April 28, 2014

Top Three Excuses a Narcissistic Plumber Pulls Out of His Ass

Noah's Ark with Pink Unicorns 15-16th century

Top Three Excuses a Narcissistic Plumber Pulls Out of His Ass:

Excuse number one: "You turned on the outside faucet and forgot to turn it off!"

Excuse number two: "Your nephew turned on the outside faucet and forgot to turn it off!"

Excuse number three: "Your outside faucet turned itself on!" 

We had a water problem last week which prompted me to consider the symbolism and meaning of water since four times already in this house, water percolated through ceilings and trickled down walls. Two times our family room was flooded when an outside faucet froze in the icy winds glazing the southeast corner of our home.

Three years in this house and my bedroom looked like a zen waterfall when rain gushed from roof spouts faster than gutters offloaded the autumn deluge, subsequently rippling across hand-plastered hand-painted walls. You know those Japanese slab fountains at Costco? That was my bedroom. Then last week, water seeped through the basement carpeting, threatening to turn my office into a floating book pond. I had been writing on my computer when deciding to play a CD that was in a box in the corner in my office in time. The bottom of the box was damp and that is how we caught flood #4 in a house that's only eight years old and assumed to be safe for families. The four of us are now suffering debilitating symptoms of para-Noah. Yea, bad joke but kinda funny if you've studied trauma cry-teria. Okay okay, I'll stop with the sn-ARKS. Unicorns. Seriously? If you love this painting, leave a comment. Please leave two comments side-by-side because one comment won't multiply and replenish my self-esteem.

Imagine my shame calling plumbers four times to a house that cost my life savings yet can't do what four sticks and a tarp accomplish: keep my feet dry. I don't understand if there's a spiritual message in repetitive floodings or a lawsuit against my builder which would never succeed in a state that supports capitalists, not divorced women who hate marriage more than zen waterfalls in bedrooms. Just kidding about hating marriage. I love marriage but hate divorce and you'd best like both if you're making vows these days.

Two days prior to the office flood, plumbers had installed a whole-house water purification system. They had also installed a new water heater since the former was springing a leak. Because the afore-mentioned builder had walled over the shut-off valve for our house, the plumber had to go outside to a manhole next to the street in order to close the main waterline. No problem. Lots of people have homes without indoor shut-off valves. I can picture the plumber in my mind's eye as I type: walking confidently to the street; figuring out where the water line enters our home; spying an outside faucet that if left open, would relieve pressure when he turned the water back on. And so he did. He wrenched the handle six times and left it open, thus sayeth me. I did not see him do this when he did-eth it, only in my mind's eye after the emergency phone call two days later.

Same Company, Different Plumber

As soon as I felt the office carpeting squishing under my feet, I called the same company who sent a different plumber who showed up in less than ten minutes. He was on his way home. He lived nearby. And he loved my living room draperies which would have been perfect in his theater room he said. Musta cost a pretty penny he said. We went downstairs to my office so he could hear the squishy carpet and see the streaming knotty alder baseboards. He speculated that maybe the extensive plumbing work had messed with the pressure regulator, inconveniently located somewhere behind the wall in my office. He didn't know exactly where for sure but in order to stop the tsunami, he needed permission to cut holes in my sheet-rock, destroy my wallpaper of which I have no extra, and install a new regulator and permanent access panel for the shut-off valve. I'm thinking ugly access panel. I'm thinking 'whack-a-mole' hole punches across my wallpaper. I'm thinking squishy carpeting isn't so bad.

After describing what "might" be the problem and triggering my naturally-catastrophic-imagination, he asked, "Did you know the faucet by your front door is running?"

On our way back up the stairs, he questioned who in our house might have left the front faucet running and had it been running all winter because he'd noticed a wisteria tree floating down the street, was it ours? He was sure the flood in my office had been caused by Vinca Minor run-off. We went outside to close the water faucet which took six wrenches of the handle before he stopped Niagara Falls. "I really think this is your problem," he said, his boots now mired in mud. "I would suggest making a notation the next time you turn on an outdoor faucet so this never happens again." Stern eye. Like my Dad's. Feeling ashamed of myself now.

