Thursday, July 8, 2010

Toilet on the Edge!

Maybe our kids have powerful colons.

Maybe our plumbing is a little dodgy and can't handle, um, big loads.

Maybe the fact we go through an entire big brick of toilet paper every six hours is stressing the city sewer hook-up at the street. After all, those big bricks are equal to 48 normal rolls.

Whatever is going on, we have become good friends with our local plumbing service. They send us hand-signed Christmas cards every year. If it were a public company, we would have seats on the board by now. We probably could take all those business cards they leave behind and recycle them into yet another big brick of toilet paper.

Our most recent adventure with the valiant plumbers started two nights ago.

Once again, it would seem the kids were too big for the pool as the water in the toilet refused to return to pre-flush level. A grumbling, gurgling, bubbling noise rumbled up from under the floorboards, scaring the poodle and making our wallets tremble in fear with each toggle of the chrome-plated handle.

It seems like only yesterday the plumbers were here to flush the main line from the house to the street because of a noteworthy deposit made by the German that apparently could have clogged a Roman aquaduct. This time I was determined to disengage the offending matter from our excrement transport system myself.

The first attempt involved standing over the empty bowl, staring determinedly down into it, and flushing the toilet. Amazingly, this accomplished nothing. The water drained but the gurgling and low post-flush water level persisted. A good dozen flushes later, combined with some normally effective scowling, resulted in no additional progress.

Kicking the toilet was out of the question as that would only crack the porcelain and injure my toes, so I moved to plan b.

Our plunger is stored in the garage, encased in a plastic grocery bag and tucked under the mop sink. Neither the bag nor the location do anything to protect our family and visitors from potential contaminants or the unsightly image of a soiled plunger, but I'm not going to spend any more time dealing with that nasty thing than is required. If I could chuck it out the window and forget about it after every use, I would. It isn't even a very good plunger. Made entirely out of plastic, it does not properly establish a seal once inserted in the bowl. That said, it has served me well in my scatological battles.

Again scowling but this time with a renewed air of confidence thanks to my handy plunger, I inserted the weapon into the bowl and started plunging. Nothing. I flushed and plunged at the same time. Nothing. I flushed and plunged in a slow and rhythmic manner. Nothing. I cursed, flushed, and plunged like a maniac whose life depended on unclogging that freaking toilet. Nothing.

Then I remembered a secret weapon purchased years ago at a garage sale and presently wedged into a dusty corner of the basement storage room. I retrieved the antiquated toilet snake from its hiding place, unwrapped it from the thirty-year old casing, brushed away the chunkier bits of rust, and inserted it into the toilet per the Old English instructions on the yellowing wrapper. It followed its course with only a little persuasion and then it was ready for action. I twisted the handle and waited for the ancient device to release the obstruction. Nothing.

Already late enough into the day to justify not calling the plumbing service, we let it lie overnight. In the morning, and after repeated testimony from me to the effect that the clog could not possibly be in the toilet itself, my Lovely Wife suggested we fill the bathtub with hot water and try flushing the main line ourselves. Sheer brilliance, I thought, and did as she suggested. Nothing.

The toilet stubbornly gurgled, burbled and bubbled and refused to return to proper water level. For two days, at this point, we had avoided using the toilet for fear of worsening the problem while concurrently spiking our water usage to new heights in our attempts to solve the problem. Defeated and forlorn, we called for help.

When they arrived -- almost eight hours early, for such is their top notch treatment of regular clients -- there were two of them, both prepared to wrestle the porcelain beast into submission and delve headfirst into battle with the four-inch PVC pipes in our basement.

They walked around the house, opened and checked the main line to the street, but found no sign of trouble. They followed me to the basement storage area and stared up at the pipes as though trying to employ my first tactic of determined scowling but accomplished even less than when I had done it.

They followed me to the bathroom where they flushed and listened. They flushed and listened again. After several more flushes they decided the draining sounded healthy. They proclaimed my toilet healthy. The damned fools! It's a toilet on the edge of madness!! Can't you hear the gurgling? Can't you see the water level?! This toilet has lost all sense of reason and must be nursed back to health!

Sensing my hopeless helplessness, one of the plumbers lifted off the lid of the tank. He reached in only an inch or two and grabbed the little refill hose that is supposed to hang into the tube leading to the bowl. It had popped out of the tube and was no longer doing its job. He put it back in the tube and, immediately, the toilet righted itself.

Fifty dollars later, I am grateful to be only fifty dollars lighter. I wish my pride had suffered so little a loss.

ⓒ 2010 Mark Feggeler



  2. Nice post.

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future post.

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