Friday, June 4, 2010

The FooDaddy's Adventures in Pipe Land - Conclusion

I'm going come right out and spoil the surprise right now: I did manage to get my drain unclogged without calling a professional.

I figure I had better get that out of the way so my hordes of adoring fans can finally rest easy. No more lying awake at night wondering whether or not I had defeated the Mashed Menace. "Did he prevail?" you were no doubt asking your haggard reflection in the toaster at 3AM. "Did the pipe burst and coat his basement with goo? Wouldn't it be easier to butter the bread, then toast it?"

Since I'm pretty certain that answers from your toaster were not forthcoming, I will answer them for you. No. If you butter the bread first, it makes a huge mess. If you did get answers from your toaster, reading this blog is probably the last thing you should be doing if you value your mental health.

If you don't, why, read on then! When you're done, you and I should get some cardboard, make some signs and go yell stuff in public. I'll wear my tuxedo.

And what of the pipes? I'm pleased to report that after a trip to Wal-Mart and $11 later, water and assorted solids and semi-solids are once again trekking happily through them. I had to make the trip to the store, because I did not have the clogbusting equipment I needed here at the house. This isn't to say that I did not have any equipment at all. I did.

It's just that it sucked.

You may recall that I had decided to resort to chemical warfare after the miserable defeat of my twin plungers and Sink-Perched-Drain-TurboHumping (patent pending). Sadly, the half-bottle of dollar-store drain slime I half-heartedly tipped into the sink had no effect whatsoever on the diabolical potato flakes. All it did was add a bleachy smell and an "in case of skin contact, flush thoroughly with water for 5 minutes" to the festering bog of spudwater.

Instead of fixing the problem, I'd gone and made it stinky and poisonous. I also couldn't try plunging it again, because I had to open the window to let the bleach fumes out, and the neighbors might see me. I settled for swearing and stomping around the kitchen in an angry little circle.

Ah, but hope was not lost! There was always the basement. The basement of this house is full of ancient tools left behind by three generations of people I'm named after. Also, spiders.

Oh, I spoke too soon. Hope was indeed lost. The only thing I found was this misbegotten piece of equipment designed in the dark by vengeful elves with access to only 19th century metallurgy and bottomless buckets of mischief.

Have you ever opened the back of an old spring-driven pocketwatch? Have you ever then proceeded to drop it? The part that goes "twaaannng!" and sends a cloud of microscopic bits of brass raining down all around you is the mainspring. It is a ribbon of steel twisted into a reluctant coil that spends the rest of its miserable existence fighting to untwist itself. Harnessing this struggle is what powered your watch during its non-dropped phase of life. Freed, its years and years of pent-up hatred for you comes out in a catastrophic explosion of tiny gears and bits of glass.

Now imagine a coil fifty times the size of the one in your watch. Imagine that it has been rusting away in a basement for untold decades, getting shit on by spiders. Also imagine that it is inexplicably tipped with a little spring-loaded brass dildo.

Now imagine that I want to heap insult upon insult and stuff this thing into a pipe full of bleach-flavored potato gunk.

Needless to say, it did not end well. Thirty minutes of wrangling the wretched thing around the cramped space under my sink, fending off its attempts to lacerate my face and arms served only to splatter everything with unspeakableness and to fill me with a deep hatred of pocketwatches.

"Screw this noise," I said, casting the springsteel demon into a corner. I pointed at it. "Fuck that thing and everything that looks like it," I announced to the cats. "I'm going to have to break down and do what I'd been trying to avoid all day: put on pants."

I cleaned myself up and, fully pantsed, drove to Wal-Mart. I believe I have mentioned before my reasons for hating shopping. This had to be done, though, so I sucked it up and strode purposefully into the store.

Let's see now...I need plumby stuff. Bathroom stuff? That's gotta be close enough. Bathrooms are, like, 90 percent plumbing. Right?

