Don’t let past mistakes hinder your future. 

I don’t think a Christmas season can go by without seeing one version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Everyone knows the story and as a result, Scrooge has become a term we commonly use to identify an inconsiderate miser. Even my computer thesaurus lists “Scrooge” if I type in “miser.”

None of us wants to become Ebenezer Scrooge, so we make sure we are generous and kind during the holiday season. We also wonder what the three ghosts of Christmas would say to us. My fear is having the Plumbing Ghost of Christmas Past visit me. What mistakes did I make? Even worse, what mistakes did I make that I didn’t correct?

So I put down a list of mistakes I have made in the plumbing profession that, as I look back, I wish I hadn’t made.

The first mistake I’ll list occurred in my own house. It is a mistake that unfortunately impacts my wife and family all the time. When I remodeled our kitchen, I installed an automatic faucet in the new kitchen sink. The faucet is great. You hit it and the water turns on. You hit it again, and the water turns off. Automatic faucets are just a wonderful invention.

Also in my kitchen is a smaller sink on the peninsula. The faucet on that sink looks identical to the faucet on the main kitchen sink. It should, it is the same faucet. However, the one difference is the faucet on the peninsula sink is not an automatic faucet. Even the salesperson said, “You don’t need an automatic faucet on the smaller sink.” Well, I was wrong and the salesperson was wrong. If you install two faucets in the kitchen, either make them both automatic or both manual. I prefer automatic.

I beat the small sink faucet to death and it never turns off. It also never turns on when I beat on it. Sometimes I get mad that it isn’t working until I finally realize it is a manual faucet. One of these days, I may break that faucet. So, a word to the wise: Make all faucets in one room automatic.

Another mistake that continues to haunt me is believing the words of an inspector from Wisconsin many years ago regarding grease. This inspector claimed that the majority of the grease goes down the food waste disposer, therefore all food waste disposers must discharge through a grease interceptor. First, the inspector was dead wrong. Second, the dumbest thing you could ever do is run the discharge from a food waste disposer through a grease interceptor.

I recently read a column where the author made the same dumb claims as the inspector from Wisconsin. He was wrong, too.

There was a video made showing the waste from a food waste disposer. It is amazing how well the disposers grind up the food particles. The last thing you want to do is put that through a grease interceptor. It would play havoc with any grease interceptor and inhibit its ability to do what it is supposed to do, which is separate grease from the waste discharge. Furthermore, the waste from a food waste disposer is considered clean waste that can readily be turned into energy at the wastewater treatment plant.

Stand behind your work

I’ll throw the next group of mistakes into the same category. These are the times that I acquiesced to the plumbing inspector rather than challenge his ruling. We have all probably done it. Sometimes it just seems easier to change something rather than fight an incorrect interpretation of the code. As such, we are making inspectors god-like. They are not and they know it.

Most inspectors do the best they can do. They have all known times when they have made the wrong interpretation. In doing so, we are told to change something. The times I have made these changes, they didn’t cost me a thing. The cost was passed on to my clients. That was wrong. My clients hired me to be the professional. By giving in to an incorrect interpretation, I cost them more money. They hired me to make sure they don’t have to spend money unnecessarily. So, if an inspector says something wrong, identify why he is wrong and why the installation is correct. We are all human and our customers expect the best out of us.

Perhaps the Plumbing Ghost of Christmas Past would rear its ugly head the most for me saying that green plumbing is a joke. OK, I never really said that; however, that is how some people interpreted it. What I tried to say is the green movement is a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies and will probably never catch on. What I meant is the plumbing industry has always cared about saving energy, water and the environment; we don’t need people outside the industry telling us we are doing it wrong.

Yes, I should have been more diplomatic. In defending our profession, I insulted a great group of individuals trying to do the right thing. I have been apologizing ever since. I applaud contractors who have gone green; I hope you consider yourselves to be green. I have always been and always will be green. It is simply that we didn’t used to call it green.

My list could probably go on for a few more pages. I only hope the Plumbing Ghost from Christmas Past misses most of those things.

But we shouldn’t dwell on the Plumbing Ghost of Christmas Past. We should all try to concentrate this holiday season on the Plumbing Ghost of Christmas Future. It is our future that counts. Let’s try to do what is right for our customers, our country, our planet and our fellow man. We should make sure we learn from our mistakes and try to never make them again.

Have a wonderful holiday season. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a prosperous New Year.