Down the Road a Piece
When the well pump goes
Today is a good day for us. We have running water in our house. Yesterday was a bad day for us. We didn’t have running water in our house.
Probably most people in Maine have a drilled well from which water is pumped into their house by a pump. Others have town water, which is brought into their house via a powerful push from the town’s water supply. Well water is usually cleaner, because the town adds a lot of gunk to the town’s water supply to make it clean.
This adding gunk is due to a national law that became effective a number of years ago, which required all Maine municipalities to “clean” their water supply. I was hanging around Southwest Harbor at the town, because that was part of my exciting reporter turf for a weekly paper.
The long and short and dirty and clean of it is that the town fathers had to direct the town water department to clean Long Pond from which most people in Southwest Harbor drunk, like it or not. They cleaned it by adding stuff -- hereafter called gunk -- so they would have something to clean. Then they built this huge facility to clean the formerly-clean-but-now-gunked-up lake water so folks could have a sip.
That gave them clean water, according to the feds. And, as you know, the feds are always right. At least they’re always there.
But well water isn’t required to be cleaned, just tested before you can enjoy your sips, and your shower, and your indoor toilet, and your kitchen sink where you wash those dirty dishes, and some stuff I’m sure I’ve forgotten.
I can tell you this with certainty, when the water stops coming from the well, you stop doing all that wonderful stuff you do without giving it much thought.
And life becomes primitive.
Of course, it’s a rule, plumbing failures always happen on Sunday. So, we weren’t surprised yesterday when the water stopped flowing. I, being a genuine unlicensed non-plumber, descended to the cellar to see what I could see. I even did a bit of testing, since I know just enough about electricity to test some stuff with my little tester without being zapped.*
First I tested the pressure switch, the one that opens to allow water to come in from the well and closes when enough water has come in to fill the pressure tank. I tested it by unscrewing one wire in the semi-darknesss and screwing it to the other side of the switch. In highly technical terms, I bypassed the switch. Still no water came into my dark corner, so I knew the switch was okay.
That being the extent of my expertise about plumbing, I went upstairs where Dolores and I spent an unhappy hour calling plumbers. We have a good plumber, but, of course, he wasn’t home on Sunday. I don’t blame him, since, as we all now know, Sunday is when plumbing problems occur.
There’s a reason for this Sunday plumbing-problem thing, but God has never revealed it to me, the humble water consumer.
After about eight calls, we found a plumber with an emergency service. A guy came out, checked the same switch I had checked and assured me the switch was okay. I forget how much an hour that cost me, but then he made another revelation, one which I had by this time suspected.
“I think the pump isn’t pumping,” he said.
Out to the yard, off with the metal top of the well pipe, on with his plumber’s round thing that sat around the top of the open well pipe.
He announced that the well was “pretty deep,” which I assumed but didn’t actually know, never having explored it. Then he put this gadget on a heavy whatchacallit, screwed it in place on this thingamabob way down in the pipe, and said the pump would be too heavy for the two of us to pull up. (He no doubt had noticed the walking stick in my left hand, the one that helps me hobble about pretty dern good but limits my pulling heavy thingamabobs out of 150-foot-deep wells. (That was his guess as to the well’s depth.)
This morning, before I got home from my first trick with the bus, they had come -- they including a couple of helpers and a Labrador Retriever, which good plumbers in Maine alway carry near their tool kit -- removed the pump, installed a new one, put in a step-up transformer so the 120 volts that had operated the antique pump from our well would become 220 volts with a decrease in amperage.
In case you’re not sure what amperage is, ask somebody who knows. I only remember studying it in some school and learning that amperage is current. Current, I was taught, was a bunch of male electrons chasing a bunch of female electrons through the wires. Their running lustfully through the wires is amperage.
Understand? I don’t either, and I never saw any of those little guys chasing those little gals.
But now we have water again.
I had warned the manager this morning to stay away from me, as I was traveling in the “good old days,” which meant without a shower. He gave me the afternoon off, most of which I spent napping alongside of Dolores, because both of us found it hard to sleep last night, wondering where all those little electron guys and gals were and what bringing them back into our house would cost us.
Now we just have to refill the 15 or so gallon jugs we had stored in that dark basement full of water for emergencies. I’m too tired to do that, so I’m writing this instead.
I know it’s sure great to use that inside toilet and hear the water filling the tank afterward without our lugging the water to it. And tonight Dolores will be able to wash the dishes.
These are wonderful blessings, which I don’t think they had back in “the day.”
I don’t know how much it is going to cost us to not have to lug water up the cellar stairs.
But any monetary donations from readers, who probably already know because they’ve been through it themselves, will be happily accepted.
So happily accepted that we’ll celebrate with a glass of water from the spigot.
*When my father tested for electric current, he used the back of his hand, swiping it across the questionable terminal or wire or whatever. I’ve been zapped once or twice, so I always use the little tester. It doesn’t hurt as much. I also don’t kneel on the cement cellar floor without kneeling on something that serves as insulation. One place I don’t want to bite the dust -- or cement -- is on the cellar floor in that dark corner where the plumbing stuff is located.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013