Thursday, March 26, 2009

Carrots in the Drainpipe

This morning’s newspaper had an article from Associated Press headlined “Home Economics” about people across the country going back to doing their own home maintenance from cleaning to lawns to car washing in order to save money. I’m a bit surprised by this because I always assumed that’s how everyone did things (yeah, I know I’m naïve especially with the number of gardeners who live in my neighborhood and drive off in their mower, rake and leaf blower equipped pick-up trucks each morning).

For folks just undertaking these types of activities in their lives, I offer up just a little bit of advice—when you have to snake the drain line in the basement, strip down to your underwear first. See, and you thought I was going to offer up a glossary of words and phrases in case your repertoire of swear words wasn’t extensive enough.

When the kids were little we lived in a delightful Cape Cod just a couple of blocks from downtown in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It was 2 stories but from the rear you could see both floors as well as the full basement making it look like 3 stories.

See, the drain from the kitchen sink didn’t like carrot peelings—something I discovered one Thanksgiving. I had peeled a bunch of carrots and run the garbage disposal and, of course, the drain backed up. No amount of Drano or plunging would unclog it. So, now I had to go down and look at the line. The good news was that the line was exposed in our basement because it really wasn’t a finished basement, the joists were exposed and the line ran just under the joists. I noticed a knock-out plug about 10 feet from where the line turned up to go to the kitchen sink and figured that I could dig out my hand snake from the tool box and clear the mess.

Pulling up a step stool, I used a pair of channel locks to release the knock-out plug—that was my first mistake! I was greeted by a shower of smelly water, grease and carrot peelings. Spitting and spluttering and now soaked I stepped down to try and shake off some of the stuff now sticking to me and dripping off me. The floor was a mess (thank goodness it was cement). Not wanting to get any filthier, I proceeded to peel off my soaked jeans and shirt and socks and stuff them into the washer. I eyed the doorway to the bathroom about 10 feet away thinking that would be my first stop after I got this job done.

Now, I got back up on the step stool, and inserted the hand snake, first in one direction and then in the other. After a couple of minutes, the liquids were all either on their way out to the sewer pipe or had drained out of the pipe onto the floor. So I figured I was done. I managed to find the mop and bucket and cleaned up the floor then stepped into the bathroom and took a shower. Pipe cleaned out, drain pipe soaked clothes and towel in the washer, I wrapped another towel around my waist and trudged upstairs to check on the drain.

Now, this wasn’t the only time this happened. It only took me one more time of having carrot peelings block that pipe before I figured out to just peel them into the garbage can instead of down the disposal drain.

But the greatest lesson learned was when that pipe would clog, get the tools (wrench and snake), get the mop and bucket, get undressed down to my underwear, and then start work knowing I was going to shower just as soon as I was done. It’s still cheaper than paying the plumber double time on a holiday to come over. And the bonus was that I was all nice and freshly showered for Thanksgiving dinner. And the carrots tasted good too.

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