• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 158 (Playing the Cancer Card)


    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  0.00 miles;  Running Total: 83.16 miles)

    Day 158 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    Some things should be easy, and yet, they’re not. For instance, today’s story…

    I was on the phone with my friend Tina. It was one of those long phone conversations where you don’t even notice the time passing because you’re on the phone with one of your best friends. I couldn’t even tell you what we talked about for four hours, but somehow we always manage to fill in the blank spaces.

    I did light housework as I talked. Loaded the dishwasher, put clothes on hangers.

    I walked to the back of the closet to hang up some clothes. I’d just slid some hangers to one side when I felt water squelch up between my toes.

    I looked down, perplexed. I cradled the phone between my shoulder and my ear and squatted down to feel the carpet with my hands. The floor wasn’t just wet in one spot. It was wet from wall to wall.

    Did the kids spill something? I thought. Why would they have water in the closet? Oh. Wait… he’s six. Logic does not apply.

    But the floor wasn’t just damp. It was soaking wet. Connor excels at mess-making, but even he would have trouble with this one.

    “Tina, I gotta go,” I said into the phone. “I think we have a water leak.”

    I called Justin and walked him through what I’d found. During this conversation I discovered that I am woefully ignorant of how my own home works.

    Justin told me to check a spigot on the front side of the house, right outside the closet wall.

    “There’s a faucet there?”

    “Actually, just shut the water off to the house.”

    “Okay,” I said. Then, “Um, how do I do that?”

    He was silent a moment. Then, “I’m coming home.” Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Call the warranty company.”

    I’m worse than useless when it comes to home repairs. I’m mostly a glorified door man for service workers. I can point and say stupid things like, “Should there be water there?” That’s about it.

    But make a phone call?

    Yes! I can do that!

    I dialed the 800 number for the warranty company. I was a little miffed when I got a machine instead of a human.

    A pleasant electronic female voice told me, “Please describe the nature of the problem you are experiencing. You can say something like ‘plumbing problem’ or ‘my dishwasher won’t drain’.”

    I waited a beat, then said, “Plumbing problem.”

    “Sorry. I didn’t get that. Please describe the nature of the problem you are experiencing. You can say something like ‘plumbing problem’ or ‘my dishwasher won’t drain’.”

    “Plumbing problem,” I said again.

    A pause, then, “Sorry. I didn’t get that. I can list your options—“

    “There’s. Water. On. The. FLOOR.” I carefully enunciated each word.

    A pause, then, “Sorry I didn’t get—“

    I hit the zero button.


    “Please wait while I connect you to a representative.”


    Victory! A human being at last!

    I soon learned I should have stuck with the machine.

    The phone rang several times before a man with a very thick accent of unknown origins answered.

    “Thank you for calling *unintelligible*. *unintelligible* Hector. How may *unintelligible*?”

    When he stopped talking I made an educated guess what to say next.

    “There’s water all over the floor in the master closet in my bedroom. I can’t tell where the water is coming from. I don’t see a leak, but I think it’s coming from inside the wall.”

    “Okay, ma’am, I can *unintelligible* with that.” I heard a rustling like he was adjusting his microphone. “Where is the leak?”

    Wait…, I thought. Didn’t I just say that?

    “In the master closet.”

    “Okay. And on the floor?”

    “Yes, the floor is wet.”

    “Did *unintelligible* spill water?”

    I can’t entirely fault him for this since I had the same thought, but still… would I call a warranty company if we were talking about a glass of spilled water?

    I took a breath.

    “Nooo. There’s too much. And the floor’s wetter the closer I get to the wall. I think it’s coming from inside the wall.”

    “Ma’am, can you *unintelligible* where the water is coming from?”

    I held the phone away from my ear and looked at it in disbelief.

    Was I speaking gibberish?

    I mean, it’s been known to happen recently, but I’m usually aware of it.

    “Hello? Ma’am?”

    I put the phone back to my ear.

    “No, I told you. I can’t see where the water is coming from. I think it’s leaking from inside the wall.”

    “But *unintelligible* water on the floor.”

    “Um. Yes. It leaked from the wall to the floor. It went, you know, down.”

    This sounded epically stupid, even to my ears.

    I heard the click of keyboard keys. “Leak … is on … the floor.”

    “No. Leak is in the wall. Water is on the floor.”

    “Okay, I see. Can you see *unintelligible* water is coming from?”

    “What? No. I can’t see it. It’s in the wall.”

    “Okay, I see. Ma’am if you can’t see *unintelligible* then *unintelligible* plumbers *unintelligible* to file a claim. You *unintelligible* pay a sixty dollar service fee.”

    “Oka-ay,” I said.

    I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d just agreed to, but by now I’d pay sixty dollars just to be transferred to someone else, let alone for a service fee.

    “So can *unintelligible* where the leak is?”

    Aaaand… I lost my shit.

    “No! No, I cannot. I cannot tell you where the water is coming from. I think it’s in the wall, but I need someone to come look. I need someone to come soon. The floor is soaking wet. No one spilled anything. The water is spreading and I just need you to send someone out here to take. a. look. at. it.”

    I stopped speaking, breathing hard.

    “Ma’am, *unintelligible* can’t identify where the leak is *unintelligible* can’t file a claim and *unintelligible* pay the sixty dollar service fee. Can *unintelligible* the water is coming from?”

    And then I did it. I played the Cancer Card.

    Making my voice as low and calm as possible, I said, “Look, I’m on chemotherapy. I have cancer. I cannot have the water shut off to my house for days at a time while you figure out if a claim can be filed. I just want someone to come and fix it.” I all but hissed those last words.

    After a long and not entirely comfortable pause, Hector said, “Yes, ma’am. We’ll have *unintelligible* within twenty four hours, ma’am.”

    “Thank you.” The words tasted like ash on my tongue.

    “Ma’am, please be aware *unintelligible* fee of sixty dollars.”

    I sighed and closed my eyes.

    “Yes, Hector. A fee. Sixty dollars. Fine.”

    I hung up, and stared down at the soggy carpet, exhausted in all the wrong ways.

    Today’s silver lining: The cancer card should not be thrown out lightly, but it does have its uses.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.


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6 Responsesso far.

  1. Tina Smith says:

    I was wondering all day what caused the leak. Sigh. When we were fixing the world problems on the phone, we should have thought to fix future problems also.

    Hope that the leak is fixed now!

  2. Epbj says:

    Ohmygawd…. I think I have been talking to one of Hector’s brothers with my home warrenty company. Soo sorry, I feel your frustration. I love your ‘unintelligibles’
    I hope Conner just spilled some water on the floor in there 🙂

  3. Pat Sincox says:

    I hate service contracts. You pay good money for the piece of mind, then the job’s are sub-contracted to the lowest bidder. You pay your additional trip fee, and they invariably find something that also must be fixed (along with the reported problem), but is not covered specifically in the contract that is in forece this year (and not necessarily the same as when you signed up multiple years earlier). Goes with the old saying that you get what you pay for. And insurance, in its many forms, is a necssary evil, but still suck to deal with………rarely on a understandable human level. Hang in there!!

  4. Wow… I just lived this scenario two months ago, with my husband sick, sick, sick from his treatment. Ugh! I hope you got the leak fixed — but I know clean-up can be a BEAR!!! The leak is the easy part!

  5. […] plumber showed up and fixed the leak.  It turns out that a copper pipe was bent.  The pinched pipe formed a teeny tiny hole that […]

  6. Leslee says:

    I HATE talking to someone you can’t understand, you have way more patience than I. I apologize than ask to speak to someone that speaks clearer!!!!
    Works!!!!!! 🙂

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