The Flushometer (plink, plink)

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06/02/2002

W 95th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10025

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

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Illustrations by Elisha Cooper

I know I’m not alone. Off the top of my head I can think of two friends, single women, Upper West Siders living alone, who are experiencing a similar ordeal. “It’s traumatic,” I agreed when Nina called, frantic about the leak in her bathroom ceiling and the building’s lack of a super. “You’ll be okay,” I told Julia, whose bathroom ceiling was caving in, whose noisy pipes were keeping her sleep-deprived.

A collection of CDs from Broadside has just been reissued. “The Faucets Are Dripping in New York City,” one song by Malvina Reynolds attests. That was in 1964.

I played that song the other night to the steady accompaniment of my grinding, screaming, braying plumbing. For a while, before my hand grew tired, I tried to keep a log. I recorded the time of each thunderous hydraulic outburst. Every four to five minutes, exactly, for ten to fifteen seconds. “Not my responsibility,” said the super, emerging squinting from his basement lair. Hung over, as usual. “Call owner.”

“Maybe the flushometer,” said the building owner, when he finally answered the phone. “Maybe. We’ll look into it.”

Phone call. Phone call. “We’ll look into it.”

GRRRRRR-BRRRRRR GRRRRR! EEEBRRRR! EEEBRRRRRR! EEEEGRRRRR!

It’s five a.m. It’s five oh five a.m. It’s six a.m. The vibrations penetrate the walls, run along the floorboards, one end of the apartment to the other. Tiny vials of shampoo fall off the bathtub rim. I kick off the sheets, stand, pace, plot revenge, seethe. I feel like a shocked rat in a lab experiment, learning about helplessness. You understand. Nina understands. Julia understands…

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