Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ah, Downstairs Bathroom Plumbing,
We Hardly Knew Ye

About a month ago, the plumbing in my downstairs bathroom came to life. It acquired full sentience. Became a conscious being. It was a miracle.

Here's the interesting part, though: having achieved its goal of being the first bathroom plumbing system to experience a sense of self--to reach beyond mere copper, brass, wiped lead, and porcelain to take a sniff of the unexplored realms of consciousness--its very first act was to commit suicide.

The signs were ominous and the portents veritably dripping with looming tragedy, kinda like the part in Flowers For Algernon when the mouse starts acting all about-to-be-deady.

One day last month, apparently right after my bathroom plumbing came to life, I noticed the drain in the bathroom sink was a little slow. So, as any unsuspecting accomplice would have done, I decided to remove the S-trap underneath it and clean out any potential cloggage therein. I mean, there's a lot of hair going on in this house. Still, fair enough, easy enough; mission accomplished.

But my glow of plumbing confidence was matched only by the stench of impending death from the chromed brass drainpipe, which decided while I was reattaching the trap to take some quality time and simply disintegrate. It just (intentionally, I swear) turned into about 400 smallish pieces of jagged chromed brass flakes right in my fingers, leaving a great big empty space where something to keep sink water from getting all over my bathroom should have been.

A quick run (actually, more of a hurried trudge) to Aubuchon Hardware produced a Fernco coupling--a little rubber sleeve with hose clamps on either side of it--and a new piece of drainpipe. I hooked this all up with the meager earthly remains of the previous drainpipe. To my surprise, this textbook jury rig has held water for a couple of weeks. I thought I had saved my sink.

But instead, it seemed that my sink had actually become a zombie, creeping the streets at night moaning "Braiiiiiinnnnss" and terrorizing the other bathrooms in the neighborhood until sunrise.

Then just today, the toilet flatlined. Or at least went into what the cardiologists call crapicardia: not getting rid of all the...well, we'll call it the Republican Party platform...after a flush.

So given my liberal arts education, software development background, and passing knowledge of quantum entanglement, I made an educated decision and pulled out the plunger. A few plunges later and the toilet was flowing like the rain in Seattle. Yes, it was quiet.

Too quiet.

Then I heard a rhythmic thoomp-thoomp-thoomp sound from the basement below. It sounded a bit like blood dripping from the severed head of a teenager who figured that splitting up to look for the maniacal killer would be a good idea.

It actually was the blood from the plumbing in my downstairs bathroom, dripping from two cast-iron joints in the drain line. Well, it wasn't blood so much as water, but still, it was making a thoomp-thoomp-thoomp sound, circling the proverbial drain. I tried to tighten the dripping cap on the cleanout to no effect, then tried to verify that it was true toilet suicide by flushing again and running back downstairs.

That's when I saw it: a gush of water such as should never be seen by anyone but a licensed plumber, going straight from my toilet tank onto the unfinished floor of my basement. The corpse of my plumbing was laid bare for me to observe in horror. I have nightmares about it. And I haven't even gone to sleep yet.

So requiescat in pace, you brave and beautiful toilet flange, and you merely mortal cast iron hub fittings. You only winked at the face of God--or at least whatever was staring down at you through the toilet bowl--for a brief time. You will be missed.

Donations in lieu of flowery-smelling air freshener can be made to me directly; I'm going to need them when the plumber bill comes.


At Wed Mar 14, 04:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger Southview said...

I heard your cry for help so I called my dear friend Dr. Drano. (we are not intimate friends because he can't hang with me sence I have a septic system) We discussed your shitty situation and I am sorry to say it doesn't smell good. He told me that in situations like yours it is usually terminal and a complete flushing (removel)of the old pipe system is probibly needed. Your old leaded joints are probibly deteriating from having Dr. Drano's relitives over for a swim, or from just old age. The really nightmare creating part of your system are the pipes that are now alive behind the walls and between the floors just over your favorite reading chair...just waiting!

At Wed Mar 14, 06:26:00 AM EDT, Blogger naplblog said...

Bouquets, bouquets to you and yours. RIP, dear plumbing...

At Wed Mar 14, 10:32:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Da Snoop said...

I'm not a professional plumber, but I do do all my own plumbing, and wiring, etc. My first thought, without seeing the actual configuration, is that there is a blockage somewhere down stream of the actual leak. Unless you have an outright hole in the pipe, the contents should still flow smoothly enough without backing up. Before you do anything I would have a company come out with one of those camera's they send down pipes to see if indeed there is a blockage. Replacing pipes in the house with a blockage down stream will only force everything up into the finished portion of the house.

If no blockage is found then start working on your pipes. Always purchase the parts to the next section of pipe even if you don't plan on replacing it, because in most cases more things will crumble right before your eyes.

At Wed Mar 14, 11:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Brother G said...

For the love of Buddha, if you take da Snoop's advice and put Shit-Cam 3000 down there, post pictures. Please. I'm begging you.

At Wed Mar 14, 01:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ross- you think you got troubles--- the chain to my flapper valve broke Tuesday night in my downstairs bathroom---should not be a problem in terns of usage--as I have two bathrooms in the house--but but I was taking some "stuff" all day for preparation for a colonoscopy Wednesday----timing is everything---- anyway--- you have a liberal arts background--- as do I-- some of which I received at Dartmouth (year and 1/2)-(you have 4) the rest at Univ of New Hampshire-----so I do have some critical thinking skills--- and my critical thinking analysis of my flapper valve problem--- leads me to the conclusion that I should call a plumber-----actually as far as "hair" is concerned-- and maybe my pipes are in better shape than yours-- I find that the Draino gel-- works wonders-----so good luck----and I think by know that your critical thinking skills will lead you to conclude not to call me for assistance----can anybody help me change a light bulb????? chbpod

At Sat Dec 15, 02:57:00 AM EST, Blogger JohnPaul Sicat said...

Anyone who has a bathroom will eventually be faced with having to deal with the bathroom plumbing. You will need to know how plumbing works to be able install something new or to fix what is already there. This knowledge will come in handy when you decide to fix things your self instead of putting it off until it is out of control, or having to pay someone else to do the work. Plumbers are not cheap. If you are faced with something like a clogged toilet, which is usually fairly simple to fix, you don't want to be paying out lots of money when you could just fix it your self.

bathroom plumber


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