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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

It’s Funny, But ‘Increasingly Gargantuan Tranches’ Is the Name of My Ellery Bop Tribute Band. But I Digress

Sippican: Excuse me.
The Internet: Hello Mr. Sippican.
Sippican: Come on with me for a minute. I want to talk to you. I just want to say one word to you, just one word.
The Internet: Yes, sir.             
Sippican: Are you listening?
The Internet: Yes I am.               
Sippican: Fernco.        
The Internet: Exactly how do you mean?             
Sippican: There is a great future in Fernco. Think about it. Will you think about it? 
The Internet: Yes, I will.
Sippican: Enough said. That’s a deal.

That’s a bit of a strained metaphor, I know. It lacks verisimilitude, which is a writing term for plagiarizing people who have actually visited the place you’re writing about. Anyway, as you know, I have never uttered the phrase, “Enough said,” and I’m not starting now. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I look at my wife and say, “But enough about me. What do you think about me?”

Let’s move on and talk about what to do with your sewer line after you’ve given it a proper cleanse. Or more to the point, what I did with mine. I fixed it, lickety split. That’s because I know about Fernco fittings.

Let’s have a show of hands here. Name the important company: Apple or Fernco. It’s a trick question, I realize that. One company was briefly the largest in the world by market capitalization. The other one is important.

If Apple was wiped off the face of the Earth tomorrow by a meteor strike or a Chinese slave labor strike, take your pick, I wouldn’t notice. They don’t make anything useful to me. Don’t get me wrong, a computer is a useful thing, but Apple doesn’t make computers. Apple makes Apple computers. Not the same thing. They manufacture the vinyl siding of the tech world as far as I’m concerned. I like clapboards and paint.

I would certainly notice if Fernco wasn’t there tomorrow. If it wasn’t for Fernco, I’d be pooping in a bucket right now and dumping it in the nearby river every night when no one was looking, like a wild animal, or the Dave Matthews Band. I was introduced to Fernco twenty years ago or so. People who hang out in trenches call every flexible coupling “a fernco.” It’s become the equivalent of calling any brand of facial tissue a “kleenex” or every refrigerator a “frigidaire.” Of course, everyone calls every MP3 player an “iPod,” but I call them a “Walkman” just to piss them off. When I call their iPhone a Palm Pilot, they come at me like a kamikaze.

I don’t know how big a company Fernco is. It’s a privately held company. A privately held company is this weird type of business that makes useful things and turns a profit. That’s why you never hear a word about privately held companies on the business pages. Today’s average business plan is to borrow money in increasingly gargantuan tranches without ever even trying to turn a profit, and then selling out to Marissa Mayer for a billion dollars before you run out of Ramen noodles and she runs out of board members who think she’s cute. Then you read about it on Marketwatch on your Speak N Spell. Whoops, I meant iPad.

In the misty halls of antiquity, you had to seek out a commercial plumbing supply house if you wanted to speak Fernco with a fellow Ferncomaniac. Only hardcore plumbers go there. You could end up in a leper colony just by shaking hands with everyone waiting at the counter. That type of supply house used to scare me, because I was just dabbling in plumbing. True plumbing believers could spot a plumbing dilettante like me a mile off.

There was a counter with one giant, filthy catalog on it, and a gruff face glowering at you across the Formica. They’d ask you, “What do you want,” and if you didn’t immediately answer, “Gimme tree-four of the one-tousand-tooz dash fordyfors if ya got ’em,” they’d know you were a civilian and give you directions to the nearest Ace Hardware. Oh, the walk of shame to the truck is seared, seared in my memory.

Fernco is now a multinational business and you can buy their fabulous doothingies in any Home Despot. My life is improved by this, but somehow made modestly more ignoble, too. When everyone knows about your secret weapon, you’ve lost the ability to dazzle people with your inside information. I can no longer casually drop a mention of Ferncos at swanky dinner parties, and expect everyone to give me the John Houseman treatment. Oh, Ferncos. They have those at Lowe’s. The conversation drifts back to Mr. Darcy’s linen shirt supplier, and I’m left out in the cold.

