I woke up with a well-placed hangover in place in the downstairs guest bedroom on Sunday. The light was fighting to break through the curtains as I was taking account of my surroundings. Jesus, did I drink that much Canadian Club last night? I had a dry mouth and a headache knocking against the temples of my head. My day never starts until I put my glasses on and I was scanning the room with my hands searching for my spectacles.
It isn’t rare that I wake up feeling like Don Birnam on Sundays but this was different. My eyes were wide open looking at the wall in front of me trying to figure out why the drywall was bubbling. From my years in construction, it has been my experience that dry wall is … well, dry. On Sunday, the wall was pulsating and creating pockets of movement. So, I had either supplemented my blended Canadian whisky the night before with psilocybin mushrooms or I had a plumbing problem.
One foot on the saturated carpet answered that question.
You would think that panic would set in quicker but if the three years that I ran The Woodshed taught me anything, panic kills and my head hurt way too much to throw a tizzy-fit. Besides, what was I going to do at this ungodly hour of 11am on a Sunday morning?
After fortifying myself with strong coffee and a handful of Tylenol, I showered and dressed and attacked the problem in the basement. I wish I could tell you it was something innocent like the tears of a child had been splattered against the bedroom wall or a victory celebration of champagne had been sprayed against the wall. If that was the case, a little bit of Woolite and everything would have been as right as rain. Instead, the bowels of the house flared its angry ass and opened holy war against my poor basement: the sewer line had ruptured.
If you’re like me, you treat the pipes in your house like a $15 Pilipino prostitute. I shove anything I want down the kitchen sink drain with no consideration of how she’ll take it. Rinds from oranges, ground beef, bacon fat, motor oil and any and all body fluids find their way down my pipes. I treat the garbage disposal like some sort of cosmic regulator and have assumed for years that the moment I flip the switch to that burly macerator everything is going to be fine as long as I can push it down the hole.
Man alive was I wrong.
Apparently one’s drain pipes are less like a Manila streetwalker and more like my junior prom date—she’s more interested in screwing my friend than taking my load. I think I might have gotten off topic. The copper drainpipe in the basement which removes the waste water from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room had rotted out from years of detergents, soaps, chemicals and every other nasty thing we’ve put down the drain. We might all live downstream but I tend to forget this when I am trying to think of a place to dump all the waste out of our house.
When things go bad with plumbing, I only have one phone call and that is to my buddy, Brian Palmer. Brian runs his own plumbing company and he really knows his way around a plunger. He’s also pretty good with sweating pipes, running PEXs, installing sinks and every other part of having running water in one’s house. He is basically some sort of piping Svengali.
To get at the drainpipe I had to rip the drywall off the ceiling in the bedroom and one of the walls. The pasty moist drywall easily crumbled off in big chunks exposing my house’s swamp crotch. A ten foot stretch of 2” copper piping was creased at the base allowing a baker’s dozen worth of holes. Brian informed me that copper is great for feeding clean water to sinks and showers but horrible in the long run with the waste water. Unless we wanted to live with a bunch of buckets collecting water every time we run the dishwasher, we were going to have to replace all of the copper.
I am never enthusiastic about spending a week’s worth of money on home repairs. There is too much podcasting equipment that needs to be purchased and Erin and I really need to go on a Mexican vacation. It’s these moments, however, that I can use as bookmarks in my life that I have grown up. Grownups pay contractors to fix plumbing disasters, grownups register their vehicles on time and grownups take their pets to veterinarians when they get sick. My God it sucks being an adult.
This entire experience hasn’t been a disaster. We’re getting new pipes in the basement. I was looking for an excuse to remodel the guest bedroom to put in can lights, speaker cables for a television and a new coat of paint. We can finally justify putting in new carpet into the basement. Best of all I found a surprise when I was tearing out the drywall.
Hidden between the floor joists, a VHS tape fell to the ground while I was ripping the ceiling out. Reaching down, I picked up the tape and had a belly laugh. It was like finding an Easter egg or a $20 bill in a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a while. The title of the movie is Oral Obsession #2. Free porn from the heavens. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but I am certain it is probably some sort of complicated love triangle between two students and a stern schoolmaster. Until I can hook-up my VHS player that is the story that I will be going with.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, the SLC PubCast, on iTunes. He loves the smell of wet carpet in the morning—it smells like victory.