Saturday 16 October 2010

Damn Toilet

My toilet is the pits. The pits? Wait! Did I spell that correctly?

I moved into a new apartment. This new abode is located in the basement close to the building's laundry room so I've been given to understand that I am something of the last stop in the plumbing before leaving the building. Was it a premonition or previous experiences that made me buy a plunger as part of my new apartment kit?

I'm sure all of us have had to contend with a plugged up toilet from time to time. Not the most pleasant of duties however it is certainly one of the more important aspects of a fully functional home. If my microwave is on the fritz, I can use the stove. If the stove isn't working, I could use the barbecue. Then again, I can always buy some take-out. If the frig isn't working - well my loss of food but a frig will retain its coldness for hours - I can once again go out for dinner. Okay, you get the picture. So, just how long do you think you can go if not only the toilet is plugged up?

Old Joke: The body parts meeting to decide who is in charge

The brain said "I do all the thinking so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The eyes said "I see everything and let the rest of you know where we are, so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The hands said: "Without me we wouldn't be able to pick anything up or move anything. So I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The stomach said: "I turn the food we eat into energy for the rest of you. Without me, we'd starve. So I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The legs said: "Without me we wouldn't be able to move anywhere. I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

Then the rectum said: "I think I should be in charge."
All the rest of the parts said: YOU?!!
You don't do anything! You're not as important as we are, surely!
You can't be in charge!"

So the rectum stopped working...
After a few days, the legs were all wobbly,
the stomach was all queasy,
the hands were all shaky,
the eyes were all watery,
and the brain was all cloudy.

Moral of the story

It only takes one asshole to shut down a job and an asshole is always in charge of everything.

Ah, but there's more
Of course, writing about a plugged up toilet would seem to be commonplace so there has to more to the story. Well, there is. As I said, my new apartment seems to be the last stop before leaving the building. If something gets stopped up in the pipes, things are going to back up... ah, here.

For the past three days, I have discovered unpleasant things in my bathtub. In fact, whatever is stopped up has lead to the situation where the pipes seem to be exiting into the tub. 2 days ago my plunging successfully unplugged the tub but last night? Last night at 9, I found my bathtub half full of sewage. Let me say it for you, "Eww!" Yes, I was not happy; disgusted is the word. Ha! I pictured myself showing this to the super of the building. "So, how do you like them potatoes?" [I point to the bathtub] "No, literally, how do you like them potatoes?"  :-) Ewwww!

Ever have one of those moments when you are first confronted by something quite disgusting and your body's first reaction - or is it your brain's first reaction? - is to want to throw up? The toilet is plugged; you find dog poop on your shoe or in my case, you find the bathroom half full of sewage and the thought of something so gross, so revolting makes you want to puke? What about those chemical toilets? Hey, what about those latrines at a campsite? You know the ones that are merely a hole in the ground?

Somehow though, you look away; steel yourself; maybe take a deep breath then you look back and deal with the situation. Over the years, I've had my share of nauseating things to deal with and I know there's that first moment of horror, a moment of "Oh gawd, I don't want to do this" then the moment of finding the resolve to do it and finally the moment of just do it. This final step is where I have pushed my revolt, my desire to run out of the room screaming to the back of my mind and I somewhat calmly deal with the situation. I'm repulsed but I blot out my emotions and let the intellectual side of my brain systematically correct what is wrong and get rid of whatever it is that so sickens me. Go get the plunger and deal with the toilet. Get some paper towels and clean my shoe. Get down on my knees to lean into the bathtub and stick my hand into the drain trying to yank out whatever may be stuck there. OMG! Now I phone the super after closing the door on the bathtub half full of sewage. I don't like it; I wish somebody else would do it but in the end, I do deal with it.

I can't imagine - I don't want to imagine? - what others may have to cope with in their lives. Nurses? Bedpans? Senile patients? Dementia? People taking care of spouses, other family members? How about mothers taking care of sick children? I am sure there is a world out there with which I am not familiar. Do I want to know about it? Nevertheless, at the end of the day, when the moment comes, we will all have to step up to the plate; we will all just do it.

My father in the last 10 years of life suffered from mild seizures. When one would happen, he would sometimes lose consciousness and occasionally soil himself. I had helped him several times in the men's room, getting him on the floor before he passed out and sometimes even cleaning him up. It was one of those moments where I steeled myself and I did it. Of course, I'm sure this was humiliating for him - it would be embarrassing for any of us - but I loved that man and would have taken a bullet for him.

Over a decade ago, out of the blue I received a call about a high school friend whom I hadn't seen in years who was dying from AIDS. His wife, whom I had never met and didn't know at all, thought a visit from an old buddy would do some good but also, this would be our last chance to see one another.

Sometimes the last stage of AIDS can lead to dementia and my friend was in the throes of this; he was only partially there mentally. He recognized me; we could talk about some things but for the most part, it was like dealing with a child.

