Detective plumb

All of the trick-or-treating was completed and we had ourselves one happy, hyper, little Spiderman, who was ready to knock on at least another hundred houses, if we let him. Mason’s plastic pumpkin was filled to the brim with every type of sugary candy one could imagine. We loaded into the car and all I could think about was sinking my teeth into a nice burger.

“OK, superheroes who wants to go out to dinner!?” I yelled. “Spiderman?”

I got a smile and a nod yes, because he was too busy scarfing another piece of candy into his mouth.

I looked to my wife and said, “Mrs. Captain America, I hope you’re hungry because HULK-IS-HUNGRY!”

Yes, I was all dressed up as the great green giant HULK. I was in green from head to toe, and sporting steroid sized green foam HULK hands.

We headed into town and began to circle the parking facility, looking for a spot that was somewhat close to the restaurant, because the sky had just opened up and it was pouring rain.

“Right over there, Sean. That truck is about to leave,” my wife said.

Just as we pulled up to the spot, the gentlemen driving the truck stepped on the gas and cut the wheel a bit early, slamming into the vehicle right next to him.

“Oh my god! Someone get his license plate info,” I said.

But, no such luck as the truck speed off with visibility at a minimum due to the fog and rain. We quickly called the police and we were told to stay put until an officer had arrived on the scene. About five minutes passed and a patrol car rolled up to the damaged vehicle. We got out of the car and the officer began his investigation of the accident.

“What was the gender of the driver? What color was the vehicle? What side of his truck was hit? What was the make and model of the truck? License plate info? Which direction did he go?”

You name it he asked it. We tried our best to give the most accurate answers because it was very difficult to see, due to the inclement weather. While the officer was jotting down all of the info we were supplying him, I began to think about my career as a plumber and how the officer and I shared some similar detective work in common.

In my earlier years as a plumbing apprentice, I wasn’t the best detective for the job. Buthonestly, who is when they first start out, right? I had my fair share of detective blunders, but, most importantly, I learned from my mistakes. When I used to enter a home or apartment, I didn’t take the time to ask the customer many questions, and I just went right to work. For instance, there was a time I arrived at a home and all I did was listen to the customer go on and on about how every time someone flushed the upstairs toilet the seal would leak and the floor would get wet.

“I know for sure, whenever I flush this toilet, the tile floor would get wet. I believe the wax gasket needs to be replaced,” the customer told me.

This is where I made my biggest mistake as a plumbing detective. Without asking any further questions or even investigating the plumbing scene, I just went to work, pulled the toilet and replaced the wax seal. Job well done, right?

Wrong. An hour later, we received a call from the customer saying the toilet was still leaking and that the seal must have been defective. I shot back over to the house and I began to observe the situation a bit closer. When I flushed the toilet, I found that the tank to bowl seal was shot and there was the slightest stream of water that followed the curve on the bowl and ended up building at the base of the toilet.

“You son-of-gun!” I whispered.

After explaining the evidence to the customer, I got to work and made the proper repair. Small potatoes! If I would have just taken my time and not only listen to the customer, but perhaps ask a few questions and investigate the scene a bit more, I could have avoided the call-back, and the job would have been completed the first time.

This has happened to me before with those tricky “shower leak” calls, where the customer and I both think it’s a plumbing related leak, and before we know it, the sheetrock ceiling was cut open and there is no sign of a leak on any plumbing joint. It just ended up being cracks and seems in the tile and or where the tub meets the floor. Again, lesson learned there, and that will never happen again!

So, now with a lot more years under my belt in this plumbing world, I’ve learned a whole lot when it comes to investigating the plumbing scene, before diving right in. Whenever I enter a home or apartment, I always make sure not only to listen to the customer but to also ask a bunch of questions. By doing so, I am now able to really focus in on the real plumbing issue and make the proper repairs the first time. By taking those five to 10 extra minutes, I definitely save a lot of time in the long run.

If the police officer that evening didn’t use proper protocol and didn’t ask the important questions, he would have just tried to chase down the vehicle that fled the scene 10 minutes prior to his arrival. Most likely, he would have just wasted his time meandering around the town trying to hunt down a man who was long gone. Instead, he took his time to investigate the damage to the other vehicle, got all of his info he needed, and a week later ended up finding the gentlemen with that very same truck getting repaired at a local auto body shop.

The most important thing when entering a home is to not panic and react right away to the situation at hand. Take your time, listen to the customer, investigate the possible problem, and ask plenty of questions. Over and out. l

Sean McCormack is co-owner of BMC Plumbing and Heating Inc. He can be reached at, or (845) 596-7770. Visit Sean’s website,

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