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Days of Grime & Hoses

by Stephen Lautens

October 16, 1998

It's taken me a few weeks, but I think I'm ready to talk about it now.

Like most traumatic experiences, I had blocked it out for a while. Only now is my memory starting to come back.

It all started with my wife in the bathtub. Or more precisely, with my wife out of the bathtub.

I was standing in the kitchen when she pulled the plug upstairs. Suddenly, the sink started making these noises like a cheap horror movie.

Except I didn't see a poltergeist when I looked in. Instead I saw the entire contents of the bathtub coming up to greet me.

I wish I had seen a ghost or evil spirit. Priests are easier to find and far more reliable than plumbers.

Being a man (or a reasonable facsimile) I decided to try to unplug the drain myself.

A few bottles of highly toxic drain cleaner later things were moving along very nicely.

Mostly up the drain in the basement and all over the new wall to wall carpeting.

That's when I knew I was in over my head - or would be soon if the stuff kept bubbling up through the floor.

We've been lucky. Seven years in the same house and no plumbing complaints, except for a toilet handle you have to jiggle and kitchen taps put on backwards.

So who do you call on a Saturday night with the muck around your ankles?

I have phone numbers for jugglers, sword fighters, politicians, and other entertainers who'll come by on a minute's notice. Last rites? Shifty lawyers? I've got you covered.

But no plumbers. I was so desperate I was actually grateful when one finally said he could squeeze us in if we could hold our breath for a few days.

I didn't even ask the price.

Sunday and Monday were like living in a submarine. Strict water rationing and no frivolous toilet flushing.

Showers had better be with a friend (my idea) and you'd be well advised to wear anything that needs washing while you're in there.

Of course every plate in the house was already dirty and waiting to be washed. Before the pile of dishes attracted wildlife my wife took matters into her own hands.

She found a bucket and washed them pioneer style in the back yard with a garden hose. By the look in her eye, I knew I was next.

A few minutes is all it takes a professional plumber to realize they don't have the equipment to fix your problem. It must be a gift to know exactly what tools you should leave behind for every job.

He soon found the problem - roots from the ancient tree in our front yard. And where? Under the floor, smack dab in the middle of the room we just finished renovating six months ago.

Pretty soon all that new concrete and broadloom was up and we were the proud owners of a hole three feet deep and six feet wide.

It looked like Vimy Ridge without the charm, and I suspect a worse smell.

But now the hole is filled back in, and the water runs around here like - well, like water.

Instead, there's a big hole in my wallet that will take a much longer time to fill.

And the sad part is, it now takes something a lot stronger than a glass of water to calm my nerves.


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