We went back in the house and back downstairs to stare at the wall and talk about it being against building code to sheet-rock over regulators and shut-off valves which upset me even more because it triggered my divorced-woman-vulnerability to unethical contractors and how inept I am on my own. Another thought comes to mind, "Find builder. Send hate mail."

What I wanted to explain in telling this story is how stupid we can be when the unexpected happens. How hard it is to think clearly when running back and forth with precious books in hand because they'd been piled in the corner because you spent your time writing instead of organizing. And the whole time you're stacking books in a dry family room thank God, you're kicking yourself for procrastination and sloth. I wanted to explain how trusting we are when someone speaks with authority about something we know nothing about when what we do know is that antique curios can't sit on soggy carpeting without ruining their clawed feet. They must be rescued even while plumbers call buddies with thermal devices operating like X-ray vision for walls.

While rescuing my signed Robert Sapolsky and checking for heart-breaking book damage, I hear the plumber say, "Yes, I'll let her know. $150 for a house call and $300 an hour for labor," and my mind preoccupied itself with another impending disaster calculating the balance in my checking account, the limit on my Visa. The whole time I'm doing five things at once and hoping sciatica doesn't crimp me over like a paper staple, the plumber waits like an elementary school principal calling wayward students to task. I wanted to write about how hard it is to reason in unreasonable situations.

While the plumber phoned his buddy, my nephew and I rescued files that should have been put away but were't for the same reason my books were on the floor. "I don't know how long she left that faucet on," we hear him tell Wally X-ray. "Her water must have been running a long LONG time. Definitely longer than two days." His face expresses deep concern now, appearing a little too fake for a woman who divorced a rat bazturd.

"I didn't turn the faucet on," I insisted, facing my nephew who was getting the plumber's evil eye as the second most likely culprit. He insisted he hadn't either. Then my nephew's analytic Aspergers kicked in: "We aren't even watering our lawn this early in the season Aunt Tatie, and the hoses are still in the garage," he said. A moment of clarity for me.

"Why would we wrench the faucet six times," I proposed, "letting it run full-blast without a hose?" The plumber stiffened his face to look as authoritarian as any boomer's father worth-his-WWII-medals and said, "The only plausible explanation is that the pressure built up and your faucet turned on by itself!"

Now I don't know why any woman in her right mind would believe him, but I did. Momentarily. Momentarily, while my racing mind was trying to make sense of shut-off valves and regulators, water pressure and people who pull excuses out of their asses. And that is something else I wanted to write about. We suspend disbelief when we're stressed and anxious, trusting that someone with more expertise than ourselves will resolve the crisis. When questioning their certainty takes too much time and energy, we yield to their competence. We need to save our furniture. We need to save our books. Who cares why they're floating. Just stop the water, rescue the valuables and sort everything out later when the furniture's safe. We focus on the immediate problem; we aren't focused on assigning blame. The narcissist focuses on blame and takes advantage of confusion.

We climbed the stairs to the front door. "Since I live nearby and was on my way home," the plumber paused to smile generously, "I won't charge you for the service call. It's my pleasure to serve our loyal customers."

Keep your feet dry! Even IF you're a curio cabinet!
By the time we had climbed the stairs to say goodbye, my Inner Autodidact had wised up to the plumber's pseudo-magnanimity. I felt an overwhelming urge to spit in his eye but didn't because my little sister tried that with Dad and the consequences landed her in therapy.

Suddenly I knew, just KNEW the plumber had noticed the open faucet when he first rang our door bell. When he saw that running faucet and knew his company had been there two days prior, his clean-up job changed to assigning blame & avoiding responsibility; exaggerating costs & increasing my fear (how relieved I was when all it took was six wrenches of the handle); watching my reactions and gauging how well he was doing protecting the company from restoration costs. He was likely proud of having saved carpet cleaning fees, refinishing baseboards and paying for water-logged books worth at least five cents each. (Except for my signed Monkey Luv which must be worth a fortune because my daughter gave it to me as a gift. She finds it utterly hilarious that her Mom thinks Robert Sapolsky  is hot).

