Monday, June 16, 2014

The Prince

Earlier this month, a plumber came to see about the toilet that, since being installed a year ago, has required two, and often three or four, flushes to get the, uh, stuff down. The flushes vary noticeably in behavior, as well. The first might just kind of swirl around on the surface, while often the third shoots right down the pipe. As we stood in my tiny bathroom discussing flush quality, I noticed that the plumber had startlingly beautiful eyes, mostly green with flecks of brown. He convinced me that it’s a matter of having an industrial—no tank—toilet installed in a 100-year-old residential setting and that there was nothing he could do other than fix a small leak that had sprung up more recently.

When he came back with his tools, we got to chatting and he told me he has a 90-minute commute each way, five days a week. I asked what he does while he’s driving and he said he listens to KQED and learns a lot from it. I had pegged him for someone who maybe listened to talk radio or sports, so it was nice to learn we had NPR in common.

He told me all about his son, who is five—his “prince.” He said his wife has done a wonderful job of encouraging their son’s imagination. She goes on a walk with him every day, and leaves her cell phone at home, so that she is fully engaged with their child. Very nice to hear. (If going out without a cell phone sounds frightening, remember that every single mother in history did the same until 15 years ago.) Every day I see parents walking along pushing a stroller with one hand and using the other to hold the smart phone they’re gazing dully into, while the child stares into space. I really wonder what that whole generation is going to be like. Like, I wonder if 12-year-old girls are going to try to stab their best friend to death because of something they saw online.


The plumber spoke glowingly about his wife—what a fantastic mother she is, and what a fine artist. At some point, he said, “We’ve been talking all about me! What do you do?” What a lovely fellow he was.
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