Friday, October 02, 2009

This old house and champagne lemonade

It started about two weeks ago with a sheepish shuffle of feet from The Man and a confession: "The toilet overflowed." I wasn't alarmed. I figured he'd just taken an impressive shit and gone a little overboard with the toilet paper. Without much concern, I headed off to get my bucket o' plumbing tools from the basement.

In the meantime, The Man was standing in the bathroom asking for ridiculous things like towels and a bucket and a mop. In retrospect, these were not such strange items to be asking for, but I was on a mission to find the plunger, dammit! And he kept interrupting! I wanted to get rid of a giant turd wedged in my toilet and he wanted to do a little housekeeping! (Really. It was incredibly irritating to me that he wanted to clean at that point. I don't know why.)

Eventually I managed to extricate myself from his ridiculous barrage of questions long enough to gather a plunger, a drain snake, and a bucket. These items were brought back to the bathroom where they promptly proved their complete worthlessness. It was about this time that I noticed the amount of water on the floor and understood better why The Man might have been so keen on gathering some towels.

Since our efforts were getting us nowhere and since there was no offending piece of poo on which to pin the blame (turns out The Man hadn't shat after all), we decided to clean up and call a plumber in the morning. We banished the ineffective plumbing tools back to the basement.

And that's when we noticed all the water dripping from the ceiling.

Now. In case you've forgotten, I have a young son. The kind of young son that leaves A LOT of water on the floor every time he takes a bath. It has never, EVER led to water dripping through the basement ceiling before. Ever.

Uh oh. This can't possibly mean good things.

My response was quiet panic. The Man's response was to mock my earlier suggestion that we not worry so much about the damn towels. My quiet panic turned to loud anger at his poorly timed - if lighthearted in intent - "I told you so." I completely overreacted, lost my shit, and then put myself to bed.

But not before I let myself outside to pee in the backyard, the dog prancing in circles around me as I squatted, headbutting me in an attempt to instigate a game of chase.



It was a day and a half before we got a plumber out. After hours of snaking this and draining that and pulling here and jiggling there, it was determined that one of the sewer lines going out of the house was choked with roots.

Again, no big deal. I've lived in enough old houses with enough old pipes to be very accustomed to this particular problem. Despite what you might expect to take place in sewer lines, it's not shit that happens. Roots happen.

The plumber (thinking he was here to fix a clogged toilet) didn't have quite the right equipment to root out the line. He did his best with what he had, cleared out A LOT of roots, and we were flushing again.

Satisfied that the problem was solved, I went to work... and plugged that toilet. I'm not even kidding. It was quickly fixed with the plunger and no one was the wiser. But seriously? What the fuck?


On the plumber's recommendation (and because it was on the list of things to do anyway), we spent the following Saturday pulling out the overgrown lilac, St. John's Wort, and rose bushes growing up against the back of the house. And lo! Less than a foot and a half into the ground, we struck gold. Or pipe. Whatever.

Despite my concern about how shallow the pipe was buried, I was relieved. This pipe was metal, and I had assumed that all of my sewer lines were still the old clay pipes.

The problem with old clay pipes is that they have a rather distressing habit of crumbling and spewing sewage all over your backyard that your dog stomps through before you can stop her, and leaves you, upon discovery, to initially conclude that someone TP'd your lawn with used toilet paper. And farted A LOT while they were doing it. (Or something like that. Not like I know from personal experience or anything. *Ahem.*)

The discovery of metal pipes gave me a good deal of comfort. The fear with any plumbing problem is that it will become a PLUMBING PROBLEM! Especially in an old house, where it's very common to start a leaky faucet project only to discover that the entire bathroom needs to be gutted before the bathtub crashes through the rotted floors. (Or something like that. Not like I know from personal experience or anything. *Ahem.*)

But that metal pipe? It lied to me. It held no comfort, just root balls and a whole lotta shit water. It was mocking me. And later that night (or maybe the next day) the toilet backed up again. It didn't overflow this time, and yet... water was once again dripping from the basement ceiling. And now the shut off valve to the toilet was leaking too, as well as one bolt on the bottom of the tank.


The next day a different plumber arrived to more thoroughly root out the line. Because surely roots were the only problem. Right? Yes, of course. I was suffering from a plumbing problem, not a PLUMBING PROBLEM! Right?

So then why were no roots coming back on the rooter? Why was the plumber not really hitting much of anything at all? Why, why, why? Because, based on what was happening to his rooter blade, this plumber suspected that the problem wasn't roots at all, but a compromised sewer line that was causing the issues.

Hello, plumbing problem. I'd like you to introduce you to PLUMBING PROBLEM!

Once upon a time, my mom's sewer line was "compromised." $18,000 and a second mortgage later, she was once again able to flush her toilet without a backup bubbling into the shower drain. You know what? I don't want a second mortgage. I'm quite pleased with the ONE mortgage I've already got, thankyouverymuch. Enter panic, stage left.

We arranged for a camera scope guy to come by later in the afternoon to diagnose our PLUMBING PROBLEM!, and I headed off to the office to grab some documents and pee in a functioning toilet.

I got a call from The Man as I was preparing to leave the office and head back home. The scope guy had arrived early, and the news wasn't good. Cracked pipes, complete blockage, lots of water, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Most of the drive home was spent fighting down a mushroom cloud of panic. PLUMBING PROBLEM! PLUMBING PROBLEM! PLUMBING PROBLEM! How much? How much? OH DEAR LORD HOW MUCH MONEY?

But as I turned off the main drag and onto the neighborhood drive that would take me to my house, I realized that it would also take me to something else: The Man. The Man, who was currently dealing with the plumber; The Man, who was currently dealing with our PLUMBING PROBLEM!

I am not going through this alone.

That single thought replaced the comfort that the stupid metal pipe gave momentarily and quickly stole back away.


Later that night we put together a quick mini-dinner of applesauce and English muffins with jam. Selecting our beverages, The Man jokingly pointed to the unopened bottle of champagne, purchased weeks earlier to celebrate his return to Seattle. It had been chilling in the fridge ever since, waiting for a suitable celebratory evening. I chuckled dismissively at his suggestion, but the more I thought about it, the more perfect it sounded.

"I think we should." I said. "It would be like..."

"Like saying 'Fuck you, fate'."


The cork was popped and the glasses clinked. PLUMBING PROBLEM! be damned. We're going to be happy anyway.


adrienzgirl said...

Love the sound effects! Fabulous. As for the champagne, it's like me on tax day, I usually go out and make a luxury purchase, cause I spit in the face of fate. That's just the way I roll! :)

Here's to hoping your PLUMBING PROBLEM isn't a luxury expense! (raises her dirty martini to you)

Mrs. Limestone said...

I don't even know you and reading this puts that pain in my stomach whenever I think of a water problem. Water = evil.

That sad trombone is hilarious.

Nickie said...

Yeah. I completely understand. We gave fate the big kiss off last night after the eviction. Neighborhood cook out. We smiled and laughed, for a change.

We have to believe that life will get better. And with the right attitude, we can survive anything.

Thinking of you!

Maggie May said...

sound effects rock

and toilets? don't.

The Grown-Up Child said...

Holy Crap! (no pun intended) What a pain in the arse (again, not going for a pun). Hopefully your plumber will have everything flowing properly soon and *not* take you to the cleaners at the same time.

And not having to go through this alone? Yes, that's something to celebrate indeed.

T said...


LOVE the sound effects.

Yeesh.... the PROBLEM doesn't sound fun but to be happy in spite of it? Hells to the yeah girl.

Enjoy your bubbly.

qtmama said...

Well, I think your attitude about the Plumbing Problem is REFRESHING! You should be happy anyway! :)

Funny story, btw. You have a great way of telling it!

Suddenly Sahm said...

All I can say is WOW. Plumbing. Knocking on every piece of wood in a forty foot radius that I never have a PLUMBING PROBLEM.

Ri, the Music Savvy Mom said...

Ohhhh, my dear, how I FLOVE you. That Sad Trombone is perhaps the most fabulous of all genius ideas in the history of the Universe. "Fuck you, Fate!" indeed!

Liam, aged three, has been sitting here giggling for a straight seven minutes, repeating "Again! Again!" through his choked chortles. (That's in reference to the Sad Trombone, not the PLUMBING PROBLEM...)

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