Moral of the story

When it comes to business, company profits encourage people to trespass ethical boundaries without shame, yea even moral boundaries considering the plumber is my neighbor and a church goer. The message to employees in a narcissistic society is to never admit culpability. Never take responsibility if you can confuse a client into blaming herself or her nephew. Be honest with the client and get fired. Never feel bad about lying because you're doing the right thing for the good of the company. 

Personal relationships have been tainted by contemporary business practices say I, reducing human relationships to a cost benefit analysis. When society's highest value IS the bottom line, the love boat sustaining all our lives is most assuredly destined to sink. 



Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics) "I once met a man who for five years served as the "ethics director" for a major aerospace company. He finally resigned the post in protest and considered leaving the company, even though he would lose a big salary and benefit package. He said that the executive team had their own separate set of business ethics and that they were deep into rationalization and justification. Wealth and power were big on their agendas, and they made no excuse for it anymore. They were divorced from reality even inside their own organization..." ~Stephen Covey 

Narcissism Impairs Ethical Judgement Even Among the Highly Religious 2012. "Although high levels of narcissism can impair ethical judgment regardless of one's religious orientation or orthodox beliefs, narcissism is more harmful in those who might be expected to be more ethical, according to a Baylor University study published online in the Journal of Business Ethics."

An interesting research study on narcissism: 2013 "Many believe that enhanced levels of materialism may be disproportionately present in university business students, and some have gone so far as to argue that this is, at least partly, the result of business schools advocating materialistic greed, profit, and the acquisition of wealth over all other goals." ~Narcissism, Materialism, and Environmental Ethics in Business Students by Bergman et al.


  1. Hi CZ,
    Ugh, water problems and more ugh for water problems in the house. I feel ya. I loved your sense of humour in writing this, not easy after dealing with plumbers like this. You brought up an excellent point in how we lose reason in unexpected situations. That is true, I find, busy running around trying to deal with it and solve it. When it seems that many difficult people were busy placing the blame when something goes wrong. The time is there then when others are doing the work to come up with a way to assign blame - take advantage of the confusion as you say.

    As in relationships and business that don't keep ethics in mind, the shift of work and responsibility are shifted too much to one side. The bottom line is often achieved through the strategy of 'placing responsibility on the other party'. It works well to achieve targets. Labour is one of the highest costs for businesses, why not shift the work over to others like customers and take none of the responsibility or liability? It sounds like, looks like, feels like a narcissistic relationship.

    Really insightful post on how narcissism operates when problems arise. I hope the damp is better in the house and no water comes back. Hugs, TR

    1. Hi TR! I wanted to escape my trubbles and write something creative that would make me laugh, even if no one else did. So yea, I'm glad you "got" my sense of humor which can always be counted on in a crisis.

      The fascinating thing about conscious healing (paying attention to our thoughts and feelings) is that we suddenly notice we're noticing; and had never noticed in the past that we weren't noticing.That awesome sentence admits to being "reactive" rather than consciously aware. Because the Authoritarian Plumber triggered my childhood issues with "authority figures", I felt like a specimen in a lab experiment---observing myself. What is encouraging is that it used to take several days sorting out "why" I was upset. Then the time reduced to three days. Then one. I'm almost up to "real time" awareness.

      As my daughter and I discussed the Plumber's situation, she reminded me that not all customers are as reasonable as myself. That employees avoid admitting fault because customers can be litigious, demanding, unreasonable. I can empathize with the plumber's situation and understand why he would evade responsibility. But in this circumstance, there was no question as to "who" left the faucet on and instead of stepping up to the plate, he shifted the blame to me. There was no uncertainty as to "who" caused the problem, which means the plumber was lying intentionally.

