What I love the best about my friend Al are his patience and his impatience. He gives me encouragement when I most need it and a hard time when I deserve it. Sometimes I’m after some pity coddling and he surprises me with tough love. But before I can pout about my hurt feelings, I realize I needed that dose of tough love after all. And then Al lets me pout a little anyway.
He can tease me and console me in the same sentence. I’ll never figure out how he does that; how he knows just the right thing to say when it really counts. Maybe he’s just a good guesser.
Take today. I called Al to ask, “what’s the difference between you,” a sexy, sharply dressed architectural plumbing engineer, “and like, the other kind,” the greasy-fingered lug with butt cleavage?
Al pauses for modesty’s sake and then concedes, “there’s a pretty big difference.”
“Yeah,” I sigh, “that’s what I thought.”
“Why are you asking?”
I’m leaning against the bathroom door jamb, bracing the phone between my cheek and my shoulder while I rub slick gray tub gunk off my fingers.
“My shower drain is clogged.”
My shower drain is clogged. My bathtub right now contains a plunger, a tea kettle, a bent wire shirt hanger, and a pair of pliers. A pot holder, a funnel, a flat head screwdriver, and a coil of coaxial cable are scattered on the tile floor beside the tub. The drain stopper mechanism lies crookedly in the sink.
I tell Al every idea I’ve had and tried to coax the clog either up or down and out of the drain. The plunging, the baking soda and white vinegar chased by boiling water, the wire hanger down the drain and then down through the hole under the faucet where the drain stopper used to be.
“Finally I tried—and I thought this was genius, and no matter what, I deserve a little credit for it—snaking some coaxial cable down there and I pulled out some gunk but when I tried to go back in for more it got stuck.”
I step into the tub and hold the phone with one hand while I jiggle the tail of coaxial cable leading into unseen depths of my drain.
“That . . . actually sounds like it would have been a pretty good idea,” Al offers, just a playful hint of reluctance in his voice.
“If it didn’t get stuck.”
“Exactly. But now I couldn’t even call a butt cleavage plumber because I’m too embarrassed to let anyone see that I’ve got coaxial cable stuck in my bathtub!” I make sure to keep calling it ‘coaxial cable’ because I’m pretty proud that I know the technical name for TV-hookup-wire.
“Riiight, right.” Sometimes Al laughs with me and sometimes he laughs at me. I like times like this, when we both laugh at me together.
“Hey, I’ll call you later. I gotta go do guy stuff.”
‘Guy stuff’ turns out to be setting up a new flat screen television. While I sit on the edge of my tub with my phone tucked under my chin, listlessly tugging on the TV-hookup-wire stuck down the bathtub-drain-pluggy-thingie.
With a flashlight and the deformed wire hanger, I manage to free all foreign bodies from the tub. All except for whatever has caused my drainage problems in the first place. There are two inches of standing water in the tub while I wash my hair, but I did undo all the bonus damage I caused by myself. And I can’t wait to tell Al and hear him laugh at me again.