I found myself staring at a veritable cliff-face of toilet seats. Thousands of them, stretching to the ceiling and yards to the left and right, in every color you can imagine. More colors than the screen on my laptop is capable of reproducing. Some of them were cushioned. Some of them had the logos of professional sports teams on them.

"Why would anyone want to crap on the Detroit Lions?" I asked the wall of seats. "Oh, yeah," I answered myself, rolling my eyes.

I moved on to a section labeled "Do It Yourself," which yielded results. I found a device called a "pipe auger" that looked like some sort of surgical tool designed by perverts for use on other perverts. It was a big funnel with a bunch of (electrical conduit?) coiled up inside and a corkscrewy bit of wire coming out the end. It had a handle mounted perpendicular to the funnel's pointy end, and a wingnut, and a sort of crank knob thing, and...

Yeah. Like that.

I picked the thing up by its knob and carried it at arms length to the checkout aisle. I threw it down on the belt and watched it glide up to the cashier.

"Did you find everything okay?" she asked, eyeing the device.

"God, I hope so," I said, wishing that she would hurry up and put that thing in a bag. It sort of scared me.

"What's so funny?" she asked, this time eyeing me.

"Those potatoes don't know what they're in for," I said. I pointed to the auger. "I'm going after them with that." I winked. "Fuck them," I added.

As I left, I saw the cashier carefully place the bills I'd paid her with into a plastic bag and then place the bag into a small cardboard box and then set that box on fire.

Once home, I placed my auger on the floor in front of the sink. I gathered a few towels and a pitcher of water and a crucifix and made sure my cellphone was charged up. Confident that I was fully prepared, I grabbed a bottle of beer out of the fridge. if I was going to do this right, I was going to need fortification.

Basically what I'm saying here is that my bottle of Michelob had a better idea of how to go about this project than I did, and that I would have to drink it if I wanted to absorb its precious, precious knowledge.

Holding the auger by its handle, I gave the crank on top an experimental twist. The bit of wire on the end turned lazily. Ah HA! So this was the part of my ultimate weapon that was going to claw its way though the clog! This fearsome, chrome-steel...tiny...bit...of...corkscrewy wire on the end of a cable that rotated in a slow-motion ballet of flaccid unremarkability no matter how fast I hauled away at the crank.


I dunked the corkscrew into the pipeful of goo. Then I loosened the setscrew on the end of the auger and fed in some more of the auger's cable. I tightened it back up again, and tried the crank.

A noise like a chipmunk trying to claw its way out of a bowl of pancake batter drifted out of the pipe. This was followed by the situation displaying a stunning reluctance to improve.

The next twenty-five minutes or so was pretty much a repetition of this. I shoved more of the cable down the pipe until I encountered resistance and cranked away until my arms hurt. Shove. Crank. Repeat. Shove, swear, crank. Swear. Pull some cable out. Marvel at how much gunk was stuck to it. Swear at gunk. Take off pants. Swear at pipe.

Toward the end, the situation had degenerated into this scene: a pantsless man, covered in splattery bits of mashed potatoes furiously stabbing a pipe with a cable and yelling insane threats into the end of it. "Don't make me come down there! God help me, I'll use the gasoline if I have to!"

Finally, miraculously, the potatoes gave way under the sheer brute force of my assault, and with a parting "blorrrrk," they shoved off downstream to trouble me no more.

I cheered. I poured pitcher after pitcher of water into the pipe, cheering each time the contents went down without impediment. I pulled out the nearly fifteen feet of the auger's cable I'd stuffed down the pipe and watched helplessly as wad after wad of gunk pattered onto the floor before I could catch it with a towel.

There was a lot of cleanup and the plumbing still had to be reassembled. Before I tackled that, though, I had to get something to eat.

A dish involving mashed potatoes.

I would eat them with the pointiest fork I could find.

I would eat them angrily and out of spite.

And I don't care what the restaurant people said, I wasn't going to wear pants while I did so.

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