Did you have a nice three-day weekend? Was your house full of friends and family and food and laughter? Mine was. Too bad I wasn’t there for it.
Because Easter falls on a Sunday, the preceding week is traditionally the busiest week of the year. All holidays are busy food days, but before Easter we have a full seven days of trumpeting our sales and specials, and in the meat business, that means hams and lamb and salmon for Good Friday and here in Arizona lots of BBQ meat for a warm and pleasant weekend. Senior citizen discount day happened to fall in the mix this year as well as the first-of-the-month welfare/social security/ disability/pension checks. Throw in an unseasonably late flu bug that decimated the crew and the result was another long, grinding week of work that, even in the best light, could only be endured.
Of course everyone else in my family had the three-day weekend—a glorious mini vacation with eighty-degree weather, blooming spring flowers, fired-up grills and Easter eggs hunts. My stepson’s family came up from Phoenix for the weekend and arrived on Friday night—after I had already stumbled into bed.
I woke up the following morning and was off to work before anyone else was up. Saturday was a ritual flogging with gleeful inquisitors (bosses) running around happily extorting everyone to push a little harder—an all time sales records was within reach! Oh boy! To make a long day sound shorter, I didn’t get a break until 4 pm and didn’t get out of the store until seven.
Dinner was on the table when I got home. Matt and Marie had bought steaks for everyone and grilled them on the grill. There were salads and mashed potatoes and baked beans and… And I wasn’t hungry. Despite the great food, the combination of exhaustion and a late, late lunch kind of ruined it for me.
After dinner was over and the dishes cleared and cleaned, everyone started in on the decoration of the Easter eggs. It was a fun time—at least I imagine. While everyone laughed and joked and hollered in the kitchen I sat in the living room reading the same page from my book, over and over, trying futilely not to doze off too early. After the eggs were decorated, Matt made a campfire in the backyard and it was suddenly s’more time. For me, though, it was snore time. I quietly excused myself and headed to the back bathroom to prepare for bed and another busy day at work.
I took a quick shower. Brushed my teeth and looked to be in bed by eleven. Then I flushed the toilet.
The water swirled around a little and sat there in the bowl.
Well, this has been happening of late. The drains in my house, like me, have been slowing down with age. A couple plunges and everything will be fine.
Except it wasn’t.
I plunged and plunged and nothing happened. I went to the other bathroom and checked that toilet. It wasn’t flushing either. I plunged and plunged on that for a while. Nothing.
Everyone came in from the campfire and I explained the situation. Matt tried his hand at the plunger. Give two men a problem and a tool and they both have to take a whack at it thinking--I don't know--the other guy ain't doing it right. We took turns plunging to no effect. Finally we decided the problem was not our technique but the tool. We needed a better plunger. After a quick trip to a 24-hour Wal-Mart, we both started plunging again—one on each toilet. Still, nothing. Obviously plunging wasn’t going to work.
We took off one of the toilets, which is always a hassle. Then I got my “snake” out. This is a long piece of coiled steel springy line. I’ve owned it for years, have used it on numerous occasions, and never once do I remember it working. Never the less, hope springs eternal. We spent another good hour trying to work the snake into the drain and past any obstruction. Nothing. No good.
Chemicals, we decided in desperation. Back to the 24-hour Wal-Mart and a gallon of the most lethal, noxious, toxic chemical we could legally purchase. Covered in skull and crossbones with words like extreme, extra-strength, and mega-power, it was absolutely guaranteed to instantly dissolve any and every obstacle short of carbon diamond-plated titanium, yet was contained in a plastic bottle. Clad in rubber gloves and safety goggles, we gleefully (and very carefully) poured it into the drainpipe and backed up in delicious anticipation. Bubbles slowly rose, the water began churning and… One single turd floated to the top. The bubbles stopped. The churning stopped. Nothing else happened.
By now it is almost three in the morning. There was nothing left to do. Matt and I shrugged and said well maybe the chemicals will work overnight. Maybe the clog will be gone in the morning. We said this in defeated tone of voice like, yeah, I’m sure this is the year we’ll get a cost of living raise. I said goodnight and finally crawled into bed and was soon… wide-awake. I could not fall asleep. I lie there and thought about a house full of guests and no toilet. About small children whose Easter was going to be ruined. About my own personal failings as a plumber and provider of memorable holidays. All sorts of ruinous accusations and stabs of self-loathing echoed around in my skull. I think I finally drifted off sometime before five.
The alarm went off at six. Got up and peered at the drainpipe still full of water and the single floating turd. Yep. Exactly what I expected. Happy Easter.
My whole body felt buzzy and jerky from no sleep. My head throbbed. But there was nothing else to do. I had to get ready and report to work. Easter has been busier and busier every year until now it’s just another full-crew workday. I quickly got ready for work while everyone else was sleeping, but before I left, I placed a phone number for a plumbing company that worked holidays (and was very expensive) and a credit card with a zero balance on the kitchen counter.
Later my wife said that credit card and phone number was the best Easter present she ever got, and all told, one of the best Easter weekends she could remember.
Wish I could say the same.