      I have been a loyal customer for several years which should have carried some weight. Our home is under contact to their company (which I appreciate ) so they do all our maintenance and service work. I had never met "this guy" before. It's left me in a quandary. Do I contact the company and tell them how disappointed I am? Or do I say nothing and preserve our relationship? I really like the other employees who've been absolutely dreams to work with. Well maybe there's always one bad apple in every organization, eh? Do we point out those bad apples or drop it?


    2. That is wonderful to getting to real time awareness. That is funny how life events like this trigger something from our childhood. I find this happening more or I am getting more aware of it, how even a small incident can have big triggers in me.

      Hahaha, not all customers are reasonable, yeah, there is customer service and then there is customer behavior. The fact you were reasonable and trying to solve the problem with him is something that needed to be considered in his approach. Not jump to lying and blaming.

      It is hard to say when it comes to a random person who behaves this way or is it a company culture. I worked for a company that was narcissistic, we were all behaving this way as a means to survive. I did things I was not happy about and there was a culture that supported these behaviors. It is a balance and yeah companies have to avoid liability and then to what degree? I can understand the quandary, because he could be acting like this because this is how he responds to things in life rather than company culture. xxTR

  2. Right now I'm up early, as we are expecting tornadoes from the west to batter Georgia, and the damn wind chimes I thought were so neat have kept me up all night. Plus fear and rain. So, I feel your pain on the water issue and the plumber issue and isn't narcissism the heart of all this crap that obstructs life and other better things? We had our dealings with Router Rotter (spelled that wrong) 4 years ago....some plum trees clogged the line to the street....and it cost us almost 10,000.00 clams to dig (for 4 weeks a tunnel 4 feet deep by 2 feet wide by 84 feet long) and repipe. During which, they left a small bulldozer at the end of the driveway (and we had to spend 2,000 extra to replace the driveway) and it rained for 3 of those weeks, therefore they couldn't 'complete the work'. They pushed us to hire their inline camera, yep there were some roots in that pipe, but that alone cost 400.00. Jesus. It went down hill from there. Plus, they destroyed 25 years of a garden and the soil, and just replaced it with Georgia red clay. My tomatoes never recovered yet. The $$$ went on the Equity line and we are still paying it off.

    So....I feel your pain. The injury to insult is that this national company is about 4 times as expensive as a local brand...but damn it. My husband does plumbing, (he was a general contractor) and this was something he couldn't deal with. The toilets overboiled on both floors. The devil in the details.

    I hate the back of toilets. Actually, I am traumatized by the water in the back of toilets. kDon't ask why, but this stuff is the stuff of nightmares for me. And I have a husband here. I don't know what I would do if I was divorced. Oh, yes, I was divorced, and had a plumber in. And it was fraught with issues. Again, I feel your pain.

    It seems that America is run by the bottom line today. And don't get me started on preachers, priests, rabbis, churches and their bottom line pleas. There is no safe harbor.

    Your plumber assigning blame is so damn human, but~ Why didn't anyone from this company see that faucet turned on? That's the first thing that plumbers look for...the water source that could be making the problems. This is rather strange...and your builder seems to have avoided some important codes on the turnoff valve.

    We are desperate to believe someone in authority when we feel dis-empowered. And anything in the water works dept (and also electric) would certainly throw us there. I hope this faucet was the problem, but I wonder. Has the ratbazard snuck aroound and could he have turned on the faucet just to bedevil you? Strange stuff here.

    Love, Jane

    1. I hope you are safe and sound and dry and flushing with ease this afternoon! I've been watching the news for updates and it looks bad for people who live downtown so I hope you are okay!! I hope your fishpond survived!

      My plumbing story is boring compared to what you've been through--what a major expense. What a loss of great soil. What a mess! I planted a tree over a pipe when we moved in so thanks for the warning...I'd best be saving up for that fiasco.

      P.S. Doomsdayers say we can drink the water in the back of our toilets during the apocalypse so maybe there's a healing plan for toilet-water-phobias? ha!


  3. LOL~! as to drinking the water at the back of our toilets....ROTF!~ First ya have to remove that heavy cover, and God only knows what monsters be there. LOL! But I like your style.

