Be proud of me, y’all. I got the plumber to come unplug our bathroom sink (pictured) – in Spanish.
Now, I admit that I wasn’t starting from scratch. This plumber, a nice guy named Domingo, has worked on our apartment before. We found him through our friend Valeria. Valeria coordinates work on the apartments and houses handled by our property management company. She’s from Eastern Europe originally, but she speaks Spanish like a native (which means competently and really, really fast). Her English is okay, but she’d like to improve it. Therefore, we have a tacit language agreement; she texts me in English, and I text her in Spanish. The results are sometimes hilarious, but so far she’s gotten us what we need.
She’s been so helpful to us partly because she’s a nice person to start with, but Valeria also has the right disposition for her job. She’s a born fixer, and I mean that in the very best way. If Valeria worked in Washington, DC, she would be the person you’d turn to for tickets to a sold-out show at the Kennedy Center, an interpreter in an obscure language for a foreign dignitary, or the private number of the person who’s an expert on a given subject and an entrèe into the office of the Congressional representative who chairs the committee your new expert needs to talk to. Instead, she’s in Torrevieja, so she lavishes her talents on dispatching house cleaners, car services, carpenters, appliance installers, and the like. And plumbers, like Domingo.
So when our bathroom sink started draining about as quickly as Mitch McConnell moves legislation sponsored by Democrats, and we’d exhausted our DIY drain-cleaning options, it was time to call Domingo. I called him, and we arranged IN SPANISH for him to come take a look the next morning. He arrived promptly and set to work with liquids and plumbing tools and God only knows what. We could hear him working and muttering; my Spanish isn’t great, but I’m pretty sure there was some heavy duty swearing going on. Periodically he would emerge from the bathroom, announce, “I have to go down to my car to get a bigger tool,” and return a couple of minutes later with all sorts of things that probably were lines for reaming the pipe but which looked like something left over from the Spanish Inquisition. Finally, after about an hour, Domingo came out of the bathroom with a huge smile on his face. “Forty years! I think no one has cleaned this line in 40 years!” He gestured for us to come look. A wad of what looked like hairball that a woolly mammoth would cough up lay on the floor. Having been paid and thanked, Domingo cleaned up and went on his way. The hairball is now out of the pipes and the apartment, and water no longer accumulates in the basin when I wash my hands or brush my teeth. Hooray!
Our experience got me thinking that the United States really needs a good plumber. I’m thinking here of the systemic racism that plagues our beloved country. We don’t have 40 years of accumulated, toxic gunk of white supremacy and oppression and violence against people of color; we have 400. If you hadn’t seen it before, surely the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th laid that nasty fact bare. The willingness to kill in order to protect entrenched white supremacy should make it clear to everyone that calls for unity and having a Vice-President of color are not going to be enough to change the necessary number of hearts and minds to the necessary degree. Don’t get me wrong; those calls are important, and Kamala Harris is amazing and historic and fantastic. But we have a hairball the size of our beautiful 50 states. In the words of Domingo, we’re going to need a bigger tool.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, friends. And I know that systemic racism is not the only problem our country faces or the sole motivation for the attack on the Capitol. But I do know what happens when you allow the blockages to continue, and it’s not pretty. So let’s use our voices and our votes to be part of that bigger tool.