Magazine | February 6, 2017, Issue

Plumb Crazy

After Trump was elected I curled up in a small ball of fear. For days. Didn’t leave my apartment. I mean literally curled up. I spent 72 hours looking at my knees. And I was thinking, like, these knees are like America, you know? There’s a right knee and a left knee, and once upon a time they had to work together to move forward, but now it’s like, the right knee is in charge! We will hop now? Hop towards a future where women are put in jail for thinking they can have birth control?

And I was like, thinking about all my relatives who probably voted for Trump because they’re, you know, old? And so they probably vote like old people who are afraid Muslims will take away bacon at Denny’s or something, which is ludicrous, although if you read that piece in Slate about the Pork-Industrial Complex and how the runoff from the “farms” is polluting the groundwater, maybe a ban would be okay and I would sign the petition to help vegan-Muslim-eco intersectional awareness.

And anyway I was thinking, my relatives all have right knees, and when Trump was elected, I’ll bet their right leg just shot out straight, like Dr. Strangelove at the end of Dr. Strangelove, you know, he says Mine Furrier! I can hop again! I can’t even call my parents because of the election. They might say something like, you know, “How are you?” and I’d be, like, I haven’t had a solid bowel movement for three days? Because Aunt Dot is all Hitler-happy now? She lives in Texas. Or Oklahoma. One of those pickup states.

And so I was just curled in a ball until I realized, I have to eat. We must resist and you can’t resist if you’re hungry. And so I get up, and look out the window, and it’s like, normal. Seriously. People are walking down the street, cars are going up and down killing the earth, there’s even birds singing. I know, right? It’s so surreal. Like nothing happened. You see someone who looks undocumented and you’re, like, hello, why aren’t you burning a mattress in protest? Do you not know?

And then there was a knock at the door. I froze. I literally froze. So soon? So fast? When Trump won I erased all my tweets about jailing climate deniers, but of course they’d seen them. They’d been planning this for years.

“Plumber,” said a voice. “Landlord said you had a running toilet.”

And my mind races because yes yes, I had complained about that. The landlord said if I wanted to install a new ballcock and send him the receipt he’d take it off my rent, and I’m, like, is this feudal times where I do the laird’s bidding? And do you know how problematic gendered plumbing part-names are? Did we not have a conversation about how triggering it is to write out the rent check and be forced to remind me how private property is still, you know, a thing? And how we set up withdrawals from my trust fund so I didn’t get rashes around the first of the month?

And so I let the plumber in. He’s big, with tools, and facial hair you can tell is not intended ironically at all, and he is wearing, swear to God I am not making this up, a Red. Cap.

And I think, well, I am a dead man. And I’m suddenly ashamed at that thought. Because I have identified as gender-fluid lately? And I’m surprised that’s what I thought. I would like to think I would say, oh, I’m a dead genderflex hominid or maybe we are dead but no, I go right for the butch.

And to be honest his red cap said Jackson Plumbing, in gold braid, very vintage, but hello, you can’t wear a red cap without knowing how it’s going to affect people.

And so he goes to the bathroom and there’s clanking and grunting and flushing, whatever they do. I go to the window and look out to see if his truck is outside. Maybe it has bumper stickers that will warn me what he’s all about. There’s a truck! It has a sticker! It says Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day — Because They Didn’t Use Union Workers.

And my heart is in my throat now. Rome, militarism, Caesar, gladiators. Fascism, right? I start hyperventilating and I haven’t done that since 2012 when it took them until 8 o’clock to call the election for Obama, and I go for a plastic bag to breathe in but remember the city banned them because of the planet and so I take a reusable Trader Joe’s bag and put it over my head and try to get my breathing, you know, settled out.

And he comes out of the bathroom and says “Okay, it’s fixed — hey, are you okay?” And I say don’t hurt me. Just go. And I say it as fierce as I can because, you know, I have the bag, so you have to project. I hear the door click shut and make myself count to 100 because he could still be there.

And when I take the bag off my head the air is incredibly sweet, and suddenly I think, you know, we can win. We don’t have to die. We don’t have to give in to fascism. So I am calling for everyone to wear a reusable bag over their head this month as a sign of resistance.

And you might want to wash it out first because mine was smelly and I got sick. Curled up in a ball. For days.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

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