A Visit From The Plumber

We have had hot water heater issues for the past two weeks. I noticed that the water was getting cooler and cooler a couple of weeks ago, and phoned the home service company that we pay for every month with our utility bill. I had never done this before, as we don’t have a lot of appliance repairs, and when it involves plumbing, I have always phoned a local plumber who does great work and who we have known for 35 years. I thought I could save some money.

I was told by the home service company that all the local contractors were booked out for two weeks, but they would find another one from nearby. Well, “nearby” turned out to be a guy from a little town north of Bismarck, more than 100 miles away. He arrived the next day, which was a Saturday, fiddled around and replaced a couple of parts and relit the pilot light, and that was it. So far, so good.

Last Saturday while our son and family were visiting, I noticed that the water was getting cooler and cooler, and saw that the pilot light had again gone out. This time I phoned our local plumber, who came over at 7:00 pm after he finished another job, relit the pilot light, posited a couple of theories for why it was happening, and told us to phone him if it happened again. He had a feeling that it would, but wasn’t sure. It indeed happened again on Monday, which was Memorial Day. Well, we phoned the plumber, who was again at another job, and he came over, replaced the one part the first plumber hadn’t replaced, and now it seems to be heating up just fine.

It is truly wonderful to see someone who is living out his/her vocation like our plumber is. Our plumber loves what he does. He comes on holidays. He is kind and competent. He is honest and reasonable. I doubt I will phone the home service company again unless the furnace goes out.

Did you ever feel you had a vocation that you had to fulfill? Who do you know who is living out their chosen vocation to the best of their ability?

56 thoughts on “A Visit From The Plumber”

    1. The old and honorable idea of ‘vocation’ is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted.
      – Wendell Berry

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    Some people just love what they do for a living. It sounds like the hometown plumber is one of those folks. He is lucky that you appreciate him. You are lucky to have such a plumber.

    I have never been able to do a job that I find pointless, boring, or just not my thing for long. I had any number of such jobs in college and graduate school when I could find meaning in other parts of life such as education. But I was not able to commit to doing those jobs for any longer than getting through a period financially. What I do now is my vocation. It has meaning and it is interesting. I will do it only 14 more months, then retire, so I must find something to replace the meaning of the job. Fortunately, the Master Gardener Program has so many activities that can do that. It does feel like retirement is a step off of a cliff, though. Stay tuned.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The couple who run the bagel shop in town seems to be doing it right. They’ve moved to a bigger space, added hard ice cream, are doing great business, and seem to love what they do.

    I had an auto repair guy in my neighborhood in Bloomington years ago, as well as another guy in my neighborhood in Roselle, IL not quite as many years ago, who both just click with cars. They treated every car as if it were their own, and charged extremely fair prices for the quality of their work. They’d go the extra mile for you if needed, take time to explain why you didn’t need an expensive repair (yet), and kept their shop floors immaculately clean and organized. I consider people like them and Renee’s plumber to be true artists.

    I’ve also met a few teachers over the years who also seemed to fulfill their vocation to the best of their ability. They know how to communicate ideas to everyone and love sharing their knowledge and inspiring young learners.

    Finally, the executive director of my BBBS chapter seems to have been born for the job. She brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion to her work and has elevated BBBS of Southern MN to one of the top handful of chapters in the country.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 6 people

  3. i remember going into targets corporate offices years ago and offering them sleds
    the sleds were the super cool ones where it looks like you’re sitting in a little snowmobile with a scooter type seat a steering wheel two skis on the side and one on the front a brake and price tag that was about twice what any other sled at the time was.
    the buyer was a woman recently out of college who i took to lunch and had a nice chat with. she was asking if i worked for that company and i explained that i looked around for companies of interest and helped them develop their market. she said “oh like an entrepreneur?” and i didn’t know what that was.
    turns out she was right
    an entrepreneur is what i am. figure out how to make something a thing and how to make that pay.
    now i just need to get back to it and say thank you for the bandaid finances this delivery stuff has provided while the pandemic shit everything down

    so the doctor has his kitchen sink get clogged up and he calls the plumber the plumber comes over analyze the situation tells the doctor he can get it fixed and it will be $650 the doctor says $650 that’s incredible that’s the same thing I charge for doing an appendectomy and the plumber replies yeah that’s what I used to charge for an appendectomy when I was i was in the doctor business too

