Saturday, November 15, 2008

A pragmatic plumbing post, or, how I spent my Friday and Saturday nights.

When you live (mostly) alone - which is to say, my son is here for now but we're sort of in "parallel play" mode - there are things you don't attend to, because they don't inconvenience anybody but you.

Some people call this HOUSE BLIND. Without having to look at, or think about, the differences between your home and the nice homes other people probably live in, you nimbly thread your way around piles of papers and books and/or, in my case, boxes of woodblocks and chisels and bags of donkey and chicken food.

Sometimes it takes a visitor to snap you out of it. In this particular case, it was one of the nice cleaning ladies who blaze through my house every other week in about 35 minutes. She meekly asked me, in Spanish, if I realized my tub drain (sumidero) was stopped up.

Well, that's embarrassing. Yes, it's been slow for quite some time, but I've framed it as: "a daily opportunity to soften my feet by submersion while showering."

As a matter of fact, I'd been planning to snake it for months, but I wasn't sure where my snake was. So finally I actually looked for it - in all the usual places - but it was gone. Who did I lend it to? I can't remember.

Getting around to all that took a week or so.

Then it took a couple more resentful days to accept the sad truth: I'd have to buy a new snake.

I bought a new snake and took it upstairs and unscrewed and removed the strainer and then stared in frustration at the lower assembly: the holes were too small to put the snake through.

Now it's getting kind of late, and I'm getting kind of impatient, and I announce to my son in the next room: "I'm about to do something I shouldn't do." He avers: "Well, there's nothing much I can do about that."

He knows me well.

I go get my drill and a big drill bit. I realize it's tight quarters in that drain, and I realize drills jump unpredictably when you put them through metal, but I say to myself (knowing it's stupid): "maybe I can just aim the drill towards the center of the drain and it will just neatly make a larger hole that the snake will go through."

Well, of course, it didn't. The drill jumped and I put it right through the plastic drain pipe.

So, unsurprised, I announced to my son: "I drilled through the drain pipe," and then I called my bandmate Bob and left him a message: "I drilled through the drain pipe," and he called back and said, "send me pictures," so I sent him pictures, and he said he'd come fix it.

So he came, and he had to cut two holes in the living room ceiling sheetrock, and he cut out the wrecked part of the pipe (he thinks it's sort of artsy and I should sell it on eBay), and we went to Lowes and bought a new one, and he put it all back together after snaking it, and then he rushed off so as not to be late for his beach trip with his girlfriend.

He was very kind. He may not have gone so far as to say: "Lots of people drill through their drain pipes," but he did console me: "it would have been very hard to snake that drain without removing the trap, you might have had to do it anyway."

So now that the shower was in good shape, I decided to tackle the toilet, which I stopped using a few months ago because it wouldn't flush, or rather, it was so feeble even a most forceful lever-push barely disturbed the serene waters.

Bob thought I'd probably have to get a new one, but when I moaned about all those toilets in the landfills, he gave me something to try before giving up.

So I was on my knees with a coathanger, sticking it through all the little holes on the underside of the rim and scratching away at the mineral deposits. Then, on Bob's recommendation, I put a dish towel in a ziplock bag and stuffed it down the hole and turned off the water and then poured a bunch of lime-away type stuff in the tank and flushed lots of times and scraped some more and ladled the water back into the tank and flushed lots more times.

It didn't really help.

The great breakthrough, so to speak, was realizing the main port at the bottom of the bowl (a hole about the size of a nickel, at the front of the toilet) was crystalized with great stalagmites and stalagtites of water minerals. The hole had been so reduced in diameter, hardly any water was getting through at all.

So I got various chisels and screwdrivers and allen wrenches and whatever I thought might successfully attack the mineral incrustation. On my knees again, I chipped away for a long time, thinking this was arguably not the best way a person could spend a Saturday night, but whatever, voilĂ ! The toilet's as good as new!

So to celebrate, I flushed. Were you expecting a more exciting end to this story?


At 12:36 PM, Blogger The Science Goddess said...

A little concerned that you "stopped using [the toilet] a few months ago," but otherwise very impressed.

I am now inspired to try and do something about my misbehaving commode---which requires me to open the tank lid a couple minutes after flushing and pull up on the little wire arm so it will stop filling.


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