Thursday, August 09, 2007

So very toilet

Fred Milton, the beat-poet poodle in Lynda Barry's cartoons, frequently has that refrain--declaring that O! things are toilet indeed. In this vein, I'm also thinking of when little Pancake was in co-op daycare, and a vogue of toddler cursing swept the school--people calling each other "poopy" and such. After some debate with the teachers and parents, an approved list of benign expletives was established, which included the word "diaper." "That is totally diaper!" Michelle and I went around saying for weeks.

So. The bathtub in my 65-year-old home has been a bit lethargic of drain since I moved in; when things worsened periodically, a slug of Drano or some other store-brand caustic usually did the trick. But this week it got grim indeed, burps and blurts of rusty crudwater backfilling into the tub when I ran the sink. Tuesday night I plunged and Dranoed and plunged anew, assaulted the clog with a boiling teakettle, followed the directions in my most excellent Dare to Repair ladies' guide to home maintenance (hi, Holly!), unscrewing the drain trap and the overflow stopper mechanism and plunging and plunging again. Around midnight, I thought I had it beat; God knows the plunging was a fine upper-body workout.

But no. Wednesday morning shower, and again the cloudy soapscummy water pooled around my ankles, going nowhere. I groped muttering for my towel...and then noticed how the toilet had gotten into the act, overflowing across the room and submerging the bathmat. Toilet water! Yes, it was "clean," from the bowl...but that remains a toilet bowl. I deployed a plethora of curses, none from the approved daycare list, and squelched off to call a plumber and my boss, in that order.

"Tub and toilet--so, that's a clog in your main sewer line," announced one of the two wrenchmeisters deployed to my home. Of course my wee ancient cottage is too small to maneuver in; the snake apparatus would not fit into the bathroom or the crawl space or through the mysterious, now-weeping capped port in the linen closet. They had to dig a trench along side my house to get to the main line. Plumber A handed me the clipboard with their estimate. I invoked The Lord, loudly, but He made no comment and so I signed. What else can you do? It's a one-bath house, I'm essentially hostage to the Rooter Rescue Squad: pay, or pee in a bucket. I slumped in my office, crying over my laptop while the crew dug and sawed pipe and rotorooted and wet-vac'ed and had a sneezing fit and cursed a little in Spanish, lending some cultural variety to the stream of invective that hovered over my bathroom all day long.

$1667 and change later, I once again have the privilege of modern conveniences. On the plus side, the ditch-digging operation tore out approximately 654 linear miles of morning glory I'd been meaning to get to, so hey: no need to salt the earth on the north side of the house. On the negative, there goes the flat-panel LCD television I'd been saving up for, literally flushed away. That, and the knowledge that toilet shenanigans of any sort occurred in my bathroom and were presumably tracked hither and yon through the house by the plumbers. I mopped like a fiend (more upper body, plus cardio!), but there is a part of me convinced I will never feel clean again; I kind of want to boil and bleach the floors. And possibly myself, from the knees down. As soon as I stop rocking back and forth, cradling the stump of my Visa card to my chest and crying.


Gael said...

Girl, you got off easy. We had to have the whole yard ripped up and it was $10K. JUST SO WE COULD HAVE WATER. It was like digging a big hole in the yard and throwing the money away.

They even threatened us "Oh, if it eventually gets bad where your pipes connect to the street, it could be $30K."

You may now commence fainting.

Kim said...

Oy vey, my heart!

Yes, I'm rapidly finding out that plumbing horror stories are much, childbirth horror stories--everyone is really eager to share. I'll spare you! ;)

Michelle said...

I am very sorry you have to substitute plumbing for television. It just isn't fair! But I would never have remembered the fun of calling things diaper, so nice to be reminded of that. On a related note, I just read a review of the new Junot Diaz novel, and he had another favorite, and most appropriate epiphet that we called upon frequently in carpool traffic jams: "That's so ass." These toilet issues are ass.

Today in Vedbaek, we are getting frequent warnings not to drink the water. Now we have just been informed that "iron and ochre are released together with the drinking water." And that it's not harmful to our health, but we should still not drink it. Now I have to go look up ochre, which I thought was just a fancy color for bathroom paint.