I could have used her talents last evening as I sat patiently plunging the one and only toilet at chez moi. I am of course referring to the fictional character of Josephine the plumber, who in my generation sold Comet in US television ads.
Living overseas, the only time I glimpsed Josephine on the small screen was when we came to visit relatives every few years. She was the only female trades person at that point ever encountered by me and when I remarked to my mother as soon-to-be seven-year-old that I did not know women could be plumbers, she looked down from her five foot eight plus heels perch, declaring, "Do not believe everything you see on TV."
Designed to induce skepticism, this maternal edict only served to fuel my curiosity...if Josephine is an actor playing a plumber. does she get to learn how to plumb? Can she say how Comet is made? Does she get extra money for doing a man job? Why is Comet better than what Nana has at her house?
At the mention of her mother, my mother's previously slowly arching eyebrow, a signal of growing aggravation, shot up completely. Taking a breath, she said, "No woman ever gets the money a man earns for the same job though some day that may change. Chances are good that plumbing is not on her agenda and unless she has a degree in chemistry, she won't care how Comet is made. As for your grandmother, I have no idea what she uses, it might be snake spit."
I knew from her tone that the conversation was finished and lest I irritate her further and risk punishment for doing so, I was to play quietly elsewhere, all the while pondering at what seemed her constant annoyance, a quality she never seemed to shed where I was concerned.
Funny what memories return when one is poised over a plunger. The unclogging took a while, as in hours, and I finished it off with hot water and dish washing soap. You can find out more about this and see Josephine the plumber in living color courtesy of You Tube. Her name is Jane Withers and she is now 94.
As for me, I await the appearance of a real life Josephine who doesn't mind fussy pipes...