When I regaled you earlier with the tale of desecrating the men’s room in the Home Depot, and desolating the stock in the plumbing aisle, I could have saved time and simply reported that I’d bought every permutation of a Fernco I could find. It’s more or less what I did. Fernco makes this fabulous rubber boot with two compression rings on it that’s used to connect the spigot end of a 4″ clay pipe to a piece of 4″ hubless PVC pipe. What, you’ve never heard of it? Jesucristo, errybody knows they’re one-tousand-tooz dash fordyfors.

[to be continued]

[Update: Many thanks go out to Barry B. from Adkins, Texas for his generous and thoughtful donation to our PayPal tip button. It is very much appreciated]

16 Responses

  1. I decided to click on your link-thingie and check out the Fernco site, and there's a link to "Hot Products". What is the first one listed? Well, a "urinal seal" of course.

    The jokes practically write themselves. But I'm fairly certain I saw Urinal Seal open for Increasingly Gargantuan Tranches back in the '70s.

  2. I'm glad this Icelandic saga is headed for a happy ending for the Sippican ends…. for awhile I was afraid something really shitty was going to happen at the end.

  3. Alack and alas, everything is in or under the slab. In Matthew 7:26 it says, "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." Of course, if no one built his house upon the sand then no one would build a house here. So I suppose Ferncos wouldn't be needed much here. Maybe in a multi-storey commercial building?

    But we do have PVC sewer drains, which are generally pretty slippery, and we can often blow the clogs right out into the septic tank. Generally. I'm really glad that things are draining and the pipe is making a comforting, soothing sound. Maybe UH can give us tribute band song in honor of the drainage. With graphics (or not…)

  4. This is probably a weird thing to say, but judging by their site they make beautiful stuff. Some of those couplings are as sleek and appealing as any smartphone, and far more functional.

  5. Funny about building your house on sand. Its actually a good idea to build the slab on sand/gravel instead of clay or rock as those move and will tear your house up while sand/gravel allows the house to stay put as the earth moves under it

  6. Moved into a new to us house, and not terribly long afterwards had to cut the lead pipe shower drain to remove a Shetland pony sized hair ball. Fixed the cut with this rubber and hose clamp thingie and figured it would hold up for a while. So far still good after thirty years.

    And when you are cutting cast iron pipe to remove a section to use the snake, make slightly angled cuts so the piece comes out and goes in easily. (like a keystone)

  7. There is a house in the southwest desert whose septic tank shares the ridgetop but whose leach field is in a mud flat sixty feet below. I wish to hastily state that I did not build this house or this system.

    But last Spring I hung from a rope to repair a break in the exposed 4" PVC pipe that connected the two, over a near-vertical cliff – with a Fernco. Though before this morning I just called it a flexible coupling. All hail Fernco.

  8. It was a great day for me some years ago when the local plumbing inspector told me that Ferncos had become legal for concealed installation, including burial.

  9. According to Amazon the people who buy the devils in the cows also perform their own home dentistry.

    Love your writing.
    Steve in KY

  10. Well, I'll be darned! Some years ago, a scant hour or so before My-Better-Two-Thirds and I were due to leave for the airport for a trip, she discovered that there was an odiferous drip coming from the copper waste pipe that ran from the hallway half-bath, through the crawlspace underneath, and into the sewer pipe. Or, rather, she discovered something odiferous and tasked me with narrowing down the origin.

    Lickety-split I discovered a flexible black coupling at the nearby Channel, or was it Rickles – impossible to recall for sure as it was some years ago – . I hacksawed a bit out of that copper pipe, installed that coupling, and that fixed it right up in time to make our flight. I figured if we were lucky it would last until we returned from our trip. Its still there working like a charm.

    Never knew it was a Fernco until now. Live and learn.

  11. I call them music boxes and enjoy the looks I get.
    The plumbers I used to work with called Ferncoes "no-hub couplings". And then I moved back here and the milking system guys call them Ferncoes and I learned something new.

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