Nearly 30 years ago the water service were doing repairs near where I lived. As a way of warning us to fill kettles and saucepans full of water for the day, a wee man in a van drove up and down and around the streets announcing his presence via a loudhailer on the roof of the vehicle, “This is the WATER SERVICE. The water in this area is GOING OFF”. The water supply was stopped, and then started again by about 4.30pm. It was slightly inconvenient, but predictable and plannable for. The man told us what was going to happen, and it happened. The chief result of the process was that I still shout “WATER SERVICE” in my head when I think of it.
In truth, I haven’t had much cause to think about the water supply since. While our drains have caused chaos once or twice (read all about it, if you must, in previous posts), the water supply has just been there. Easy, reliable, convenient as turning on a tap. There’d be the odd bit of low pressure, but nothing to remark upon, until a young man in a big yellow coat (#1) appeared at the door.
There was indeed low pressure, and it might be our responsibility. His listening equipment suggested there was a leak near the wall. On the pavement side of the wall, it would be up to the water service to fix; on the garden side, we’d have to do it. A week later someone came out and checked the pavement side. Another week later, a different someone, tidied up the pavement. I phoned to see what was going on, and a fourth someone landed at the door to tell me I might get a letter.
Someone #5 phoned, sounding very knowledgeable. It’s a difficult leak to find, but they’re working on it, and hope to get out in a few days. Grand.
Message from #5- they’ll be out on Wednesday pm. Nothing happened. When I called to see where they were, #5 was adamant that all was done and fixed. They’d come through the green gate, and worked at the back of the extension. But I’d been in the whole time, and could see no sign of activity at the back. Eventually it began to dawn on us both that we were talking at cross purposes. There’s a person with a similar name, living in number 6, similar address, in a different town. Her water leak was fixed, through her green gate, and at the back of her wee bathroom extension. Somehow, the system had given #5 the wrong phone number, and he’d thought he was talking to that person all along. I’d thought I was talking to #4.
So, four weeks after we were told there was a leak, we were no further forward. In the meantime, the washing machine had died because we kept trying to use it. We’ve been relying on the kindness of others for weeks to get some laundry done.
As I was relaying the tale of the wrong water leak, the chap in the big yellow coat (#1) returned, bringing a colleague (#6, who never spoke) to stand at the door beside him. This time he was telling me we would definitely get a letter, as they’d decided the leak was on our side of the wall. Time to talk to the insurance company.
The letter came. #5 called anyway, feeling some ownership of a problem that’s never been his. He suggested I ask for a replacement pipe rather than a repair.
I phoned the insurance, who couldn’t confirm that we’re actually insured- if it’s not been accidentally damaged, it’s all ours to pay for- but they’d contact their local company. The company phoned, they’d send somebody.
#7 arrived today. He was here for about 2 minutes. Since #1 had done sound tests, #7 didn’t have to. He’ll send someone else out next week.
Over a month since the start, at least 7 chaps at the door and 3 women on the phone, we still have a water leak. It reminds me of the old story of four people called Everyone, Someone, Anyone and No-one.“There was an important job to be done and Everyone was sure that Someone would do it. Anyone could have done it, but No-one did it. Someone got angry about that because he thought that it was Everyone’s job. Everyone thought that Anyone could do it, but No-one realised that Everyone wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everyone was angry with Someone because No-one did what Anyone could have done!”
Of course, I don’t know which of those folk I am. When #1 appeared, should I just have gone straight to the insurance company in case it was our problem? Should I have hunted for a local chap to just come along and fix the blimmin thing weeks ago? How would I know where to start?
What if I was living alone, or vulnerable? How would the washing get done? Could I cope with all the Someones calling?
There has to be a more efficient system of maintaining the fabric of our services than simply passing from pillar to post, from subcontractor to subcontractor, and leaving the public with no idea what’s going on.
I’d really welcome the man with a van right now, shouting “WATER SERVICE”.