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.
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]