What Goes Down Sometimes Comes Up

The problems all started this weekend when Mrs. Poobah flushed the toilet and let out an otherworldly scream. "Poooo! (meaning me, the Poobah, not the actual poo) there's shit in the shower."

"Oh shit," I said in a statement of the obvious. "I'll get the plunger and see what I can do." After all, there's nothing I like better than a little plumbing early on a Sunday morning. I was stoked, let me tell you. It isn't often a suburban male is presented with such a testosterone-fueled test of masculinity.

After some furious pumping, all I managed to accomplish was to flush more shit into the shower, the bathtub, and the sinks. I'm not sure, but I think some of it might even have come up in the dog's water dish. It was time for a call to Roto-Rooter - "and away go troubles down the drain". Alas, if it were only true.

Six hours, two rooter heads, and several calls for a backup from a crack SWAT team of special forces plumbers later, I was presented for a bill for $1118 and the great news that there was a collapse in my sewer pipe at some indeterminate point between my house and the main, about 200 ft and two neighboring backyards away. To find it, we would apparently need a "locator specialist" equipped with more high-tech equipment than a nuclear submarine.

He arrived this morning and finished his work in quick order. I guess you can do that when you have about $12 million worth of equipment. After 10 minutes he presented me with a shrug and an estimate of $6200 to dig up the pipe and determine if it could be fixed. Now $6200 seems like a big sum for a hole in the ground, but it is my good fortune that this will be no regular hole.

It will be six feet deep, dug by hand because there is no way to get heavy equipment to it. It will be on the side of a steep hill that will require shoring to guard against collapse. It will be dug carefully because is is about six inches from the footing for my two story deck. A large flower box and a healthy crop of weeds will have to be removed as well.

Once the hole is opened, they'll know whether the problem can be fixed. That's right, $6200 to figure out if they can fix the problem. If so, they will replace a small section of pipe and continue clearing the line, running the chance we may uncover another break farther down (the good news). If they can't, they'll need to drive a new pipe through our backyard, under a fence and drainage culvert, through two more backyards (necessitating removing their fences as well), into the street below, and 12-15 feet down to the main (the not-so-good news).

In addition, two different sanitation districts are arguing over who owns the main, which lays directly on top of the dividing line between the districts. We'll probably need mediators from the State Department to solve the ownership issue. The construction of the Hoover Dam may not have been this complex. I'm not sure if they will need to call in the Army Corps of Engineers or not.

Now you may be gasping at my ill-fortune at this point. But for me, this is just another day if home ownership. Over the past 20 years I've had to disassemble a wall to get to a cleanout trap, remove a yard-sized, plastic pool lining from under my lawn, and cope with a scalding pipe that burst at 2 am, ruining a freshly cleaned carpet, a newish sofa, and scalding our dog. I'm old and wizened in the ways of the home owner. For me this is another yawn, albeight an expensive one.

It will be another three weeks before we can get it fixed (we're going back East in a few days). I'll keep you posted on our progress. Perhaps I'll create a little JavaScript "shit counter" that runs like one of those "national debt clocks" you see. However, I am troubled that the known prime numbers may not go high enough to make it work.

Like they say, "when it rains, it pours". Man, I wish I could my hands on that little Morton Salt bitch.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, July 25, 2005

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