Renewing faith in West African repairs

“Oh god! Oh no! No! Help!!!” Fearing some near-collapse of the roof or some other disaster that would be the end of her life, I came running in to the bathroom to see Editor in Chief standing in the shower over some washing she was taking care of. Behind her, where the faucet had been for the shower, there was just a jet of water shooting in to the opposite wall.

I told her to go outside and ask the guard to find the main water and shut it off. That was easily done and once finished, I was able to assess the damage. Yes, the faucet had indeed broken off. After a perfunctory two years of service, this cheap, possibly-not-metal-from-this-planet, Chinese faucet had just sheered off at the pipe. That was it. No threads to re-thread. No duct tape to re-apply. Our shower was dead and due to there being no redundant line cutoffs, the water of the house was off too.

This was a Sunday, in the evening. Looking in to the hole of the pipe, I assumed that the wall was going to have to be knocked out to replace the pipe. Basically, given the general perception of how long repairs can take in Cote d’Ivoire, I thought we’d be without water and showers for the next week. Still, we had to do something to start the wheels in motion towards a repair.

EiC went out and found the block superintendent, who was, as usual, napping under a tree around the corner. He came in, looked at the problem and gave his standard-issue chuckle, which we were rather pissed at given that he wasn’t the one who was going to be going bucket-shower for a week. He did call a plumber to come over and check out the problem. The plumber said he would come over right away on this Sunday evening.

Needless to say, we were in no end of shock when the plumber actually did show up 20 minutes later. With him, he carried an old rice sack which he had re-purposed in to his tool box. He plopped everything down in the bathroom, eyed the broken faucet threads in the wall, pulled out a screwdriver and a wrench and went to work breaking out the threads. Naturally, the wrench was being used as a hammer as any tool can be a hammer, yet a hammer cannot be any tool.

In no time, he had cracked out the old threads. From the “tool sack” he then produced a new faucet. It was obvious the man knew this repair well. In a matter of 10 minutes, he had the new faucet on, readjusted, and re-pressured. And that was that. My mind was blown and stereotypes were needing to be re-thought, or at least tweaked slightly. In less than an hour, life was back to normal and it went to show that if living five degrees above the equator, once the sun sets, anything is possible.