The task set out was relatively simple, in theory. Remove the existing back flow prevention device from the access hole in the roof and re-direct the pipes to the new device on the wall, a much easier point to test the device. As a 1st year apprentice now at the end of my third week, I was already unsurprised that the instructions from the work order would prove more difficult that that. The sheer size of the back flow device, combined with the vice like grip the hemp around the thread had created, meant that the biggest ‘Stilsons’ pipe wrenches were required for the task. Forearms of steel are needed to jolt those 3″ bad boys in the easiest of locations; the fact that they had to be manoeuvred on top of a ladder in an access hole that allowed only 200mm of movement per pull of the wrench meant that some serious grunt work would be in order.
Dan and Michael were on the job as I passed tools and made life as easy as possible as they literally fought the hardened brass and metal. After half an hour of no movement, I though that we might be in a bit of strife. Dan had other plans. 10 years had passed since he started his apprenticeship, and he made use of all those years of plumbing nous and battles with difficult pipes to his full advantage. He used the time old adage – “If you fail, try, try, try again”. It seems strange to apply sporting analogies to a task that is far removed from the fields of play, but it was only Dan’s sheer determination to beat his opponent – the old back flow device – that got the job done. With the thousands of muscle fibres in his arms surely screaming at him to stop, he forged on and got it done.
It was a brilliant lesson for a young 1st year plumber – the job isn’t just going to happen, the problem will never just fix itself; you have to want to fix the problem. Perhaps for a now seasoned plumber like Dan, it was pride and a bit of ego driving him. The constant adjusting of the angle the stilsons had with the device, and the never ending repetition of effort only to see nothing happen was a measure of the patience required to succeed in this role. It was a lasting lesson for me – they seem to be happening daily. Another job well done by the Reliable boys.
Sam Eggleston – first year apprentice