Taking Plunge Into Plumbing Nightmare

Taking Plunge Into Plumbing Nightmare

By Michele A. Berdy

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?????? ??????????: Plumbing repairs, an expensive, time-consuming, intrusive process to fix broken plumbing; can be translated as "the seventh circle of hell."

If I were to write an up-to-date, truly useful Russian-English phrase book, right after the most basic sentence all foreigners should know -- "My papers are in order" (??? ????????? ? ???????) -- the next phrase would be "I need a plumber right away!" (??? ?????? ????? ??????? ??????????!) In my funky apartment, water is always flowing where it shouldn't and not flowing where it should.

Should this happen to you (and it will, believe me) call your local ????????-???????????????? ??????????, or ???, (housing maintenance and repair administration) right away. They are commonly referred to as ????????????? (the utilities folks).

The dispatcher will ignore your first 10 calls, so call early and call often. If you are lucky, he will say: ? ?????? ???? ??????, ? ??????? ?????? ??????? ????? ????? (I've taken your order and the plumber will be there after lunch today). ??????? is an all-purpose word that means anything from plumber to locksmith to repairman, depending on the context. ????????? is a more specialized professional, trained to deal with broken pipes and leaky toilets. All are hired based on their capacity to consume enormous amounts of alcohol and still tell a wrench from a hacksaw. ????? ????? means any time between 2 p.m. and the end of the following week. Prepare to wait.

If you are suffering from nothing more than a leaky faucet, you can say: ???? ?? ????? ????? (the kitchen tap drips). If the drip is a torrent, you can say (to get more prompt service): ?? ????? ?????? ????? (the faucet is gushing!). Hopefully, the plumber will just have to change the washer (???????? ?????????) and not put in a new faucet altogether (???????? ????). To do either he'll have to turn off the water, so it is good to know (having asked your landlord ahead of time) where the turn-off valves are (??? ???????, ????? ??????????? ?????). In my apartment, built during more communal times, the turn-off valves are in the apartment next to mine, accessed through the next ???????. This makes simple home repairs a nightmare of negotiation and coordination.

If, on the contrary, the problem is water that doesn't flow, i.e. a clogged drain, the dispatcher will first try to solve the problem over the phone. If that doesn't work, he'll send in the boys with the plumber's snake (????), and you can watch 30 years of the previous tenants' grease and gook get scraped from the pipes.

Or let's say -- hypothetically, of course -- that you come back from a delightful Christmas vacation in placid American suburbia to discover the absolute worst plumbing crisis known to post-Soviet man: ????? ???????? (a pipe burst). This is at least a three-day crisis. Day one: Call the plumber, who determines the nature and scope of the disaster and writes a shopping list of plumbing supplies for you to buy. Day two: Go to the ???????????? ????? (building supplies market) with the shopping list and buy mysterious items. Day three: Empty out three storage spaces and give up your apartment to two drunken plumbers who will enrich your vocabulary of Russian obscenities and drench your carpets before finishing the job.

And then there's Day four: Go to the downstairs neighbors and find out the damage there. ?????? (??? ????????) ??????? (we flooded the neighbors) is one of the most chilling phrases in the Russian language. Not only will you have to pay for your repairs, you'll have to pay to repaint, re-wallpaper and refit whatever your gushing pipes ruined below you. At this point, ????? ???????? (Murphy's Law) is sure to kick in. You will discover that just before the holidays your neighbors finished ?????????? (European-style remodeling), and you will have to pay to fly in three Italian kitchen remodeling specialists, along with a bin of silk wallpaper and a crate of handmade ceramic tiles.

Which is why the third essential sentence in my phrasebook is: ???????? ?????! (Start pouring the vodka!)

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator.

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