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
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
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
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
I didn't even ask the price.
Sunday and Monday were like living in a
submarine. Strict water rationing and no frivolous
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
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