Our old Florida home has weathered many hurricanes and raucous family parties (hard to say which was more destructive). Yet, she’s still standing despite her creaky wood floors and questionable electricity. On occasion, her plumbing gets cranky too, usually during opportune moments such as a surprise visit from the in-laws or a friend’s small wedding reception in the living room. I’ve been at odds with the plumbing for years, but rather than get it fixed properly, my husband always insists on tinkering with the pipes by himself to save money.
Our plumbing was holding up pretty well, considering how many times it had been patched up by my novice plumber-spouse. But it was only a matter of time before our pipes declared mutiny on the old house.
After my shower one morning, I threw a load of clothes into the wash and settled on the couch with a large bran muffin for breakfast. Moments later, I heard the toilet gurgling as if it was trying to clear its throat, and then gasping for air. I sprinted to the bathroom with a plunger to offer potty CPR. Instead, I found water bubbling out of the bathtub drain like a chocolate fondue fountain from the Golden Corral. I shrieked as murky water lapped over the edge and onto the floor, my bathroom transformed into a cesspool of raw humanity.
After texting an SOS to my husband, I heard the tiny voice of a ship captain yell, “Ahoy mateys, rough waters ahead!” while his fecal flotilla traversed the uncharted territory of our bedroom’s shag carpeting.
Rushing home and flinging the front door open, my husband was instantly assaulted by the Porta Potty odor from a Coachella Festival. This was no ordinary plumbing GERD. This was plumbing armageddon. He stood back, his eyes glazed wide like Captain Quint’s in Jaws when he spotted the 25-foot great white shark and realized he needed a bigger boat.
“We need a bigger plunger,” he said and raced outside to shut off the main water valve.
Realizing that the simple tools in his shed were no match against the mutinous blockage in our sewer line, my husband made a quick trip to the hardware store for a mechanical rooter. Meanwhile, the large bran muffin I’d consumed for breakfast was cartwheeling through my intestines, causing my stomach to rumble like Mount Vesuvius on the brink of eruption. I had my own blockage going on and anxiously counted the minutes until my husband came home.
He returned with a toilet jet (a snake-like hose with a rotating blade that acts like a food processor for unmentionable waste) and attached it to a high-intensity pressure cleaner to give our constipated plumbing a proper enema. He scrambled up the roof to thread the hose into the sewer stack while I manned the pressure cleaner down below. On command, I pulled the trigger, water jetting through the tube into the pipes.
Minutes passed before he signaled me to shut off the valve, but my fingers slipped on the handle, intensifying the spray. From the roof, he yelled, “HOLY SHIT!” but there was nothing holy about it. My husband stood above me, his face covered in brown spots like a speckled dalmatian. Our seventy-year-old plumbing had finally exacted its revenge on my novice plumber.
I feared that our mission to cork the septic sewage swamp had failed when suddenly the pipes rattled, and there was a loud POP like the uncorking of a champagne bottle. This was indeed a celebratory moment. The sewer line was clear!
Once the brown tide receded from the bathroom shore, I prayed my last tetanus shot was up to date as I strapped on rubber boots and gloves. After three Hail Marys and an industrial-sized bottle of bleach, my bathroom was finally clean.
The next time our plumbing revolts, we won’t jump ship. We’ll call a professional plumber. ❏
Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humor book, Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother.