Sunday, February 22, 2009
Adventures in plumbing
Yesterday was scheduled and planned. There was the usual morning house cleaning, vacuuming and dish washing, dying the roots of my Pepe le Pew do and taking a shower so I'd smell nice when my favorite Luddite came to visit at one. A plumber from Roto-Rooter was coming between 8 and 10 a.m. and he would probably get here early to unclog the stopped up toilet that resisted plunging, bleach and drain cleaner, but he'd come and go and I'd still get finished before company arrived.
That's how it was supposed to go.
I got up early, cleaned the kitchen and started the dishwasher, vacuumed the rugs and sorted the laundry before the plumber got here, snaked the toilet and proclaimed he'd have to pull the toilet to the tune of $200. Not going to happen. I suggested the vent on the roof might be stuck and he climbed up onto the roof with his heavy duty electric snake and snaked the vent, pulling up tree roots. He's still going to have to pull the toilet. I called the landlord who told me he had a plumber on contract and to tell Roto-Rooter to go home. The plumber from Roto-Rooter took the news very well and didn't charge me for the work he'd done because he didn't unclog the drain. Now that is a nice guy. I thanked him and contemplated taking a shower just as the new plumber arrived.
He snaked the toilet and called the office who called the landlord who called the plumber and said he was coming over. When the landlord, Mark, got here the plumber told him the toilet had to come up and he quoted the price at $235. Mark signed off on the order, thus saving my meager bank account from rape and pillage, and left. The toilet came out, the snake went down and the toilet refused to flush. The plumber called in the big guns, a bigger electrical snake than the previous plumber lugged up onto the roof, and snaked the toilet. The machine made horrible sounds and so did the plumber. His snake was stuck. He called in reinforcements who arrived moments before my guest, who came over to give me a belated birthday gift, and they and the electric snake made horrible noises, conferred, and finally pulled the snake free (about 30 feet of which had been stuck in the drain somewhere down the line) by taking the screen out of the bathroom window and pulling from there. The head plumber called the landlord who came by again because the problem was bigger than expected and they would have to dig up the parking lot to replace the pipes and put in clean out vents outside so they wouldn't have to drag their heavy equipment through my house in the future.
The second plumber put my toilet back together and cleaned the bathroom so it was difficult to tell anyone had torn it apart. The toilet now has a brand new bright white band of caulking sealing it to the floor but is inoperable. The diggers aren't available until sometime late next week, but a compromise was reached. The landlord will hire two guys with shovels from Labor Ready on Monday and when they have uncovered the pipe, the plumbers will come back and replace them with new clean-out vents. On Monday.
I am now without a toilet. A Porta-A-Potty was suggested, but 2 o'clock on a Saturday is not the time to order one. Everyone was closed or had none available. Mark called and gave me the bad news and suggested I go to the grocery store, which is open 24 hours a day, when I need to go to the bathroom. I go to the bathroom about every hour. I'm saving the gas and the trips for more solid needs.
Through all of this circus of frustration, the Luddite was a rock of calm. He was sensitive, funny and caring throughout the whole ordeal even though he only witnessed the last hour of it (it started at 8:30 a.m.). He was worried that I was too stressed, but I have weathered more difficult storms and made like a bear in the woods when I was out in the wild. When you're hunting or hiking or just out for an autumn walk sometimes there are no other options. My Luddite was upset for me and thought Mark should have made some sort of alternative arrangements, but I was more sanguine about the situation. I usually am.
Once the plumbers were gone and my Luddite was calmer and relaxed, I took a shower and spent the rest of the afternoon feeling more relaxed, calmer and cleaner than earlier in the day. My Luddite helped with that, too, giving me the wonderful gift of his time and laughter. He also replaced two bulbs in the ceiling in the kitchen for me and jumped me just before he left (the car battery -- get your minds above the waistline).
Two more days of inconvenience -- well, 1-1/2 days -- and things will be back to normal. Mark, the landlord, is taking everything in stride, but, as he explained to me when he called about the Porta-A-Potty situation, mine is a relatively minor problem.
The only mystery, besides why the toilet decided to quit working without having to handle more than the usual traffic, is what the plumbers brought up when they snaked the drain: paper towels and feminine hygiene products (tampons). I don't use paper towels. I use linen towels that I wash and reuse because they create less waste and are less expensive. Since I had a hysterectomy about 12 years ago, I have no use for feminine hygiene products. The only thing I can figure is that Ms. Stilettos across the parking lot flushes her paper towels and tampons down the drain and they washed up in my broken drain. I don't want to know how the plumbers knew they were recently flushed, but it's obvious they didn't come from here. Since I do not plan to check Ms. Stilettos' garbage tomorrow morning (if she puts any out) for tampon boxes and paper towel rolls, this too will have to remain the mystery in this adventure in plumbing.