Author: Luisa Perkins
•2:48 PM
It all started Saturday night, a time when no self-respecting plumber in the Americas will answer his 'emergency' phone. I went down to the basement to put in a load of laundry and noticed that the concrete floor under the washer was wet. We sometimes get a little water in that corner of the basement when it rains (and it had been), but something told me to open the door to the little bathroom that sits right next to our laundry area.

Tess was showering at the time; the waste pipe that runs from our washer to the main line was spurting some water out from under the cap. There's drainage in that area, so it wasn't too much of a mess yet, but I knew we had a problem.

"Houston," I said to Patrick when he walked through the door from some errands about a half hour later, "Come check this out." I turned on the tap to the slop sink so that he could see the mini-geyser-like action. He crouched down, hemmed and hawed, and talked man-talk to the pipe for a few minutes. I informed him that I'd already left a message for our regular plumber; we had some time to kill until we had to leave for dinner with our highly entertaining friends J&J, so we spent it leaving messages with other plumbers in the area. You know, just in case.

We kept hygiene activities to the barest minimum the next morning ("Take the shortest shower of your life," I admonished Christian as I shook him awake), and I knew that, between church and a luncheon at a friends' house, we'd be gone most of Sunday. I hoped that would mean we wouldn't have too much back-up to deal with, knowing that we wouldn't see a plumber until at least this morning.

We got home a little before Super Bowl kick-off time last night; our regular plumber had left a message (the only one who ever did), so I called him back on his cell phone right away. "Jack," I said, "I know you're just sitting down to watch the game, but please send somebody over first thing in the morning. You know we have five kids; you know how much flushing that entails." Maybe he sensed my panic, or maybe he was just eager to listen to Jordin Sparks sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Either way, he hurriedly agreed; I rang off and got our game snacks ready using mostly disposable dishes.

I awoke at 5:30 this morning to a hideous burping sound. "It's the basement toilet," Patrick muttered into the dark. Christian, in his sleep-deprived haze (we had let the boys stay up for the whole exciting game), had forgotten our need to conserve and was taking a regular-length shower.


When Jack's son John arrived this morning at about 9:00, I led him to the little basement bathroom. I won't describe for you what met me when I opened the door, but remember my pregnancy-induced super-mega-bionic sense of smell and my overactive gag reflex. Breathing through my mouth, I walked back out and asked John to give me a minute. He, in turn, took one look at the room and said, "You'll need to call our 'rooter' subcontractor, Al. I don't have the equipment for this." He gave me the number and left quickly.

I called Al and got his angel wife on the phone. At first, she said Al's day was very full, but when I uttered the magic words "five kids" (and perhaps when she heard the desperation in my voice), she had a change of heart and was able to schedule us for an appointment at noon.

In the meantime, I put my normal routine on hold. No dishes (still left from Saturday); no laundry; no exercise, since I couldn't shower. No flushing (Daniel, a.k.a. "Mr. Fastidious," really didn't like that). I got caught up on some other tasks and waited.

Al was great. He arrived on time, brought in his fancy drain snake with attached camera (again: yerrrrch), and had the line cleared in about a half hour. I happily wrote him a large check, took his card (which I plan to laminate and put in a very safe place), and sent him on his way--after hearing what the clogging culprit was.

Baby wipes.

("They don't break down," Al said, waxing philosophical. "I've seen it time and time again. Once you flush one, it's the beginning of the end.")

Who flushed the wipes, and when? It is a puzzlement. Daniel has been potty-trained for a couple of months; I can't remember the last time we had the wipes box out. And I've always known that regular wipes aren't flushable; every box you buy says so in prominent typeface on the back.

And yet, and yet. The evidence was incontrovertible. (Though I should say that I take Al's testimony at face value; I didn't confirm his diagnosis with my own eyes.)

The crisis is over; all that remains is catching up on the laundry and kitchen maintenance. That, and somehow steeling myself--or providing enough incentive to someone else in the house--to take a bucket of water and some bleach down to the little bathroom to clean up the remaining detritus. Jove's nightgown: I can barely stand the thought.
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On 4/2/08 , Mary said...

