I had an unusual experience late last month, during the hottest portion of our Texas summer this year. Well, perhaps the experience wasn’t unusual, but rather the way I processed it mentally was unusual. Let me tell you about it.
Background: Sometimes, when I have some food on hand that is totally unfit for human consumption, I prefer to cut/chop/tear it up into tiny pieces and flush it all down the toilet, tiny bit by tiny bit, instead of risking a clogged drain line by running it through the garbage disposer or creating a stench in the kitchen for several days by tossing it into the wastebasket. I know there are other options for getting rid of undesirable food.
- Freeze it until the morning of trash pick-up day, then throw it into the trash right before the sanitation crew picks it up.
- Leave it out for neighborhood pets to consume.
- Eat it, anyway.
But each of those has its own peculiar drawbacks that are unacceptable to me.
In this case, I had to get rid of about two cups of tartar sauce that I had just made. As soon as I tasted it, I realized that I had accidentally used sweet pickle relish instead of dill. Yuck!
Instead of spooning it into the toilet and flushing it down just a tiny bit at a time, I scooped the whole thing in at once and flushed. Since tartar sauce is a fluid substance, I thought it would get swept out to the city sewer line with no problems. Doesn’t that seem like a realistic expectation?
I was wrong. It filled the P-trap, completely, and stopped right there.
“No problem,” I told myself. “It’s a fluid. I’ll push it through the P-trap with the plunger.”
Didn’t help. The mass must have cleared the P-trap and the vertical drop but filled and plugged the sewer line under the slab jut a few inches downstream. Seeing that the toilet water would not go through, I turned on the tub, full-hot, full-blast, thinking that the hot water would reach the goo and loosen it. (The tub sits just a few inches to the left of the toilet, and its drain drops into the sewer line a few inches upstream from the toilet drop.) But the tub began filling up, too!
My efforts with the plunger, coupled with the additional weight of hot water from the tub, were not enough to move the mass down towards the lateral (the municipal sewer line at the street).
Mama’s toilet, shower stall, and sink are located only about 10 inches upstream from the hall bathroom where this drama was unfolding. I had to solve this problem fast before she had to flush her toilet or take a shower. So, I alerted everyone in the house: “Don’t flush the toilets or take a shower until further notice,” I told them. Then I rushed off to Home Depot to get some high-powered drain cleaner, preferably something containing a high concentration of sodium hydroxide.
Back at the house, armed with two bottles of Zep crystals, I poured one and a half bottles into the toilet, and the remaining half bottle into the tub drain.
If you predicted—as did I—that the sodium hydroxide would dissolve the tartar sauce, liquify it thoroughly, and allow it to slip away, you were wrong—as was I. Instead of moving out and away, it converted itself into a dark-colored mass that was apparently much larger than the original white mass! It even started backing up into the toilet, the tub, and mama’s shower stall. It didn’t smell particularly bad, not at all like normal dark-colored sewage. So that was a good thing. The only good thing.
Well, I had no other option than to drag my $350 drain snake and a fifty-foot extension cord out of the shed, drag them to the front yard, set up the snake at the clean-out plug, plug it in, and start snaking.
It was 108° in North Central Texas that day, and my scalp and forehead were stinging intensely from a powerful exfoliant the dermatologist had ordered me to use (a cancer prophylactic). I felt physically miserable. But, at the same time, I felt strangely exhilarated.
Within about 15 minutes I had the sub-slab sewer line running freely. Before snaking, I had filled both the tub and shower stall with hot water, and it all came gushing out after the snake broke through the “dam”.
But the part I always dread came next: retracting the snake, which is always coated with ugly “archaeological” findings.
However, this time I had one of my famous “Duh!” moments. “Why not keep the water running in both the tub and shower and run the garden hose down into the clean-out pipe, parallel to the snake, and turn it on full blast, too!? That should clean the snake as I pull it out.”
In short, I did, and it did.
I love solving problems. I love the sensation of personal power that solving them gives me.
So that’s my story. I hope you enjoyed it.