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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wave of the Future

Times are fewer and fewer that some slick talking semi-executive gets the Dumbplumber’s goat, but last Friday was one of those times. You see, Dumbplumber is, well, a plumber. And as a specialist within this occupation, he is also a water pumping aficionado, with over 15 years of experience, from a master, in domestic water pumping and plumbing systems.

So it was with some chagrin that Dumbplumber was taken to the woodshed about, “The Wave of the Future”, three days ago.

You see, the advantage of entering your third trimester of life is that most likely you have been exposed to many waves of the future. You know like polyester leisure suits, Yugos, Betamax video players and Buns of Steel exercise devices, all well buried in landfills, all over America, for decades now. So I’ve become sort of a cynic when it comes to “waves of the future”. Let me explain.

For those of us who have not forsaken our technical roots for a life of high pressure management skills, this is the path we take to restore water in rural America. First we establish that we have no electrical issues like a blown fuse, popped circuit breaker or malfunctioning control panel. Then we reactivate the system to pursue the problem. Well last Tuesday, I discovered that my problem pump was pulling 85 amps (12 is normal) just prior to the overload protection system shutting down. A sure sign that the pump had seized or motor had wiring issues. Either way, this puppy had to come out.

I then contacted a colleague in a neighboring community to refer the replacement to him, because my dance card was full with three other jobs, started but not completed. The funny thing about ‘service’ is that you have to finish something before you get credit for a job well done or paid for it either. So as a favor to this client, who has a habit of using and needing water on a daily basis, I called in reinforcements who had fewer obligations at the moment, than I.

My obligations on Wednesday prevented my helping my friend, but by Thursday I was able to cut loose and assist in the installation of the new, improved, not to be outdone ‘Variable Speed Pump‘. The variable speed pump, the ‘wet dream’ of engineers sitting in cubicles and climate controlled testing centers, but the nightmare to installers and field technicians everywhere.

You see, when the stars align, the moon is in Aquarius and you hold your mouth just right, the ‘Variable’ is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But have one little glitch in your water system or try to operate the system in an unusual way, you will meet head on with management and technical assistance like two trains going in opposite directions on the same track. It is not a pretty site, just like last Friday.

Installing the pump and operating was a breeze on Thursday, pipe on pump and pump in hole, then switching out the old controller with the new, more sophisticated ‘Variable Controller’ went off without a hitch. About 4 p.m. we kicked it on and water was going, like we knew what we were doing, right up and until 6 p.m., when I got the first call that they were out of water.

Fortunately, I live only a few miles away and took the call, so that my veteran installer friend wouldn’t have to trek 30 miles for a five minute adjustment.

The ‘blinking trouble code’ on the controller said it was ‘low water pressure’, which is techno speak for, “the pump is out of the water”. Thing is with this well, the pump is setting in over 100 feet of water. But the geniuses in the cubicles didn’t take into consideration that their computer controlled fetus can’t tell the difference between low water in the well and a high volume demand from one or two stations of the lawn sprinkling system. Wow, hooda thunk it.

Re-adjusting the air pressure in the holding tanks, the amperage cutout on the controller and rebooting the computer and I was on my way, right up and until 6 a.m. the next morning.

Now flummoxed with an unreasonable and inexplicable shutdown, Dumbplumber trundles back out to the scene of the crime.

Armed with an installation manual written in Chinese, translated to Hebrew, then into East Congolese and back into English by some Somalian refugees, I found it impossible to understand the gibberish that passed for information.

That is when I made the fatal call to our district manager, that spawned this posting. It was like having Rod Serling spouting a biscuit recipe over a speaker phone. I was to determine in the future that the well “draw-down” had to be done before installing a new pump. (Which would take days and considerable expense). And I was to have the customer bring in sprinkler experts to down size the orifices of the offending stations to cut down the consumption. Oky Dokey then.

Nevermind that replacing the old pump with the same style required none of this. But we wouldn’t be installing the most dependable, efficient and most importantly, Wave of the Future pumping system. Visions of Ford Pintos with Firestone 500s floated before my eyes.

It was then that I noticed the “low pressure cut off” button on the controller. Relaying this revelation to the ‘Manager of the Moment’ I was met with a wave of caution of exposing the pump to low water or the evil of all pumps the dreaded “Cavitation Syndrome”, where pumps exposed to air in the water while running could make the pump fail. And such a failure would not be covered by warranty, like it was the magic wand of the pump industry.

So I made the Dumbplumber diplomatic decision to shut off the low pressure cut out and advise my friend over the mountain and let them hash out the details of the consequences.  Meanwhile I would get on with my life of restoring water and my faith in my fellow man, without the intrusion of Waves of the Future. You know, like ‘Governing without a Budget’, ‘Spending yourself into Prosperity’ and the mother of all waves, buying an electric car that will go about 30 miles on a single charge, when in a subzero snowstorm, with the wipers, and heater on to keep you from freezing to death.

And yes, you can get one of those Variable Speed Controllers to set in the seat next to you, to show your ‘homage’ to the brilliance of both.

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