Saturday, 16 May 2020 14:26

COLUMN: Where are the young plumbers?

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A few months ago, we had some trouble here at the house and had to call a plumber. Well, as renters, we actually called the emergency maintenance number and the tired woman at the other end of the line took a message and she actually called the plumber. 

If it was left up to me, I would have called the wrong or most expensive plumber in town because, if I knew nothing about plumbing, I knew less about plumbers. 

I know some plumber jokes, but none of them are appropriate for the newspaper. I told one to a plumber once and he didn't even crack a smile. I discovered then and there that if you wanted to make a plumber laugh, you tell him electrician jokes. If you want to make an electrician laugh, you tell him plumber jokes and so on.

 I have never met a plumber I didn't like. There was that one guy from Roto Rooter who was kind of a jerk, but all he did was put the rooter contraption in the drain and flick a switch. I don't know what kind of jokes he liked. I don't know any surly switch-flicker jokes. 

Most of the plumbers I have met have been around my age. I haven't met any young plumbers. I don't know if that's because of the lengthy apprenticeship or the fact that there are less and less younger people taking up trades as there were a few years ago. A lot of younger folks are programmed to think that trades are somehow lesser professions than the more “professional” jobs. 

I think that has to do with money. Younger folks seem to think that a degree from a prestigious college gets you a better job and then gets you more money. There is a plumber who lives down the street from us and he has a new truck and a Corvette. Every year, he takes off a month and he and his wife rent a condo at the beach and invites their whole family. Two doors down from him is a guy who went to a big time law school. He's a lawyer on paper, but spends his days working at Lowe's because he can't find a job because there are too many lawyers wanting too much money. 

According to a June, 2019 article in Contractor magazine, the average age of a plumber in the U.S. is 40-plus, and the example they cited was a master plumber in Texas has an average age of 58. As we all know, people get older and not younger, so it's looking like we are all going to have to learn how to fix our own stuff in the coming years. I'm already in my 50s and don't really want to learn a new trade. I have a hard enough time doing what I already know how to do without fouling it up and having to call a professional. I'm pretty certain my generation is going to be known as the “Not So Greatest Generation Because There Are Fewer Of Us Who Know How To Fix Things.” 

My father-in-law can fix just about anything. I never thought to ask how he knows all of this stuff, but he just does. He can fix a car and fix a wood cabinet. He can fix the yard sprinklers and also fix a fair-to-middling omelette. Just don't ask for cheese in your omelette. Please refer to a previous column for the reasoning behind that. 

He's pretty handy, but won't bother with telling you how to do something because he will just do it himself. After more than 20 years, I am still not sure if he does this because he doesn't want to explain complicated instructions or he thinks he can do it better than anyone. Experience has told me it's a little of both. 

I imagine we will start to see more younger men and women taking up trades. I certainly hope so. There is knowledge to be gained and, frankly, money to be made. What I don't want to happen is me making that late-night phone call to the emergency maintenance number and having the tired woman at the other end of the line make a call to a plumber and be told he can't come out because he has to get up early to accept the world record for being the world's oldest man. 

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.