Today, I’m hosting a plumber at our house. The plumber is here to seal some kind of old sewer line under our house so we can displace the growing family of rodents who live there. Then, when all the easy entrances and exits have been closed, the Rat Whisperer will come back to hasten their demise. Let’s not think about that one too minutely. I can squash those enormous roaches or water bugs in a nano, but I don’t take care of rodents.
“I don’t get tough, Mr. Gittes,” Faye Dunaway’s character tells Jack Nicholson’s in Chinatown. “My lawyer does.” She says this with such world-weariness, at such an aristocratic removal from the unpleasantries of life. I have always wanted an excuse to say those words in my own life, but the occasion has never come up.
Still, I can say: “I don’t get tough with rats, Mr. Gittes. My Rat Whisperer does.” And whirl away the two feet to go to my office, which is not as dramatic an exit as I’d like, but you make do with what you have.
But before we get to the Rat Whisperer, we have to deal with the plumber. Since I work at home alone, engaging in too-frequent conversations with the walls and the cat, this is a big event in my life. Kind of exciting.
I’ve already talked at length to the first plumber and know all about how he had rat problems at his house, too. The fact that the little vermin came back is demoralizing, but I decide not to dwell on that.
So we talked and once again, I realize what an easy person I am to work for. I’m desperate to be pulled away from the novel I’m working on, so I’m always very chatty. Also, I’m very sympathetic. We once had an exterminator here who told me he didn’t like to crawl under houses and I understood completely. I’m claustrophobic and it would kill me to crawl under anybody’s house. Then my husband got back and said, What the hell are you talking about? It’s his job to crawl under people’s houses. So what’s he complaining about? Which kind of missed the point (empathy), as far as I was concerned, but there you go. Men often see different points that frequently do not involve empathy.
Anyway, they’re now smoothing the edges of the old sewer pipe so they can seal it perfectly and I’m going to take that on faith, since there’s no way I’ll be climbing and crawling down there and inspecting the job. They’re running an electric line down under the house and they’ve got a light and they’re making such a racket that I really can’t concentrate on my novel.
But I do concentrate on one thing, as I think of all the little plumbing jobs that need to be checked around our aging house: Other people want their kids to marry doctors or lawyers. I’m kind of holding out for a plumber.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)