To read this tragic tale from the beginning, click here.
The dinner party was a success, despite the constant threat of our poo spilling into the neighborhood.
The above sentence frightens me on a number of psychological levels. One, it’s a true statement. That alone indicates an incipient need for extensive therapy. Two, I actually have friends who would happily remain at one of our bacchanals even after being alerted that there may be lurid flotsam. And, most importantly, three, my writing career has now been reduced to opening lines that involve the word “poo”. I have fallen so far.
Still, we had a good time at the Feces Fete. Yes, there were a few love/hate friends running around at the party and proclaiming things like “And I didn’t even wipe my ass!”. Then laughing hysterically in that overly loud manner that drunken people adopt once they become drunken. This was SO not amusing to me. I just sat there and twitched. And cursed them repeatedly. Until I became equally inebriated and joined in the hollering, belching “Let’s go see what’s in the trap!” with manic enthusiasm, then we would run over there with torches blazing. (You really had to be there to fully enjoy this, even though the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta would have strongly advised against anyone being there. Or running with a torch while alcohol is oozing from one’s pores.)
Next morning, we were back to reality.
The plumbing committee wanted us to “monitor” the situation by checking this damn trap thing on the side of the house while they lackadaisically figure out the next step. Okay. We can do that. Not really excited about it as a career choice, but we can do it. So for the next several days, my ass is marching out there every time we do anything involving water, and taking notes. And surprisingly, it seems to be okay. Sometimes there’s a little bit of water not flowing through the poo pipe, a thin layer of liquid just sitting there in a suspicious manner, but most of the time, pretty dry. Yay.
But, of course, this doesn’t last. There is nothing in this world like popping the top on a plumbing trap and seeing one of your little byproducts splashing upwards on a presentational geyser of water, a perversion of Old Faithful. It’s not a pretty sight, and it is deeply demoralizing. So we call the plumbing Mob Boss again (you know, the guy who should be calling us with a resolution). He’ll send someone out. Of course he will. At some point before the earth falls into the sun. Maybe.
Another day and it’s yet another new guy on my porch, with a new buddy. I now officially know more plumbers than my total number of friends on Facebook. My life is so Girl, Interrupted at this point I could spit, if it wasn’t for the fact that doing so might cause the plumbing to back up even further.
So the new duo does the whole snaking thing again, using the marvelous and fancy trap on the side of the house. Hours of snaking. But hey, they’ve brought with them one of those famous camera things that really lets them see the innards, as well as an all-powerful snaking tool that may or may not have been developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War. For a brief moment, I allow myself to believe that we might be getting somewhere. Then they knock on the door, again, with a report.
“Well, we’ve snaked it as best we could, and it seems to be pretty cleaned out. Looks like your real problem is that you’ve got a couple of bad falls.”
I’m totally mystified by this sudden dramatic change in the dialogue. I have bad falls? What could this possibly mean? Is he talking about physical tumbling? My mental state during October? Why do plumbing people insist on using words that I normally would understand in another context?
“Come on, we’ll show you.”
So we traipse over to this freakin’ trap thing that has become the focus of my entire existence, and I get to peer into the monitor for the camera that’s been shoved into my plumbing. I don’t understand a single thing I’m looking at as they push and pull on the camera. Looks like the ultrasound for Rosemary’s baby, that’s all I know.
Long story short, the main drain pipe does not happily descend to the sewer as it should. There are a couple of sections that have sunk lower than the others, meaning the sewage has to perform a miracle leap to get to the next section. Picture poo as salmon swimming upstream to spawn, if you will. But I’m pretty sure Mutual of Omaha wouldn’t have approved of this episode. I don’t either.
Long story still not short enough, it looks like they’re gonna have to dig down and replace the whole damn pipe. Kinda pricey, that little game plan. You might want to check interest rates on short-term loans. But they’re gonna keep snakin the thing, just to make sure there’s not something else stopping the salmon. I sigh, and I stagger back into the house to begin sealing the windows and deciding which outfit I’m going to wear when I shove my head in the oven and turn on the gas. With the gays, it’s always about drama and presentation.
