Cody Durant's speech at the 2017 Platinum Plunger Awards
Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. Thank you, Des Moines Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Buddy said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Plumbers, foreigners and Vietnam Vets.
But who are we, and what is Des Moines anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of Lower Beaver. Buddy Collins was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina; Jed Jackson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Gainesville. Smitty Jackson was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. And Heimy Labowitz was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates?
Duane Smith, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian. So Des Moines is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to crap in but a hole in the ground, which is not a toilet.
They gave me three seconds to say this, so: A plumber’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and fix your hydraulic issues. And there were many, many, many powerful service calls this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.
But there was one service call this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when some famous actor-fella in Frisbie Park made fun of Jed’s stutter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.
O.K., this brings me to the Building Inspectors. We need the principled inspectors to hold plumbers to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our city founders enshrined the Department of Building and Safety and its freedoms in the City Charter. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Des Moines Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Building Inspectors, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the pipes.
One more thing: Once, when I was standing around the septic tank one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Buddy sez to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Cody, just to be a plumber?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of toilet repair. We should all be proud of the work Des Moines honors here tonight.
As my friend, the dear departed Sammy Whitman, said to me once, “Take your chewing gum, make it into a patch.”
(WithOUT apologies to Meryl Streep)
Ferguson Wins Gold in Men's 3/4 Acre Lawnmower Event