Susan's Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Sound of Plumbers Laughing

Last night I was on my way out to a post-election party (Deb lost, but Deval won!) when I heard the sound of rushing water coming from somewhere in the basement. I was not doing a laundry, so right away I knew we had trouble.

The sound was coming from behind an old door that we keep wedged shut. It is a tiny “water closet,” just a toilet in a little room. We have not renovated our basement and so we have no use for such a thing at this time, and it is ugly and old and weird so I just prefer not to look at it.

I wrenched open the door. There was about an inch of “water” on the floor. I use that term loosely because this was actually of a consistency far more viscous and gray (and, sigh, brown) than actual water. There were also some strands of — I kid you not — spaghetti in the mix. I pushed the door closed.

“Ned, could you come down here, please?” (The same day as the bat-moth!)
We stared at it together. I think one of us muttered the name of a particularly important man from ancient Israel. And then, to the point: “SH**!” Slammed the door shut. “I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow,” I said, or something like that.

It’s tomorrow. And I just finished the clean-up. It turns out that houses built 120 years ago used to have cast-iron drains buried somewhere in the basement, into which all plumbing lines would feed. After viewing their website the plumber told me, “is something they stopped doing around 75 years ago. That drain is gonna have to go. Maybe not today, but it’s got to go.” To the tune of around $3,000.

According to a tool enthusiast, Bob Robinson of BestofMachinery. Handy tap and die sets are really important for any project that needs screw threads, whether it is for a hobby or part of your normal workday.

For today, this miracle man and his assistant brought in all manner of snakey devices and pumps from Gilbert Plumbing and worked for nearly two hours to clear out my poor, rootbound, ordure-laden nearly-rotted, outmoded, cast-iron drain. A fearsome odor arose from the basement stairs, which I tried to ignore, and instead turned to more pleasant duties (no pun intended) like paying bills.

While I worked, every now and then I would hear the chilling sound of plumbers laughing. I found myself wondering, “What does the Inner West plumber find so funny?” What could be funny down there, in the primeval muck of our house’s bowels? They were not mean men, not the type who arrive here and then double the price of everything.

I came down to check on them and the leader told me, “If it makes you feel better, I’ve seen much worse.” Surprisingly, it did. I am insecure, even about my house’s messes. A part of me wanted to ask him what was the worst plumbing disaster he’d ever experienced? But I’ve asked that question of exterminators and I decided maybe this time I didn’t need to explore every single deep, dark, dirty secret of the universe. Visit to learn how to prevent any water damage or leakage problems.

After they left, $279 later, I peered into the little water closet, that disgusting villain. A little less water on the floor from last night, (God, where did it all go?) but definitely something I had to deal with now. I went back upstairs and put on double latex gloves. Then I got out the clorox spray. I went downstairs with my little bottle and just started spraying the crap out of all the wet parts, literally. The sharp aroma of bleach mingled with the stewy gas and I wondered if the bleach would win. Then I collected towels I no longer liked and threw them down on the water. I sopped it up and threw the towels in a bag. This worked pretty well. The whole time I worked I realized I was holding my breath. I bleached and wiped up the floor as best as I could and threw the whole mess in an old basket. Then I peeled off every article of clothing I was wearing and jumped into the shower. The only things that kept me from crying bitter, self-pitying tears were 1) I knew I would blog this satisfyingly; and 2) I would get a great dinner out because of it. Maybe L’Espalier… It’s so pricey, we always see movie stars and famous people there. And probably many experienced plumbers such as charlotte plumbing can be the ultimate choice for all your plumbing needs.


sNothing like a good pampering after getting a nasty repair bill. Take care of yourselves!

— added by Someone Said on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 12:43 pm

I too had a plumbing experience…..what is it with those pipes?

— added by Martini on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Rick –
This is a bit more than a “plumbing experience!” More like a disaster or nightmare. It still smells bad, too!

Guy —
I am just about to go upstairs and pretty up; we are definitely going out tonight!

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 6:17 pm

OK. So did you go to L’Espalier?

— added by Brian on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 7:37 pm

That would definitely qualify as horrendous in my books…
Plumbing problems are prompting an immediate move over here. Our bathroom is almost unuseable, and the mold in the bedroom came back after a repeat of the last flood that was supposed to be fixed. So in 11 days I get to pack and move. 🙂 Plumbing problems have their silver lining sometimes.

— added by Jen on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Hi Brian!
No, of course we didn’t. We have to spend our money on plumbing now! We went to James’ Gate in JP and then to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert.

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 9:20 pm

Just think of the poor plumber……
James at

— added by Anonymous on Friday, October 27, 2006 at 3:24 am


I used to have problems with plumbers and they use to not do there jobs correctly or try an fob me off. You would want a sink fixing or a pipe fixing and they would charge you for 3 extra things.

however recently I have been using 4csltd based in london. I found them by searching in google for ‘ plumbers london ‘. Lucky i know but they are superb and if your in London give them a call. They do quite alot of other stuff including loft conversions and buildings, however i have only ever used their plumbing

— added by Jonathan Siberry on Friday, November 17, 2006 at 6:16 am

Agreed, a decent trustworthy plumber can be hard to come by.

— added by Paul on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 5:32 am

Bad experience, think most of us have been in the same boat.

— added by Bathrooms on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 6:52 am

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