Just When You Thought It Was Safe…
Last weekend, we finally moved into our new house!
The older couple who lived here before us smoked in the house for years and had urinating dogs, so we knew we were in for a big renovation project when we bought the place.
But the house has a great vibe and it’s close to the school where my son is happily doing well and once we get through the move-in costs we should be shaving a considerable chunk of money from our monthly bills.
In the three weeks leading up to the move we ripped out all of the carpeting, painted as much as we could, and cleaned as much as we could of what we didn’t have time to paint.
It was a grueling stretch. I worked for a few hours every weekday evening but two and we all worked full days through the weekends. My little boy was a trouper throughout – amazingly patient and sometimes shockingly helpful (such as the time he sanded the entire main living area of the house in about seven minutes!).
We were so beat from painting and cleaning that the move ended up taking two full days – including a second U-Haul truck which I loaded and unloaded by myself on Sunday.
By 8 pm Sunday night when we finally returned the second moving truck to U-Haul and headed for our new home, we were running on fumes.
Still, in just over three weeks…
…we had turned this
We had lots more to do. Such as leveling the floors and laying new flooring and painting the bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways and kitchen for starters. But even my wife – who had announced a couple weeks prior, “I’m going to finish painting the house this weekend or I’m going to die trying!” – had resigned herself to a more realistic timeframe.
So, time to relax and rest up a bit, right?
I actually spent Monday night at the old house, doing the cleaning and touch-up painting I had promised to do for our long-suffering landlord. Tuesday was a bleary blur and I basically blobbed it all day. Wednesday started off in the same vein, but I got a small burst of energy in the afternoon and decided to start moving boxes and my big music desk and the old futon couch into the basement. Both so I could start setting up my studio gear and also to clear space upstairs so we could start painting the bedrooms.
I worked for a few hours, made lunch, and decided I’d wash the dishes. Only to find the garbage disposal side of the kitchen sink was backing up into the other side. I couldn’t find a plunger, so I ran the disposal again. Both sides of the sink kept filling up. I decided to wait until Jen got home with the car – then I’d go buy a plunger and fix the damn sink.
Half an hour before wife and kid were due to return, I noticed a couple items I’d stacked by the basement door. I’ll just put those down in the storage room before they get home, I said to myself. And thank goodness I did, because down in the storage room water was cascading down from a hole in the ceiling and soaking all of the stuff I’d already packed on that side of the storage room!
I started madly pulling boxes clear of the shower coming from above and out of the growing puddle on the floor. Then I ran upstairs and grabbed a bunch of towels out of a laundry basket in the living room and mopped up the water as best I could.
Counsel from the Elders
I called Jen’s dad, who in addition to having been an electrician by trade has survived numerous plumbing emergencies in recent years.
With Papa’s help I ascertained that the overflow water was coming from the non-working dishwasher, which was connected to the garbage disposal, which was connected to the sink drain. A clog somewhere in the sink pipes was backing up through the garbage disposal and through the dishwasher drain, from whence it flowed straight through the floor and into the basement.
I needed to disconnect the dishwasher line and cap off the line from the garbage disposal before I could attempt plunging the main drain.
So I went to Home Depot. I described my situation to an old guy in the plumbing section – who refused to believe that what I was telling him was happening could actually be happening. (Lesson learned – I should have disconnected the hoses and measured them and also should have taken pictures before leaving the house!)
Dubious though he was, he did sell me a couple clamps, a threaded piece of pipe to attach to a one-inch nylon hose, and a cap. I also bought a plunger and a pair of channel locks.
I got home around 9 pm and took the assembly apart – only to find that while I had guessed right about the nylon hose on the dishwasher side, I was wrong about the one on the garbage disposal side. In other words, the cap fit fine – but not on the hose I needed it to fit.
It was getting late and Home Depot was closed now. The rational voice in my head kept telling me to go to bed. You don’t have the right parts – it’s never going to work. Just do it tomorrow. The voice had a point. Since we’re all currently sleeping on mattresses in the sun room, I would be up at 6:15 no matter what time I went to sleep.