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I taught with Fern in Half Moon Bay, CA, and she was truly a career teacher – even carried business cards that said “Educator”. Her room had a claw foot bathtub lined with pillows that was a special reading area; they made popcorn on Friday afternoons,… wish I could remember more details. She loved the kids, and they loved her. Fourth grade, third grade, eventually middle school English/writing. I would love to have had her for my teacher.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. True story: local plumber of dubious skills and indubious finances charged a woman an extra $375 because his rooter machine broke while working at her place. She was m-I-l of a lawyer who was doing work for that plumber. His bill included an extra $375 miscellaneous expense. Plumber asked why. Lawyer said to pay for typewriter that broke while she was typing his documents. They forgave each other the $375. Plumber not long after started working out of town.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. I was not called to teaching (Vocation is from the same root as voice.) but stumbled backwards into it. I met so many terrible teachers in my consulting and so many wonderful teachers, who were fulfilling a calling.
    But once into the career, I went at it full bore. My mother used to call me “in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound Clyde.” I hate myself when I do not go for the pound. I have been sketching old B&W photos of myself in my childhood for a sketch journal I have started. Rather painful in some ways but cathartic. One of the photos shows me hauling in firewood when I was 6 or 7, when I was frustrated about being in for the pound load but having to settle for the penny load. I just sketched that one. Ugh!

    Liked by 6 people

  7. I started at St. Olaf immediately after high school but I couldn’t afford to go back the second year. I was already working at the Regional Center and I had met some highly skilled and kind nurses there. I was so impressed with some of them that I decided to take practical nursing training. I knew I would earn more as a nurse than as an aide and then maybe I could afford to return to St. Olaf. You learn the nuts and bolts in a training program like that but the skill really comes from the practice. When the Regional Center closed I transferred to the DNR. I thought maybe I could make a difference there but I was very wrong. Being away from nursing taught me that I can make a difference in the lives of people who have little and expect even less. I’m glad I went back to nursing. That was my true calling and it’s part of the reason I’m having so much trouble quitting work.

    There was another nurse I worked with, Sue, who knew from the time she was a teenager what she wanted to do. She went straight for it and worked at it for 45 years. She was kind and thorough and everyone who worked with her respected her. We had lunch together yesterday, a group of eight of us with long histories and I feel so honored.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. My sister definitely had a calling to start a pre-school in the Berkeley Hills back in 81 – was a co-director for 30-odd years till that person left. She’s great with kids, fundraising, and coming up with ideas to make the place better – i.e. the nature walk they developed out of a weedy hillside on the property. She will retire end of August, and will be glad to be rid of all the bureaucratic stuff, esp. since the beginning of Covid.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I just heard somebody say recently (I think on tv) that whoever came up with the idea that just follow your passion and a job will materialize should be taken out and smacked around. Too many people feel like they should be pursuing passion instead of just doing a job. This resonates with me. I know most people think “wow she’s worked at the same place for 32 years… she must really love her job.” But they would be wrong. I like my job well enough, it plays to my strengths (and who’s kidding how, the travel was quite nice) but for all these years, at the end of the day, I walk away. I rarely think about work when I’m not actually doing it. Most of the folks I know here who got furloughed were miserable. Surprisingly I was not, after the initial shock of not working wore off.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think a passion and a vocation are two different things. Following a passion sounds so self indulgent if you neglect taking care of basic expectations and needs. I had a passion to be a psychologist, but I would have never pursued it if it meant that I could never support myself or my family. It is the act of helping, relieving suffering, that spoke to me, and I could have done that without becoming a psychologist.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. I don’t know that the word “career” has a really solid definition. It could be a vocation, or steady employment (satisfactory or not), or anything n between.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. a career in the box you pigeon holed your brand in
      a person who pursues a passion as a line of work risks killing the passion
      when you’ve got to do it to pay the bills it can be a bitch

      Liked by 1 person

  10. When I was in Grade 6, my teacher read the class a book about play therapy. It was then and there I decided to be a psychologist. I remember feeling as though I was struck by a lightening bolt, and I get teary and have chills when I think about that experience.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Well, I think that feeling as though the Universe has given you a nudge os maybe a better way of explaining it, and I think plumbers can experience that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As someone who has done both plumbing and electrical work, I think you are being unnecessarily mystical about it.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. I once had a kindergartner say he wanted to be either of three things:
          a veterinarian, something else, or a garbage man. May have had to do with the truck and its machinery, but you just never know what people may have a passion for.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. While that’s true, it’s also true that most kids change their minds, often repeatedly, about what they want to become. For most, those early ideas of what you want to be when you grow up are based on an often very superficial, sometimes glamorous, idea of what the actual job entails.