THAT was a good story.

On 4/2/08 , some guy you don't know said...

Have no fear about cleaning up. I will gladly (?) do so for a chocolate milkshake...

On 4/2/08 , Luisa Perkins said...

You read that, people? I am officially married to the BEST man on the planet. Dude, it's a deal.

On 4/2/08 , Annette Lyon said...

Yech. Ugh. Blech. I'm so totally nauseated right now.

(Could you write poorly next time you're describing such things, pershaps?:D)

Now I'm officially terrified. No baby wipes around here anymore, but about 9 months or so ago I was babysitting a little girl with a pull-up--which she flushed. Clogged us up a little for a day or so, but now . . . what if it's STILL there and will do THIS to us? ACK!!!!

On 4/2/08 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Whoa, Luisa, I hope that your house and you are both doing better. And yes, you are married to the best guy in the world (except for mine, of course!).

BTW... didn't Jordin do a beautiful job? As did the GIANTS!!! Go team!!!

On 4/2/08 , Kimberly said...

What a guy!

Make that milkshake a double!

On 4/2/08 , NH Knitting Mama said...

We had a similar situation on Thanksgiving weekend. Also a Saturday night.

Why does the poop hit the fan on the weekend like that? Just to cost us all an extra couple hundred bucks, I suspect.

On 4/2/08 , Anonymous said...

What a terrible situation and what a guy. I know Sirdar would be in there cleaning up for me if we had a similar situation. He has no qualms about cleaning bathrooms. I guess that is where the oldest got her bathroom cleaning skills. Glad you got it all taken care of. Why do these things always happen on the weekend?

I did a food post on Sunday, not to the same degree as yours, but there is a restaurant link, and tomorrow I will do a crepe recipe as well.

On 5/2/08 , Jenna said...

I have lived that nightmare and even worse a few times and I feel your pain. Good thing for compassionate plumbers and roto-men, huh?

On 5/2/08 , anjmae said...

OK, that is gross. Imagine the nausea factor when a person has to go deal with that sort of mess and it is another family's poo? Yah, that was me, managing apartments when it was just Sam & I...DISgusting! You are very lucky your man will do that for a lovely chocolate milkshake, although I would not want anything brown after that...tee hee...

On 5/2/08 , Tristi Pinkston said...

Before you clean that bathroom -- hold on!

You can hire people to come do it for you. They call 'em disaster clean-up crews, and it will cost you a little bit, but to not have to do it yourself, with you all gaggy? Worth every penny.

On 5/2/08 , deb said...

That ... made me lose my appetite. No easy feat.

On 5/2/08 , Brillig said...


In our last house, which was our first house, we had a similar thing happen. It was about a week after we'd moved in. Everything was brand new and sparkling. And boom. Maddie, who was just barely 2 at the time, "cleaned" the bathroom with a wipe and flushed it down the toilet. And KAZAAAM! And things never looked the same again.

Ick. Sorry you're having to deal with such ickiness. Shall I say "ick" again? Yes, I think I shall.


On 5/2/08 , Luisa Perkins said...

Annette, I'm assuming you guys are on a town sewer line, so I bet you'll be okay. We, on the other hand, have a septic tank.

On 5/2/08 , Annette Lyon said...

Double ew then.

And a sigh of relief. :)

On 5/2/08 , Anonymous said...

Not nice. I feel for you.

We have been there too unfortunately. It was a big storm and the town's sewer pipes couldn't handle the flow. flowed alright. Got our whole cul-de-sac. Flooded the whole basement about a foot high. We had three kids under 6 and was relegated to the upstairs for a loooooong time. Thank goodness the insurance company was so good about it that they had people there the next day cleaning up. I was up north....4.5 hours away and with no vehicle.

Glad your problem is fixed and there wasn't too much damage.

On 6/2/08 , goober said...

Ack! Sounds like a Mayberry R.F.D. episode. Where's Emmitt when you need him?

On 9/2/08 , Radioactive Jam said...

To paraphrase Homer:
"Plumbers. Is there anything they can't do?"