Jewish Journal

The ‘Smell-Prejudiced’ Plumbers

by Melanie Chartoff

July 11, 2011 | 1:57 pm

I come from the cutting edge county of New Haven, Connecticut. Sure, our area’s best known for patrician, classy old stuff like Yale University, the Shubert Theater, and historical Revolutionary War artifacts all over the place, but In terms of gossipy graffiti and verbal bullying, we were waaaay ahead of our time. The West Haven High School halls were trashed with profane etchings the day it opened in 1962, and reputations were ruined in permanent house paints all over the teachers’ parking lot in East Haven in ’68. Before the internet made it easy, marriages and futures went up in fumes via the rumor mills of “the Havens”.

And, although called “kike,” and “dirty Jew” by classmates, I confess that I didn’t climb far above the fray—the call of the wild pecking order was too strong.  Not wishing to be depicted as pitiful victim, I learned to sling invective with the best of them, collaborating with the cool kids in smearing “Klotzbergers’ germs and no returns!” on others’ arms. In every walk by that neighbor’s house, in every school assembly sitting behind his daughters, I got a sense of belonging to the top dogs on those less fortunate puppies’ shoulders, until I attained higher station by nobler deeds. This article may not be one of them.

These Mike Diamond Plumbing Company radio commercials make my Liberal, hamisha mood MAD.  On A.M. News Radio Stations all over Southern California, Mike Diamond refers to his employees as the “smell good” plumbers, personal hygiene seeming the exclusive domain of his workers. The spots use the perjorative “Bubba” to describe other purveyors and repairers of pipe. Mike makes his protocol of telling “how much it costs up front” to unclog a drain, like any good hooker or colonicist, sound special. He also makes “showing up on time” sound like punctuality’s their exclusive art. He damns himself with faint praise.

So here’s the dirt. In the days following the chaos of the ‘94 L.A. quake, Mike Diamond’s sweet smelling fleet were known to gouge the needy leaking, including me. That stinky reputation continues, according to Yelp, and to other plumbers, who, sans lawyers like Mike’s, were unwilling to go on record or consider a class action suit, as “…those Walmart women didn’t do too well.”

Take my word for it: the Eau de Anger was strong in all those interviewed. This being a land of very free speech, I give some SoCal service experts a forum here to numb down their indignation.

From a West Los Angeles contractor: “Total crook!” “He’s an idiot, a ripoff…the last guy to call in a crisis. He has sub par workers, unqualified, and undertrained, but really good attorneys.” 

From a Gas Company employee: “He charged my mother $2000 for a water heater that costs $200. He asked $5000 to replace a line to the street that should’ve cost only $1500.”

From a Beverly Hills Plumbing and Heating worker: “The one who calls us all ‘Bubba’s’? He’s a racist, if you ask me. We should take him to court.”

From an appliance installation expert: “He sucks. He’s under investigation by the Better Business Bureau.”

Then again, the BBB is itself an untrustworthy pot calling others black, apparently taking bribes for its better business reports.

In over two decades of home owning in Los Angeles, I’ve most often called one port-in-a-storm plumber for help. He’s a sweet smelling knight in shining overalls, who, crawling into what lies beneath, has made my nightmarish, brackish bathroom world right after inevitable overflows. I praised his pleasantly fruity cologne so much, he bought me a bottle of it. (He deserves his own label – ‘Plumb Wonderful.”)  This saint, who declined to be identified for this piece, had a gentler overview of Mike’s blatant bias bespoken on air.

“He’s gotten big, been around a long time, and lots of us undercut his estimates. He’s scared so he’s using a 50 year old stereotype, like we’re low class slaves. These days us plumbers deal with plastic and copper, have better machines and education for far more time than years ago…these days we all make a lot more than most writers or actors like you do.”

(See? Even this very human hero is not above demeaning others to elevate himself. I forgive him—I need him too much.)

It’s human, when feeling insecure, to make others “bad.” The more alienated we become, the more we become a lonely race of one, seeking the similarly slanted for company. So I’m taking a public pot shot and inviting Comments from others who agree, so I won’t feel that my prejudice against the prejudiced is a solo stance.

Mr. Mike.  If you are smelling something bad on folks who don’t work for you, take a whiff within: perhaps what clogs your nostrils is the stench of your own unexamined sewage.

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Melanie Chartoff is an inventor—of stories and characters for the page, stage and screen—and the environment, having patented a graywater recycling device for home use...

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