Friday, March 5, 2010

An (un)lucky find

I had a meeting yesterday with one of my peers to try to fix an issue with a website that we manage.  This problem has been plaguing us for a long time now, but it only impacts a handful of the 100,000s of users that we have so it has never been high on the list to fix.  After months of missed meetings and meetings cut short because of other things, we finally agreed that we would set aside time to work on this.  Meeting time arrived and when my phone rang, I picked it up and heard…nothing. 
I checked my VOIP phone, it was displaying some weird error message.  I tried instant messaging him and Microsoft Office Communicator lost its connection.  Outlook, the same.  I recycled my VPN router, hoping that would at least bring back the phone, but that did nothing.  Next step, check my FIOS router/modem.  I opened the small utility closet in the basement that houses all of the utilities that come into my home, gas, water, electric, and phone.  The closet is small and dark, so I just reached my arm in to unplug the router.  I sent an email from my cell informing my co-worker that I was having technical difficulties. 
After a minute or two I went back to the closet.  As I approached it, I noticed the discoloration of the concrete floor.  “That’s odd.”  I knelt down to feel it and it didn’t seem more damp than the normal colored concrete.  I heard a faint tick-tick-tick noise close to my head.  I leaned closer to the water meter attached to the main water line coming into the house.  The noise seemed to be coming from there.  With my handy-dandy Leatherman (yes even working from home, I keep my Leatherman clipped to my belt), I cut through the plastic vapor barrier to expose the water pipe.  What I saw ruined my Thursday
I saw water dripping with a 2 Hz frequency from a bell shaped valve attached to the main incoming water line.  This certainly wasn’t condensation.  I promptly dialed our plumber.  I am normally a handy person, I will take a stab at pretty much any home improvement or DIY project.  But plumbing and I don’t get along very well.  In fact, the relationship is downright disastrous.  Every plumbing project and repair job that I have ever undertaken has ended in me calling in someone more skilled to finish.
The dispatcher at the plumbing office asked me if I wanted someone to come that night or some time tomorrow.  It would be an extra $100 for someone to come over the same day.  After a little mental math, 1 wife + 3 kids + 1 dog + having to actually go to the office the next day for the first time in 3 months, $100 is an acceptable loss.  She informed me that the plumber would be out shortly and he would call me before he came over. 
I received a call from Mr. Plumber in a few minutes.  I described the issue.  “Hmmm.  That sounds like a pressure reduction valve.  I don’t have one of those on my truck.  I can try one of my buddies, and if they have one on their truck, I can get it from them.  If I can’t find one, I will have to open a ‘storeroom’ and that is an extra $150.”
What I wanted to say - “$150 because you didn’t stock your truck this morning?  This extra $150 isn’t to BUY the part, it is because you have to drive past your office, which you refer to as a ‘store room’, and pick a part you keep in stock there.  $150 is the cost of your unpreparedness.  Do this also cover the Vaseline that you are using to…”
What I really said - “Umm, ok, well can you can see if you can get one from one of your buddies?”
20 minutes later, Mr. Plumber called back and informed me that his partner has one and he is on his way.  Two hours later, we were the proud owners of a new pressure reduction valve, were reconnected with life sustaining water, and also several hundred dollars lighter in our bank account.
The Good – finding a water leak before it caused major property damage (the leak was about 8 feet away from about $2,000 worth of electronics).  Cory, aka Mr. Plumber, for saving the day.
The Bad – missing yet another opportunity to solve our domain authentication issue.
The Ugly – dropping a lot of money on an emergency visit from the plumber.  My plumbing deficiency.
BTW – recycling the FIOS router brought everything back online, but by the time I got back to it, the day was over.

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