    I, too, appreciate your wonderful humor in the face of such adversity. It leavens the serious stuff of life.

    The greatest loss to me was the soil in the garden. All 7 feet by 30. that took decades to make, and it will take decades to restore. I don't have enough life left, and with chickens, they get the kitchen compose first and the garden gets the hot chicken shit. LOL! So things get burned here....Be careful about that tree. Our decades old two plum trees got their pound of flesh...and they did it to a cast iron pipe. you probably will have better luck with the pvc stuff today with the new pipes.

    I'm 3 miles south of downtown, but that ain't much of a buffer. The damn city 4 years ago strip mined the 9 acres behind us and that was a wonderful wind/weather buffer. Now we got bamboo and kudzu. Ugh. (though this spring I found stands of very old daffodils that the old and now very dead housewives here threw out in the now-kudzu fields 60 and 70 years ago. Some of them I have never seen the varieties. Anyone who wants old fashioned naturalized daffs just drop me a line and I will send.)

    But! There is hope even for sitting in a wet basement. Today the mail delivered two books: One, Alice Miller's "Though Shall Not Be Aware", about the historic child abuse of modern (and not so modern) family behavior....she is excellent! and Maria Bellonci's Lucrezia Borgia....rather dry, not a novel...history of the whole Borgia family. So, with a flashlight and some books, I think we can weather anything. Thanks for your loving concern!

    Love, Jane

    1. Thank goodness you're alright! I checked the news and saw windows blown out of skyscrapers and piles of sticks that used to be houses and fell to my knees to kiss my soggy carpet!! Thank goodness its only wet! We just never know when catastrophe will hit and some of the things we allow to ruin our joy, just ain't all that important. (If I had that attitude 100% of the time, I wouldn't have any material for my blog).

      To keep a blog going about narcissism, you have to peer into your glass half-full darkly. You can do that while reading either of the books in your basement. And if you get dig too deep in the mire with Alice Miller, just notify me. I excel at finding silver linings and meaning in even the darkest of human experience.

      Your daffodils sounds enticing. Let's talk.

      Stay warm and dry and hopefully in a well-lit room tonight!


  4. LOL! Aiming to do so. It looks like the tornado threat is lessened but ya never know...especially in the wee hours of the morning before dawn. kThat is where it is most dangerous. And in rush hour.

    Well, you know what Rollo May sez; or what I have twisted his words to mean for me...."Creativity (your blog...) comes through the encounter with opposition":

    I've never read Alice Miller before, but it's time. It's time to understand the behavior of our 50's, 60's parents who didn't even read that old guy who wrote the first book, can't remember his name. And it wasn't Dr. Seuss. or maybe it was. But Alice Miller is German, and some of the German child raising practices were brutal. Preparing for good Nazis in my estimation, or this was the outcome. Either way. And I LOVE< LOVE< LOVE how you are always able to extract the silver linings in the darkest stuff. Keeps me hopeful and reading, too.

    I got tons of daffs that I haven't room to plant, and they be yours (or anyone here...) who wants them. What was nice, is they are multiflowered on some, and some clumps were yellow with orange centers, some were white, etc....and a few very, very fragrant. Notice how modern breeders of flowers (especially roses) have bred out the scent of flowers??? No wonder the bees are having trouble pollenating plants.....

    Yes, sometimes that soggy carpet is a silver lining, but it certainly is hard to live with until something sucks up the water...preferably NOT a tornado. I've been through 3 and that's not a lot, but the damage makes a NM small in comparison. But an NM lasts longer....


    1. Thanks for letting me know you made it through the night okay. That your fish didn't fly through the air, whirling with bushes and daffodils. And it's good to know you weren't stuck in the basement reading Alice Miller during a tornado. YIKES That would be more frightening than Steven King, although let's face it. Childhood is the worst horror of all. I hope when you finish Miller's book that you'll write about it.

