As a man who has regularly plumbed the depths for column material but doesn't know how to plumb a sink to get rid of even worse material, I recently faced a flood of problems that threatened to turn the laundry room into a scene from "Titanic."
So I called Rosina the Plumber.
Rosina, in case you need her services, is my mother.
Momz, as she is lovingly known in our family, isn't a plumber by trade. She had a long and rewarding career as a registered nurse, so she knows about human plumbing. Now that she's retired, she has been taking care of the plumbing in her house, the difference being that she doesn't have to take its blood pressure, dispense medication or put up with complaints.
"One time," Momz recalled, "I dropped an earring down the sink."
My father, the original and best Jerry Zezima, who passed away a couple of years ago, was the handiest guy I ever knew. He could have solved the problem, but he was at work. So my mother had to fish the earring out herself.
"I took off the elbow of the pipe under the sink," she said. "And there was the earring. It wasn't expensive, but I didn't want to lose it."
"If you had," I told her, "you could have said it was from the van Gogh collection."
"Another time," said Momz, politely ignoring the remark, "the bathtub got clogged up with soap and bath oil. I wasn't sure if I needed a snake or a plunger, but the guy at the hardware store said to pour this stuff down the drain. It didn't work. So I got a long brush with black bristles. I threaded it down the drain and -- bingo! -- the clog was gone."
I told her about the problem I was having with the sink in the laundry room.
"A hose from the washing machine empties water into the sink, but the sink is clogged and today it overflowed," I said. "I thought we were going to have an indoor swimming pool."
"Did you put on your bathing suit?" my mother asked.
"No," I replied. "But I did stick a piece of wire down the drain. It didn't work."
"Do you have a snake?" Momz wondered.
"Yes," I said. "Fortunately, it's not the poisonous kind or I'd need COBRA health insurance."
Momz politely ignored that remark, too, and said, "Stick it down the drain."
"I tried," I said, "but it won't fit."
"Take the elbow off the pipe under the sink," she advised, "and run the snake through from there."
"You don't make house calls, do you?" I asked.
My mother, who lives in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., two hours from my house on Long Island, said, "Yes. And, unlike other plumbers, I wouldn't charge you. But you should take care of this right away. I know you can do it."
I was skeptical, so I drove to a nearby Home Depot store and went to the plumbing department, where I spoke with an associate named Charlie, who said, "Your mother is absolutely right."
"Could she work here?" I asked.
"We'd love to have her," Charlie responded.
I went back home and took the elbow off the pipe under the sink. Then I ran the snake through and pulled out about half a ton of wet lint and soapy residue.
When I had finished, my wife, Sue, did a load of wash. The water went down the drain perfectly.
I called my mother to tell her the good news and to say that Home Depot could use her services.
"I'm going to stay retired," she said. "But maybe I could be a consultant. Who says you can't get a good plumber anymore?"