Gravity. That's the entire basis of modern plumbing as it has existed since the time of Christ.
Water from a higher level runs down through a series of ever narrowing channels and pipes, increasing the force of the flow as it goes, until it bursts from your faucet, or your hose, or your toilet. The toilet even gives it a bit of a boost by providing a reservoir meant to deliver a rushing flush of water to carry your unmentionables along to the sewage treatment plant. Plumbing is a simple, yet somehow perplexingly complex, field to which only the truly talented should apply themselves.
For example, the plumbing in our house is okay. It is plumb enough to carry waste materials to the waste material netherworld approximately ninety-seven percent of the time. Flushing the toilet is mostly a thought-free, worry-free practice that results in the removal from our house of all the things we would not want to have hanging around our house for several days, or even several more minutes than is truly necessary.
But mostly isn't the same as all the time. And ninety-seven percent, while a considerable portion, is not the same as one-hundred percent.
There are those times when -- dare I hazard to guess caused by the attempted flushing of an inordinate quantity of Angel Soft by a member of our household under the legal voting age -- our plumbing proves itself to perhaps not be quite as plumbed as it should be. The water simply cannot manage to force the biodegradable barge downstream to the municipal sewer pipes. A second flush, while tempting, yields no benefit. In fact, you'll likely discover how quickly you can pirouette over the poodle, shove aside the magazine rack, and turn off the water to the tank without killing yourself or permanently damaging the poodle.
A plunger in these circumstances is the second tool you need to resolve the clog. The first tool you need is a detective's keen sense of observation.
Is the clog at the farthest end of the house from the sewer lines? Is it at the nearest end of the house to the sewer lines? Is it between the house and the street? Are all the pipes in the house clogged with Angel Soft and poop to breaking point and the slightest plunge of a plunger will cause them to rupture?
Where does the gurgling of a trickle of escaping water sound loudest? In the kids' bathroom toilet? In their shower? At the kitchen sink? In the master bathroom?
Which appliance has the greatest potential to cause every toilet and sink and shower and bathtub in the house to gurgle and bubble like a witches' brew? The dishwasher? The washing machine? The pump in the basement?
Still and all, for every three challenging flushes there are ninety-seven that go off without a hitch. Considering how many people in this world poop al fresco and wipe with the nearest squirrel, the occasional clogged pipe really isn't so much a thing to complain about. Is it?
Perhaps some day, when the kids understand they don't need to flush an entire roll of toilet paper in a single go, we will be able to properly gauge the faculties of our facilities. Until then, if you see me stalking through the house clutching a plunger and listening intently for the sounds of gurgling water, give me a wide berth. The plunger might be dirty.
© 2013 Mark Feggeler