Prison Pete

Monday, October 02, 2006
  Prison Plumber Pete.
We have a new inmate that just started in maintenance yesterday. He only works the morning shift, but was there at 7:30 AM this morning and helped me with the truck.

Today was the today we got to ride through most of the compound in an open truck dropping off supplies to each of the eight units. He is a younger inmate of Mexican descent and he had this great big smile on his face as we took off from the loading dock and he got to wave to his fellow inmates from the back of the truck.

When we got back to the shop, I decided to take about four different work orders that involved plumbing skills. For some reason we have lost all our semi-skilled workers at the same time.

Listening to the radio, on the community calendar segment they just mentioned the Scoop on Poop: parasite counting skills in fecal matter of your goats and sheep. Handouts and light refreshments will be provided. You gotta love the local rural radio station.

Coincidentally, along that same line the first problem we attacked was a clog in the waste line between sink three and two in one of the units bathrooms. Each bathroom has four sinks along two opposite walls, eight total, for use by the sixty inmates in each unit. Since this clog was somewhere in the wall, this meant that both the third and fourth sink were not usable.

Since nothing in prison is ever easy, it is not just a simple matter of loosening the sink trap and removing it. The traps are threaded onto the pipe that comes out of the wall and if you try to spin the trap off, unfortunately you can't because the sink is in the way.

Well we had one of those air ram devices, which you can hand pump up to 50 or 60 PSI and an electric hand-drill-style power snake. We removed the plug at the bottom of the traps in sinks three and four but only succeeded in covering ourselves with brackish type sludge that accumulates in drain pipes. The last sink had a half trap that I could remove and that left me with an elbow on the pipe going into the wall.

I was able to turn the elbow so that instead of the opening pointing to the floor, I was able to point it to the three o'clock position. The problem with using the air ram on this point was you needed to try and plug the overflow and drain in sink three so that the air pressure wiill not just escape out the sink rather than knocking out the damn clog.

Well 10:00 arrived and still no progress, but regardless it was time to put all the tools away and head back to the shop. My new assistant, self appointed by moi, decided he certainly did not like plumbing.

In the afternoon, I rounded up another assistant and headed back up for Round 2 of attacking the clogged sinks. This time I was able to unscrew the drain from sink three after detaching the hot and cold supply lines, then loosen the brackets that lock the porcelain sink in place. I was able to jiggle the sink on the brackets just enough to spin the trap off.

Now I had a direct shot into the main drain pipe to hopefully clear the clog. After several blasts using the air ram to plug the pipe and run the water in sink four, still no luck.

But luck was with us because at the same time we were working on this clog, the vocation class in building maintenance was using a power washer in the showers. I had them spray the power sprayer into the drain pipe and that cleared the plug. It is now about 1:30 PM and still three more jobs to do.

Next stop was to realign the flushometer on one toilet and one urinal. The inmates like to kick the toilet flushometer to flush it and this ends up causing the joints in the fixture to spring leaks. The remedy is to loosen the various joints and realign the pipes and retighten everything. Time now 1:45 PM. Pushing the time barrier,

I head off to the third unit to fix a shower that is missing a handle. It could only have happened that another maintenance inmate started doing something on the valve, got lost, and left the pieces he could not put back with the officer.

Unfortunately, I was missing a nice long shaft screwdriver needed to turn the water off to properly fix the valve. I was able to turn the hot and cold water off, but when it came time to turn them back on, the shaft of the smaller screwdriver would not reach up to get a strong enough grip to turn the water back on.

After several futile minutes trying to get the water back on, I gave up and put the tools away only then realizing that is was now 2:15 PM. Fifteen minutes after the normal time we are supposed to be back in the shop. When I got back in the shop the civilian in the tool cage, the previously discussed somewhat pain in the ass, made it clear to me that I was late.

Bottom line I was able to fix three out of four of the jobs that had been sitting around for a few days, and on the fourth one I at least stopped the water from spurting out of the shower valve with the missing pieces. Tomorrow morning I will go back to the last job and fix the shower valve, but first making sure I have all the tools I need.

I still need to type a short note for one of the other inmates. Earlier this morning while the inmate giving me the tools was showing me the various sized pipe wrenches, as I turned the first two, the same civilian told the inmate to just give me any pipe wrench, he did not care which one. Lot of good it does me if the jaws are too small to fit around the pipe!

Well let me go type the letter for the other inmate.

By the way, the old man telling me about the upcoming strike may have been a little over dramatic. There is supposed to be a strike as far as going to chow goes, which is certainly not a problem for me, but as far as disobeying program and job assignments that is not in the plans. No knifing heading my way at this time. I hope.

The Friday and Saturday paper arrived today. Normally I would have expected Sunday and Monday today. I guess all the airplane threats are also effecting the U.S. mail. I assume they must fly the mail from the NYC area to the hub that then passes our mail on to the local post office. So for the short term it looks like I will be several days behind. I did manage to read through the two papers, but did not attempt either of the crossword puzzles. I will be giving them a shot tonight after lights out.

Now I have will wait till tomorrow, Wednesday, to get the Monday paper, and get my weekly shot of confidence by doing the Monday Puzzle in PEN. Some day all of them.
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