But I wouldn’t have time to do it tomorrow – I teach my astrology class on Thursday nights and realistically the chances were slim to none I’d be able to make it back to Home Depot and get the right parts, let alone install them, in the small window of time where I’d have use of the car before my class started.
I plugged away. I tried every combination of the parts available to me that I could imagine. At midnight I was just about beaten. And then I had one last gasp of inspiration, an idea so crazy it just might work. Could I remove the garbage disposal hose entirely, then cannibalize the dishwasher hose and somehow attach it to the little piece of PVC pipe coming from the main sink drain and then cap it off?
At 12:53 a.m., I had done my redneck ancestors proud with the feat of trailer park engineering captured in the top photo. The sink was not plunged and the drain was not clear and the dirty dishes were still resting on a towel on the kitchen floor, but there was no way I was going to risk blowing that cap off at this time of night.
The Moment of Truth
I awoke from a dream in which we’d bought a house in a little corner of land in between the big coastal development and a windy two-lane road that led into the forest. We were down on the marina end, away from the big hotels. A little cabin in the trees placed halfway between the beach and the road. Despite all of the activity around, it seemed like a peaceful place. Rustic and bare-bones, but I guess it was all we could afford. It was probably going to be OK, I was thinking. At least we’re close to the beach. I love the water.
Then Jen pointed out the ‘foxes’. They actually looked like little monstrous labrador/pitbull puppies. All cute and fuzzy but with mouths were full of razor-sharp fangs. They were gleefully devouring some prey animal just 40 feet outside the kitchen window of our new home, blood and guts spraying into the air as they danced around the carcass and dove in for more meat.
Jen looked like she was going to be sick. She had that “I can’t live here” look on her face. I understood. But would they let us out of the contract? We’d already closed – it was a done deal. And who would buy this place if they saw what the wildlife were doing in our back yard?
I needed to get away from that scene, so I walked out the front door. To see a dozen or more giant lemurs (or were they gibbons?) standing in a line on the boardwalk. All looking at me and the house. Uh-oh. I half-heartedly tried leading them in Sid the Sloth’s “Dance of the Fire King” from the Ice Age movie and a couple of them shuffled along for a moment before losing interest and staring at me again.
I helped get my son ready for school and tried to go back to sleep. But the thought of that dirty sink was keeping me awake. I had to know. So I plunged the garbage disposal side of the sink while holding the stopper down on the other side. Nothing. I switched it up and plunged the non-disposal side. Still, nothing moved. This included my makeshift cap, though, so it wasn’t all bad. I had half expected it to come shooting off the drain pipe like the cork on a champagne bottle.
I did the alternate sink plunge method three times and still nothing changed. I was about to give up when….SCHHLLLLLUUUUURRRRP! I heard a fierce sucking sound. And just like that, the sink drained.
I checked both sides, ran the disposal…no leaks, no problem. And the water in the basement couldn’t happen again, because now the non-working dishwasher was completely separated from the sink plumbing.
I’ll be honest, people. I was so proud of myself I didn’t go back to sleep after all. I took a shower and went to work and I felt vibrantly optimistic about the day ahead for the first time in…well, in a long while.
I’m happy to report the kitchen sink is still working great. But Saturday afternoon I went down to the basement, where I’d set up most of my music gear, and saw water pooling around the non-working gas fireplace and seeping towards the boxes I’d relocated from Wednesday’s flood.
It looks like the sewer drain is backing up into the basement, but I wonder if there’s also water coming from somewhere above…
My boy heard me shouting down in the basement and ran down to see what was going on. He still think floods are cool and exciting so he was feeling pretty upbeat about this new development. When I told him why I couldn’t share his enthusiasm, he thought for a moment and said,
“Luckily, Daddy, you were made for these times!”
I’m not sure what that meant. It may have been a line he picked up from one of his favorite adventure TV shows. But it made me feel a little bit better – not just about our little situation, but about everything that’s going on in the world.