Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas flush

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. That is if you celebrate Christmas, otherwise I hope you had wonderful celebrations. That is if you celebrate anything.

What? Did I just suggest that there might be people who don't celebrate anything? That's awful sad but unfortunately possibly true.

I had many moments of joy this Christmas. I'm grateful for those joyous interactions. However, it's my Christmas sadness that bothers me. Could it really be the season of joy and sadness?

unusual gathering place

I'm not jumping into a very serious discussion on feeling melancholy (that word often confused me since it reminded of melody). Those discussions are important but I consider social media a poor place to hold them.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
High above the chimney tops,
That's where you'll find me.

This past Christmas day I posted this:

I just finished my 12 gripes of Christmas.
On the 12th day of seasonal gripes life brought to me,
12 checking account overdrafts
11 unexpected overnight guests
10 extra pounds weighing
9 sugar high kids yelling
8 lanes of traffic honking
7 hours shopping
6 glitter cards spilling
5 delivery rings
4 calling spammers
3 online pop-up ads
2 feet of snow
And a backed-up sewer drain

The last gripe actually happened to us one Christmas day long ago. I posted the story back on Jan. 1, 2010. I thought I would post the story again. Also, today's post reminded me I need some lemon drops to melt my troubles away.


Here's the Christmas flush story:

It was looking to be a quiet Christmas Day this year because the grown kids schedules put our family celebration off for two days. It was just wife, still-at-home daughter, and myself.

I had just settled down to some blog and web surfing when out of the basement there arose such a clatter. My wife rushed upstairs to sound an alert. We all needed to report to the basement ASAP.

It was flooding. Initially, we both thought it was the problem we had spent big bucks on just little more than a year ago. We had an annoying problem with the fast draining of washing machine loads. Plumbers had dug into the floor and replaced sections of the drain pipes. Could it be that it was back again?

The water was rising and we didn't have time to ponder plumbing. We just needed to scoop water and stop the spread of the water. Daughter and mom started picking up and moving stuff. Stuff - no time to ponder why this stuff exists here - just get it moved out of the water's path. Our daughter had an incentive to get the stuff out. Most of it was hers.

Maybe 10 or 15 minutes into this it became clear that the water was still coming up strong. We knotted up an old towel and jammed it into the drain pipe. The towel didn't hold. It started to be pushed out by the water pressure. We slid a big tub filled with collected water on top of it. That worked.

What also became clear was how UNclear the water looked. It also smelled.

Fortunately I had an old wet vac and it still worked. The 5 gallon attached bucket filled quickly.

For the next 5 hours (the alert was sounded about noon) we all worked on scooping, sucking, squeegee-ing the sewage. We hauled 5 gallon bucket after bucket of water up and out to the back yard. Obviously we could not use a drain. Luckily it was raining then snowing outside.

I was ankle deep in raw sewage all afternoon. After I was able to lower the water level, I checked the drain by moving the big tub off. It was still coming in! I started wondering now how much water could our house have in the drains. A quick check between us confirmed that none of us had used any drain for hours.

I called my house-building-carpenter brother (thanks bro for being there).

Me- "Merry Christmas, how much water is there in the drain pipes of a house?"

Bro- "Huh? What are you talking about?"

Me- "I pissed off someone in Bethlehem and now we have water flooding the basement."

After some back and forth Q&A, it was determined that the water was coming from outside the house. It was backing up from the sewer system. Our neighbors were sharing their waste with us. How nice!

We had called a few neighbors and ones at home checked and no problem was found anywhere we called. We were special.

Did I mention - it was Christmas. Who would be around at the public works department? My wife called the police department. After some questions they promised to relay the issue to the public works department.

I was not hopeful. We had slowed the flow to a manageable amount but it was still seeping in. It would need to be watched and sucked out all night. We started brain storming about where we could use a toilet, a shower. I would sleep on the floor upstairs.

Who did I pissed off in the Holy Land?

Maybe our karma was not too bad - the public works called back. Some more Q&A and he said he would over in about an hour. Wow, a public works guy coming out on Christmas.

I was watching the drain, when my wife called down to announce a truck was out in front of the house. I eagerly threw on a coat and headed out into the snowy night. As I stepped off my front porch the truck pulled away. Hey come back, don't leave now, I wanted to yell but they would not of heard me anyway in that big noisy truck.

Surely they will come back.

About 10 minutes later I spotted the truck. This time I stood in the middle of the street to stop them. There were two of them sitting high in their cab. He rolled the window down.

"We are working on it."

I thanked them and asked if coming inside to see the situation would help. No, they could figure it out from the outside. He did come by later to explain what had happened.

Outcome - grease clog about 100 feet down the pipe from us. They unclogged it and I was able to shower and use the toilet again. It was about 9 PM when the water flowed the correct direction again.

It's impossible to be prepared for everything that flows into your life, but this experience taught me a few suggestions that you might find helpful.

Our damage was limited because we have shelves and file cabinets which keeps stuff off the floor. Those plastic storage tubs are great because they stay dry inside. You should own a wet vac. We should also own more buckets.

Another lesson learned was about plumbing (I've never had good luck with plumbing projects) in a house. The drains only have water in the traps. A sink trap holds less than a gallon and a toilet trap would hold more but not much more. If you have water flowing up from the lowest drain and its more than a few gallons, call the sewer department. The problem is outside your house system.

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