Good thoughts on the trades.  An article on the Eagle Times!

On Mark Twain and Plumber

By Arthur Vidro

Mark Twain – one of America’s greatest writers – never went to college. Or even high school. He dropped out of school at age 12 the year after his father died.

Yet he worked at many jobs over the decades until finding his niche as a writer. First he wrote for newspapers, eventually graduating to books.

A college degree is not needed to become a newspaper columnist.

Plenty of other occupations also don’t require college degrees.

Take, for instance, plumbers, electricians, air-traffic controllers, chefs, bakers, landscapers, photographers, locksmiths, and linemen for the power and phone companies.

Sometimes trade schools teach these skills. Sometimes there are apprenticeship programs. Sometimes you learn on the job.

I asked Curt LaPointe, a very talented locksmith who lives in Claremont, how he learned the trade.

“From my uncle,” said Curt. For his uncle was a locksmith too.

If someone in your family can train you, that’s a wonderful situation.

Curt has always been great at taking things apart, seeing how they work, then putting them back together. He’s a very handy guy to have around.

Come to think of it, handymen don’t need college training either.

Now let’s focus on plumbers.

When summer began I needed help with a sink that refused to drain. I dialed all the plumbers listed in the phone book, plus all the plumbers who have been here before.

Left message after message. One called back fairly promptly. He couldn’t help us, but I’m glad he returned the call.

A second plumber called back many days later, upon returning from vacation. Meanwhile, I kept looking.

At the post office, a truck in the parking lot had a plumbing company’s name on it. One I’d never heard of, based in Unity. I memorized the phone number, and later phoned from home. Alas, for folks not already on the work schedule, there was a 12-week lead time. Yes, the earliest appointments available were 12 weeks out.

Of all the Claremont-based plumbers, only one answered the phone with a human being, for which I was grateful. So grateful I’ll even name them: Gonyea’s. Spoke to an office worker who explained they’re so busy that they’re not taking on any new customers right now, and she asked had I ever had work done by Gonyea’s before? Er, no, I hadn’t. “Then we can’t help you. But we wish you luck finding a plumber.” I thanked her for at least having answered the telephone.

That got me thinking. There was a place I hadn’t called – in Newport – because I figured this job was too small to interest them. But I called, and they’re professional enough that the office answered the telephone.

Before I explained the problem, I used the little lesson I had learned about new customers sometimes not being welcomed.

“Your company once installed a new heating system in our house,” I began. “We live in Claremont. I’m calling now on an unrelated matter. I wish to make an appointment for a plumber.”

She consulted her computer to confirm our prior business with them, and then set us up with an appointment six days out. Which was fine by me.

At times it feels like if you don’t already have a plumber, then you can’t get one.

Teenagers – have you considered going into plumbing? There’s no need to borrow money for college. You learn on the job.