But wait, there’s another knock on the door. The latest update on the funfest? The fancy, hard-to-find, possibly Soviet, drill-bit snakehead thingy they were using to hack away any obstructions? It’s broken off at one of the salmon jumps. They can’t get it out. And the fancy magnet thingy they normally use to retrieve broken-off snakehead thingies? Won’t work, cause this plumbing is CAST IRON plumbing, apparently installed shortly after Ben Franklin jacked around with a kite, and the magnet can’t get down the pipe. It can’t get past the trap opening. (Hmm, sound familiar?)
My sixth sense picks up on the fact that Plumber #9 is somewhat overly concerned about losing the fancy drill bit thingy. (Maybe it was the fairly obvious signs that he had just wet himself before knocking on the door.) Seems this drill bit is really expensive. Seems he rented it. He’s gonna have to pay for the damn thing if he doesn’t return it. They really need to dig down to the pipe in order to get this pricey salmon blocker. Whoops, he meant to say, they really need to dig down to the pipe to fix MY plumbing issue. And salvage his checking account in the process.
I realize, ladies and gentlemen, that the tide has just turned. This man is suddenly in a pickle, instead of it just being an issue of my pickles not being able to go where they need to go. Normally, I’m a fair and decent guy. Too fair, really. But I’ve just been through weeks of having to arrange for my pickles to be released at work or at the bathroom of the gas station down the street. I can’t even pickle in my own house. I’m done, I’m over it, and I’m tired of the escalating cost of repairing the pickle pipeline.
“Don’t know if I can really afford that, replacing the pipe and all” I say. “Might have to just let that snakehead stay right where it is.” I pause, and I pretend to be looking at something in the distance that doesn’t really exist.
His eyes actually fill with tears. (That must be one expensive drill bit.) I own him now. I actually feel a slight erotic stirring over this turn of events. Power feels good, people.
He breaks. “Okay, we won’t charge you labor at all. Just the cost of renting the digger, no upcharge.”
So, a few days later, I’m at home on yet another conference call with work, trying to be polite with the likes of Hillary Clinton and The Pope, when suddenly it sounds like Air Force One is rumbling up the driveway. I peek out the window to see this behemoth machine ripping the earth apart in the backyard. Yet another violation has begun. I have to cut Hillary off because of the deafening noise (“LOVE the dress, sweetie. Let’s do lunch?”) and I grab the cats on the way to the bomb shelter.
Hours later, I have what looks like the Grand Canyon in my backyard. (“Hey, is that Thelma and Louise racing this way?”) Once again, the Chinese are pissed off. There’s debris everywhere. Parts of the sprinkler system, dinosaur bones, Jimmy Hoffa. Three neighboring houses are sucked up in the sinkhole.
Shock and awe complete, Air Force One leaves with another mighty rumble. Thoughtfully, Michelle Obama leaves a thank-you note at the end of the driveway. And one of the dogs that they rejected because of Malia’s allergies.
Next day, plumbers 9 and 10 are busily replacing the naughty cast iron pipe with PVC. This is a major initiative, takes all day, someone arranges for a parade, and the mayor is out there cutting a ribbon. I stay inside, because I can’t stand people. Seriously.
And another knock on the door. New problem. They’ve replaced 100 foot of pipe, but now they realize that what’s left of the old main drain leading out from the house and under the driveway is too low. This has resulted in a super-high spawn jump for the salmon pickles at the point where the old pipe connects with the newly-placed pipe that beautifully leads to the sewer. Miscalculation. They will have to rip up the driveway and replace even more of the old pipe and theoretically get everything on the same harmonic plane. Oh, and there might still be an issue under the house itself, but we won’t really know until after we’ve destroyed your driveway and made it impossible for you to park your own car at your own house. Hee hee.
I pause to take a deep breath.
Then I let that breath out with gusto. “So, you’re telling me that, after all this work, and three weeks of no unauthorized pickling, that we have nothing to show for it except a giant earthen vagina in my backyard that has claimed the lives of several neighbors and totally alienated those who managed to survive? And now you want to rip up the driveway. And even THAT might not work. Do you have any idea how much I hate you right now? DO YOU?”
It was not a shining moment for me, the breakdown on the porch. Little did I know that the pain and humiliation was far from over.
Click here to read the next entry in this series.
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 05/10/09. Revised and updated with extra neurotic flair for this post.
Categories: My Life