As a favour, I took my friend out for a car ride. Part of the ride was to stop by a computer store to pick something up. While we were there browsing, I smelled something funny. I was dealing with a sales clerk when my friend said he had to go to the washroom. After a bit, I went to look for him. I discovered he had soiled himself in the store but his dementia had incapacitated him to the point where he wouldn't properly deal with things. Oh my gawd, I opened the door to the men's room, took one whiff and realized what I had smelled before. I knew what happened and what I was going to have to do. For that first moment, the sheer utter horror of the situation grabbed a hold of me and I wanted nothing more than to turn around and immediately run out of the store.

To this day, I'm not sure how I managed the situation; I still can't quite believe that I actually did deal with the situation. It was probably one of the most disgusting events I've ever gone through. His wife had given me rubber gloves as she knew one had to be prepared to any eventuality when taking my friend out for a ride and she admitted later that she asked me to take him out because she knew that if anything went wrong, I would be responsible and deal with it. To any nurse, to any caregiver who deals with incapacitated patients, with patients with dementia, you have my utmost respect. You have a job which requires the above and beyond: the patience, the responsibility, the kindness in the face of what is not very pleasant. That is truly amazing.

Last night
The super came over last night at 10pm and temporarily fixed my problem. I heard him repeatedly trying out the toilet so for that moment I was back in business. I may not be rich but for the moment I suppose I can say that I'm flush? [groan] Sorry, I couldn't resist. That being said, I am now sceptic about my septic. [rolling my eyes to the ceiling]

The super was telling me some of the plumbing problems he's had to deal with over the years. People are just so stupid in what they throw in the loo. It's a toilet for gawd's sake; throw that stuff in the garbage! I realize the people above me are probably responsible for my problem. Being in the basement, if the pipes get plugged, they back up in my apartment; every other apartment is above me. [I shake my fist at the ceiling of my apartment] Curse you Red Baron! (For those not in the know, that is a reference to the comic strip Peanuts.)

Will this happen again? Well, I guess I'm kind of resigned. I guess though I'll have to remain vigilant. It is quite a surprise when you're sitting on the can, you flush then you realize you've got water lapping at your bottom because the toilet bowl has filled with water. [laughs] I have leapt up with a cry of surprise more than once over the years.

Okay, this entire article is a bit gross, no? :-) Not your usual topic of conversation. Well, somebody had to bring it up and yours truly just had to volunteer, eh? It's a dirty job and somebody has to do it. Of course, there may also be a bit of that little boy who likes to gross out the girls in the playground by picking up a spider and sticking it in their face. Eww, take that thing away!

This morning
The super was supposed to come back at 8am this morning with some help to remove the toilet and go after the pipes with a snake. I had need of a bathroom so I left to go to the office which is less than a 10 minute walk away. I trust they'll be able to resolve my dilemma as I need an apartment with a functioning sewer system. I hope I can regain my bathroom with a working toilet and an empty tub. I've already looked at that tub half full of sewage enough times and I hope I'll be going home today to something a little more pristine. Ugh.

This afternoon: final verdict
Oh great. After snaking out my plumbing to a distance of 45 feet (13.7 m), they concluded that the main sewage pipe for this part of the building has probably broken. Apparently the end of the snake came back out with clay on it so they figure that the ground has shifted leaving the pipe completely disconnected or partially disconnected from the main line. The two apartments above me and my unit all flush into the same line so at some point since the water can't exit, it just backs up into the pipe and my apartment being on the ground; it backs up into my tub and toilet.

My options are to move completely - they have another apartment free - or live temporarily in the other apartment or live between the 2 apartments. My problem is that I have Internet access set up in my apartment and I just spent $600 to up blackout curtains. Management says they will re-install my curtains but I will have to change my Internet although management said they would pay for any disconnection fees. This seems fair although it's a bit of a pain. Unfortunately, I just visited the other apartment which is only across the hall and it has a western exposure. That place is going to be hot during the summer. Hmmm, I'll try and keep my hands on this place but that does mean having to contend with the possibility of more backups - Eww, a bathtub full of sewage! - and plumbing work in my apartment to rectify matters over the next week. Heads or tails. Pile ou face. [chuckles] Oh well, I've lived in a lot worse, believe it or not.

Eww again. I just discovered my bedroom floor has wet spots. However the wet spots are not caused by water, they're caused by sewage. I used a white paper towel to clean up and it ended up being disgustingly brown, gray, ugh. I have now mopped the floor several times with Pine Sol but am wondering just what the heck is now under the floor. (I have to sleep in this room tonight. Ah!) Geesh, they're going to have to rip everything up!

Postscript - Jan 2011
I was recounting all this to some of my family taking pleasure in grossing everybody out with graphic descriptions of the sewage in the tub. At one point, I gestured as if I was pointing to the tub and exclaimed, "Oh look! Somebody had corn for dinner last night!" My daughter cried out, "Eeeeewwwwww!!!" Yep, we guys love grossing out the girls.


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