The water tap in our kitchen started leaking. My wife, who makes final decisions about what should be repaired or renovated in our apartment, has been putting off a call to a plumber for quite some time. The reason, she explained, was the irresponsibility and, more often than not, utter unwillingness of the plumber to provide the maintenance of the utility at an acceptable level (plumbers, electricians, yard-keepers, etc., are usually assigned by the local utilities service office, popularly known here as “zhek”, to each separate building in the area). Our plumber, Mykhailovych by name, was a stout man nearing his retirement age. He found it already problematic to bend his body or kneel down when he had to screw or unscrew some bolts in the bathroom, much less to replace a corroded water pipe. Knowing the professional qualities of Mykhailovich, my wife once called a private utility service to do some repairs, but the guy was no better professionally, though his service was much more expensive.

This time, when the leakage of the kitchen tap reached a degree which made it possible to also wash your hands and face while your original intention was only to fill a glass with water, my wife gave a ring to the “zhek.” After a few minutes of the phone talk she entered my room with her eyes shining. “I couldn’t believe my ears,” she said. “Before it was next to impossible to contact them in the morning. This time the answering machine told me I was a third in line to place my order. When my turn came, a pleasant young voice answered and apologized for the inconvenience caused – they had so many repair orders after the long weekend. Then the lady registered my request and asked when it would be better for the plumber to come – in the morning or in the afternoon… Could a talk like that be possible only a year ago? The plumber is coming at one o’clock in the afternoon. No, not Mykhailovych. Mykhailovych has retired. Our house has got a new plumber!“ My wife voice was energetic and young.

“It looks like they have begun introducing the long-promised reforms. Europe is getting closer,” I murmured.

The plumber came at a quarter to one. He was a young man wearing a baseball cap and an unbuttoned shirt. Instead of the usual kit with instruments he held only a spanner in his hand. And he was noticeably drunk. He staggered to the kitchen, gave a long stare at the tap and said that the thread “was kaput,” but he had no instruments at the moment, because he had left the kit at another building – the kit was too heavy to carry it from one place to another. But he would try (!) to come tomorrow, though he wasn’t sure because he had about fifty orders to do. If he did not come, we might call him. His name was Roman and his mobile number was…

After Roman had gone, my wife and I looked gloomily at each other and then at the note with Roman’s number. Luda was clearly downhearted. “Take it easy”, I said. “At least, that lady on the phone… she was polite…”



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