      I was reading Lloyde deMause this morning and he mentioned Alice Miller and how similar they were in their perceptions of childhood. Interesting that you'd just commented about reading her book. When you've finished, try reading his book on the History of Childhood and we can all kiss the ground that we live today, not in those "supposedly" righteous days of yore.

      Here's to honest plumbers and a tornado-free summer!

  5. Water pressure built up and the faucet turned itself on. You truly have to love this one. How far up his ass does a plumber have to dig to produce such a turdlet? It's a masterpiece of chicanery. I agree with you that we have to have a skeptical eye from the start ANY time repair work needs to be done. The company guys will ALWAYS blame the homeowner for "misuse" or "forgetting" to turn things off. I've been struggling with sod turning brown, and all I do is water it 24/7. The guy who installed it kept saying to me "you have to keep it good and soaked or it won't root." By the 20th (no exaggeration) time he repeated this after I told him I'd been watering it nonstop day and night, I said to him "If you say that to me one more time I'm going to assume you're not listening to a word I said.All I do is water it. Stop telling me I need to water it." Sometimes you have to just call them on their shit. Men do this to each other all the time. We should't be afraid to just call them on it.


    1. "to produce such a turdlet?" You have such a way with words, CS. ;-P

      There were a couple things I found interesting in the Great Office Flood 2014. For one thing, it's not like construction is unfamiliar to me. I have worked with construction crews. I know how they treat each other and let's just say there's a "pecking" order. It took three months before one crew gave me any credibility and after that, they offered me a permanent job as their "faux painter."

      I expected the plumber to take the stance he did but never in all my years working with men, have they told about faucets turning on by themselves. A less narcissistic plumber (extremely good looking he was...and tall) would offered to help or at least called his boss about cleaning the carpets.

      One of the clues I picked up on was his comment about my draperies which are magnificent no doubt; and his comment about my draperies "costing a pretty penny" which they didn't. Not compared to what it would have cost had I not made them myself. Most guys show up and head for the basement stairs, not noticing anything but "the task."

      What was telling was his interest in keeping us confused, pitted against each other. I felt "played" after he left and that's what was uncommon in this particular situation. People can be belligerent and arrogant and even domineering; but is there anything so irritating as knowing they manipulatedyou?

      p.s. I hope your sod is greening up.


  6. To CS: regarding your sod. IF the ground hasn't been rototilled enough and the surface loosened up to 6 inches (varies, but 6 inches is necessary for seating sod), it won't take, and all that money you spent for sod will produce little to nothing. Sod companies know that they have to prepare a deep enough base for sod....and yes, you have to water, but not as much as you have done. They also have to roll with a heavy roller all the sod to make contact with the subsurface. did they do this? We did sod numerous times and each time it died, because we didn't know what the hell we were doing. You watched them, so if the sod isn't thriving by now (when was it done???) something is wrong. Contact them a raise Hell.

    CZ: Talked to my contractor husband (he got out of that business, lawyers and doctors raped him constantly...) and by code, even in the state you are in.....there must be a visible and accessible water cut off valve in the house or basement. It is Illegal to dry wall it over. Check with the building department....you might have a very good case against your builder.

    And yes, we as women are prone to lies and manipulation by unethical companies, and plumbers and electricians are at the top of my list of these. Recently I had some direct dealings with the Atlanta Police Department about underage kids (12, 14) riding motorbikes without helmets (and shoes) up and down our street and on to a very busy one...with 5 year olds hanging on the back. Po-lice told me that they couldn't do squat....yet 3 days later, these same kids were hit by a car as they ran a red light...and ended up in the hospital with head and severe body injuries. In surgery. Police wouldn't give me a public records report. Bastards...but this is just 'thinning the herd' apparently, and my inquiries meant nothing because I was 'just a housewife, not a reporter." that's a direct quote.

    Love, Jane


  7. Hi Jane, re: sod, it's turned around beautifully, the Sod God followed up, called me to check up on its progress, promised me that "if it's not green in a month we'll replace it." So sometimes they are good guys too! (but aint talking 'bout plumbers :-)


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