Unprompted: Some Solid Plumbing Advice 

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A good plumber is hard to find. A bad plumber, well, you don’t want to find one of those.

When a pipe breaks in the middle of the night the first thing you should do is turn off the water — all of it. Then grab a mop and reduce the damage the water has already done to the hardwood floors.

After you’ve done your B-Dry thing, go back to bed and wait until morning to call a plumber. They don’t like to be disturbed after hours. They may be busy in the bedroom and will charge you a lot of money if you interrupt. Yes, I know they say they’re 24/7, but not really. For the most part their voice mail is 24/7. The recorder will listen to your frantic message and treat it accordingly — that is to say, it will be passed along to a real person, the next day, when he or she gets ready.

Plumbers are important. Given the state of higher education these days, you might want to urge your offspring to avoid those ridiculous college loan programs and learn to solder pipes, or repair heat pumps, or go into radiator repair — any number of careers that actually matter. All of them pay well and being paid well is high on the list of what young people should aspire to. After all, poverty is highly overrated.

The study of Geoffrey Chaucer is almost as important as pursuing modern dance courses in college. A degree in either one of these may win you immediate employment at say, a Hardee’s. The idea of young people learning something useful seems not to be a useful idea. Now about these athletes, referring here only to the good ones: They can teach us a lot, like take the money while it’s there then go out and buy something that means more than money, whatever that is.

A divinity degree is always useful because you can preach to people. You can purchase a divinity degree online that’s about as good as a real divinity degree. I mean, what is there to really know about things we don’t really know about?

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but lots of us do it anyway because we don’t know any better. Like right now, I could put my laptop away and go read a book on art history. It would help me appreciate what I’m seeing when I visit the Louvre.

When I was a teenager I visited Paris, and except for Pigalle I had no idea what I was looking at. Like most teenagers I thought I was on the cusp of being really smart, but like most teenagers I was young. So I returned to college and studied history, working as a drywall mechanic on the side to help pay tuition. Believe me, there is something ennobling about hanging sheet rock in the freezing weather. It makes one study harder. Anyway, I learned some stuff, and returned to Paris to pick up on what I missed the first time I was there.

All of this is to say, do we really know what we’re doing? For-profit colleges advertise glorious careers but about 75 percent of their students never reach that point and are saddled with government-insured loans to pay for what they didn’t get. Ever hear of Trump University?

My mother was fluent in Latin and French, but after observing me carefully she suggested that when I reached 18, I might want to consider a trade. Mom was perceptive. She knew where my skills lay and it wasn’t between the ears. But like most teens I paid no attention to anyone, least of all my parents, and waddled through a maze of meaningless direction until I found my real calling; though to be honest, I still look around for it.

Doctors, accountants, mechanics, plumbers. You never know when you’ll need one of these, and when you do, it’s doubtful you’ll want to substitute a graduate in ancient religion for someone who really knows something useful.

Need a job? There are millions of unfilled positions right now, but if you have no skills, then for god’s sake, go back to school and learn something. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.



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