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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Plumbing Perplexities

I like to write about things that most people relate to since I think people have a lot more in common than not. Plumbing may not be the most exciting topic on earth, but many of us have a tale or two about Plumbing Gone Wrong so I might as well share our story.

Plumbing is something I rarely think about, and I like it that way! I’m grateful to live in a time and place in which plumbing is available to me. I’m glad it’s there—but I don’t spend much time contemplating it.
Until there’s a problem.

You, too? I thought so.

The story really starts more than half a century ago, since that is when our plumbing pipes were installed. Our darling little house was born in 1956, along with a set of gleaming new pipes, tucked cozily below a warm layer of earth. America was booming. San Diego was thriving, and new houses were being built to accommodate growing families. The sun shone down on our happy city. Kids played hopscotch and jacks, Mom pulled perfect pot roasts out of a shiny new oven, and Dad planted trees with the help of friendly neighbors. The trees grew, the kids grew, and the city grew too.

The trees grew a lot, apparently. So much so that giant roots formed under the streets. As birds chirped and bees buzzed in the warm air, below ground the roots silently grew into the plumbing pipes under the street. But no one knew…

Many decades later, a man living in this cozy 1956 house (we’ll call him Hubby) heard a strange noise coming from one of the bathrooms. (Strange noises from bathrooms are never, ever good.)  Bewildered, he entered the bathroom just in time to see a tidal wave of water shooting out of the toilet and onto the tile floor and the bedroom carpet a few feet away. He quickly grabbed every towel within reach, and then more towels from the hall closet. Hubby is a very handy guy and has remedied plumbing surprises before. But he knows when the surprises are too mysterious for him to tackle on his own, and when that’s the case he knows which plumbing company to call. They came, made a lot of noise, and things seemed to be better.

But a few days later they returned to check something out in the front yard. (This is where my lack of plumbing knowledge will become very apparent but bear with me and you’ll get the general vibe of this tale.) An important pipe was somewhere in the front yard, deep, deep underground. So the plumbers dug a hole. It became wider and deeper and still the hidden pipe was nowhere to be found. The hole became so deep that they had to put yellow Caution tape around it, to prevent someone from falling in. As the sun set they promised to return the next day to do more work. Luckily, we still had use of the toilets, and we now had an exciting exhibit in our front yard—something that looked like a paleontology dig. The hole was certainly big enough to fit an intact skeleton of a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex! Anyway, the plumbers vowed to return the next day to finish up. They laid a big piece of plywood across the cavernous hole before I reached for my camera. I take photos of my life and this scene deserved a photo. Who knew? Maybe there was a blog piece in this. Although my photo does not show the bathtub-sized hole they dug, you can see how much dirt was displaced.

Seeing some potential humor in the photo, I decided to make a sign to attach to the Caution tape.

The next day the plumbers returned and started work again. Later, they told me that my sign made them laugh. Poor guys, sweating in the sun, digging a hole to China—they deserved a laugh. But Hubby wasn’t exactly laughing because plumbing situations are not cheap to repair. Unfortunately there seems to be an inverse relationship between the fun of a home expense and the cost of it. Plumbing: high in cost, low in fun. After several hours, the plumbers had installed and capped off a new intake pipe and an outtake pipe. (I thought outtakes were at the end of movies, when actors say the wrong line and laugh. Shows what I know about plumbing. Zero.)

The plumbers are due back next week to put some kind of magic liner in the pipes to prevent this problem from happening again. They use a spray that becomes a liner, and hopefully this is the end of our plumbing perplexities. It could have been worse, actually. Our neighbors across the street had to have their kitchen tile removed so that the plumbers could access pipes under the kitchen floor for this same reason.

Plumbing: the appendix of home-ownership. You don’t even think about it until it starts giving you excruciating pain. You can have your appendix removed with a pile of money and some abdominal pain, and you’ll never miss it. Plumbing, on the other hand, requires a pile of money, pain to your wallet, and if you live without it, you will miss it. Ahhh, home ownership. What an adventure…

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