IN the tranquility of recollection, I have finally pieced together the sequence of what happened that Monday of flood and fire. The events prove my long-held contention that some Mondays are more discombobulating than others. Still half asleep and desiring nothing more than a clean shirt, I waded -- literally! -- into my closet. The moment I opened closet doors a rivulet meandered across the bedroom and down the hall toward the kitchen. Now, I am not at my best at sunrise on a Monday (or any other) morning, yet I sensed right away this trickle's sole ambition in life was to become the Amazon before noon.
Removing a panel at the rear of the closet, I further discovered a pipe in the wall between closet and adjacent bathroom had spent the night trying to transform itself into a geyser. Instantly alert, I shut off water at the curbside meter, placed a call to a nearby plumbing company, then calmed down enough to realize I had better phone the boss before he left home and report I would be late to work.
Twenty miles away, on the north side of town, his day had gotten off to a rousing start, too. About the hour my bedroom was converting to a rice paddy, his phone rang. It was his son-in-law. This young man, still shaken from the experience of becoming a father a few days earlier, had detected shortly after breakfast a smell in the house never noticed before, rather like, well, something burning. He and the boss's daughter knew it was very early to telephone, but they thought they might invite a second opinion as to whether they should take the baby and get out of the house.
The very question propelled my boss out of his house! He instructed son-in-law to call the fire department, leaped at his shoes, grabbed his wife, and bolted into morning traffic. By the time of my phone call, he was en route to rescue ``the world's most wonderful grandson.''
Meanwhile, the plumber and his helper arrived. ``Water was spurting out of a little pipe-of-a-thing that kind-of, you know, sticks up above all the other pipes,'' I explained, giving them the benefit of my intimate acquaintance with the southside crisis as we sloshed toward the bedroom. ``Goop on the pipe end wore out. I can't get it to seal again.''
Graciously making no comment about my hasty repair with adhesive tape and four rubber bands, the plumber muttered that when my house was built the plumbing contractor, in a hurry or possibly a huff, bent over the manifold (whatever that was) rather than capping it off. I had no chance to speculate whyever would anyone be so careless, for crouching in the closet with his tool-kit, the plumber, who seemed to know what he was doing, commenced waving a blowtorch mere inches from my entire wardrobe.
On the northern front, my boss and his wife had no sooner corroborated what their daughter and son-in-law observed -- the house reeked with an odor of something smoldering -- than, siren blaring, a fire truck arrived. A fireman and firewoman bounded through the front door and sniffed the air.
Turning to young son-in-law, the woman said, ``I'll bet you've recently become parents, have you? Wonderful! And for the first time? Congratula-tions!''
``Yes, uh,'' admitted his wife, somewhat perplexed. ``How did -- ?''
``Grandson,'' boasted the boss. ``He's -- my gosh, someone . . . run upstairs and grab him!''
``If you don't mind, sir,'' said the fireman, ``maybe we'll look at the kid later. Right now, would you show us the dish-washer?''
While the plumber torched, grooved, and capped the copper whoos-it that kept air from clanking in pipes throughout my house, his helper disappeared. I assumed the boy had gone out to their truck, but as I was signing my check for the service call, he emerged from the far side of the house where he had been replacing faulty washers and gaskets.
``I'll write another check,'' I told the plumber and added with a whiff of exasperation instantly regretted, ``I guess you'd like to write another invoice then?''
``Nawh, too much paperwork,'' he said. ``The boy hates to stand around doing nothin' when the job takes only one of us. Besides, those parts he installed couldn't have cost more than seven or eight dollars.''
After this jolt, naturally I was quite understanding when the boss later confessed that if they were astonished by the fireman's request to see the dishwasher, they were flabbergasted when he reached into that appliance and removed the remains of a plastic baby-bottle cap that had melted onto the heating coil during the dry cycle.
Into their frenzy of apologies, the firewoman intruded, ``What trouble? And don't be embarrassed. We make this sort of call to the homes of new parents fairly often. Sure beats a real fire.'' She and her partner waited until they were back in the fire truck before they doubled up laughing. Moreover, they even took time to admire the world's greatest grandson.
The tribulations of that morning left the boss and me pretty bushed for the rest of the week. By Friday, however, we were able to agree it actually does one good to be discombobulated now and then. Encountering the integrity of a job well done, by people who so enjoy being of service that they give more than you expect, is quite refreshing on any day -- but especially on a Monday.