          Liked by 3 people

      2. i think a lot of people haul ther ass out of bed and go to work and get home with weekends and retirement in mind
        i did that with child support
        had a countdown on the wall with 72 month left or whatever it was and enjoyed crossing them off
        i think a plumber or electrician that has his own biz as opposed to being a worker at an electric service company can feel great about naming his price which is way more than shop pay but way less than the company charges
        car repair may be best example
        120 an hour to the shop
        20 to the mechanic
        union jobs at 25 or 30 an hour vs your own biz where you can make 400 500 a day or bid jobs that net 3 4 5 thousand for the job and it takes more than 2 days but pay is great

        those plumbers electricians mechanics feel like the lightbulb turned in
        my son in law has been promised that pella will give him all the work he can handle and as much as he wants to take on because he is a union mentality with health insurance and overtime as his goals
        i have tried to talk to him to the point where it’s good that i don’t anymore
        he shuts down

        Liked by 1 person

  11. If providing my family with stability and security could be termed a vocation, then that has been my vocation and I’ve always managed to find a way to do that though the particulars have varied.

    I’ve often enjoyed my work and found myself in employment at which I was competent but I’ve never been comfortable describing my working life as a career, let alone a vocation, since it has been so varied and happenstance. My work has not been an integral part of my identity.

    I think of vocation as a specific role or employment that takes clear precedence over any other possible goal and toward which one focuses one’s preparation and training. That focus of intention, it seems to me, matters more in classifying a career choice as a vocation, than does one’s ultimate success or competence.

    Having never experienced that sort of anticipatory focus that becomes a vocation, I have difficulty appreciating the sensation.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Somewhat related: When I worked in the consulting firm, one book they recommended was Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Live by Gregg Levoy. I always meant to read it, and have just requested it from our library.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This probably says a lot about me, but my first response is to wonder what gives Greg Levoy any special authority over authenticity.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I haven’t read the book, but my guess is that Levoy doesn’t pretend to be an authority on what authenticity is, but merely offers some insights into how better to live in accordance with one’s own core values.


  12. I struggle with the concept of a vocation or calling, which to me means pursuing some inner drive that you simply can’t ignore. You may or may not do it for a living. Writing poetry, for instance, would fall in that category, as would a lot of other artistic pursuits. Most people, however, have the good sense to know that they either don’t have sufficient talent, or fortitude, to pursue those desires as a career, and do it for their own enjoyment, and pay their bills through a regular job.

    If, on the other hand, the inner drive that can’t be denied is “helping” others in some way, then there may well be career choices that will both enable you to pay your bills, and satisfy that inner drive. Working in the field of medicine as a doctor, nurse, or therapist, for example, would typically fall in that category. So would teaching, and many other careers.

    Personally, I have a strong desire to be contributing to “the greater good,” as I understand it. I need to feel that I haven’t wasted my life doing “meaningless” stuff. Of course, there’s the rub. What has meaning to me, may not be valued by others, and vice versa. I don’t consider making lots of money or having achieved great fame as necessarily indicative of success. On the other hand, I’ve also always been determined to be able to take care of myself, so how well a certain job was compensated played a role.

    To my mind, folks like Renee, who know from early on what they want to do, and remain challenged and satisfied doing it while also making a decent living, are lucky indeed. I know lots of people who fall in that category, and those are people I consider successful.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. I always knew I wanted to be a farmer and milk cows. I would say that was my vocation. And even after I burned out on theater, now that I’m back into it, I sure do crave it.

    Liked by 6 people

  14. I had a chiropractor way back when. He quit and has written a book and philosophy called ‘Oola’. He was a really great guy, but like Bill says, I wonder why he’s the expert now?
    Too many people have trouble figuring out what’s important to them I guess.

    Liked by 5 people

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