then you’ll be happy too, all right.’
‘Because like they say, happy missus, happy life...’
‘Yep, like they say.’
‘Ciao, Peter, take care, mate, and take care of the missus too,’ he said and then turned the engine of his clapped-out van over and revved it unnecessarily hard.
‘Ciao, Tony,’ I said.
‘Ciao, Peter!’ he repeated before roaring away like a real hoon.
That evening I told the ‘missus’ all about Tony and what he did and what he didn’t do and what he told me to tell her he did.
She took it pretty well. She actually thought it was funny, or at the very least amusing, at first. But then she wondered whether all men were really like that, whether all men blamed the woman for any problem when the woman wasn’t around? I said I didn’t know but maybe all old-school Italian plumbers were like that, and only when it came to plumbing-related problems. Well, mostly...
As for the hot water, it stopped cutting out and worked beautiful from that day on. No kidding. So maybe it was the rusted shower head all along or maybe it was just a big coincidence, but whatever it was, Tony the plumber fixed it in the end, for sure, mate, no worries…