Worst Case Scenario

Nope. I’m not talking about the White House.

I’m talking about our house.

I had a root canal scheduled for today, but the dentist took some more x-rays and decided to let me try to medicate for a bit to be certain. Because the crown that he just put in on the tooth that might need the root canal may only need a few more days of anti-inflammatories to calm down. But the crown and the resulting stories from the pain are for another day.

What we are going to talk about today is shit. Or the line that the shit travels in when it’s supposed to leave your house. Doctors call it the sewer line. Ours is jacked about sixty ways to your favorite deity (or non-deity).

Here’s the timeline:

Tuesday of last week: We take DORJ! to the airport last week and the next day I notice some weird debris in the shower. At first I just thought it might have been DORJ!-related, but upon closer inspection of the basement area, realize that it’s not DORJ! related in the least. It’s a drain problem. I figure, hey, maybe it’s the wet spring. Maybe it’s just that the city drains are overwhelmed. Sure. That’s what it is. It’s not my problem.

Friday of last week: Leta goes to visit Grandmommy while Heather and I clean up the basement in preparation for a minor facelift we’ve been planning for a couple of years. New carpet, some tile, maybe a new vanity in the basement bathroom… maybe some new tile in the shower… Nothing too crazy, but enough to make us feel like the basement is ours again after the tumultuous teen years of our former Congressman dog turned goth. We get it done and I’m feeling like a million dollars. Except for the crowned tooth. That is kicking my ass. I’m barely able to stand it. Heather tells me I need an attitude adjustment. I agree and apologize. We have a visit from a landscaping dude to estimate what it’s going to take to de-ghettofy our front yard, which is an embarrassment to both Heather and I.

Weekend: I’m in tooth-related pain most of the weekend. Heather loans me some Neurontin. Just a half-dosage knocks me so hard on my ass that I’m pretty much useless until Easter Sunday night when I finally mow the lawn, because anything I can do to help the yard will be appreciated. The Easter Bunny is very pro-lawn care. There is an egg dye issue with Leta’s pants.

Monday: Snow storm. Disgusting. Heather and I are working in the newly clean basement when we hear this crazy gurgle coming from the shower drain. I immediately go and flush the toilet to make sure the drains are clean. It won’t drain. I plunge it. I hear noises in the shower drain and sink. Shit. Shit.


I then decide to call the city. Maybe it really is the wet spring. They send out a sewer guy. He’s here in fifteen minutes. Broadband providers could learn a few things about service from the sewer people. Easy. It’s a related industry.

Today: Feeling a little better. Weather breaking a bit. Leta’s being really awesome and funny and jokey and starting to draw 6’s. With gusto. The day unravels when I notice that the toilet in the basement won’t drain after I flush it. It wasn’t even poop. I promise. Same gurgly noise. Same terror-stricken red flags popping up in my head. Trying not to think about root canal scheduled for 4:00 pm.

3:12 pm: Call one rooter service. They won’t quote a price on clearing the drain. Schedule them post-root canal. Decide to get opinion of plumber that helped us with the kitchen. Call. He doesn’t do rooting of any kind. But he has a guy.

3:16 pm: Call the guy. He says he can be out in about twenty minutes. He also gives me a basic quote and tells me that 90% of jobs are done in an hour or less. And that 80% of his business is in the older parts of town. Where we live. I have a twinge at this point. Kind of like a character in The Shining.

3:39 pm: Dude arrives. Gives me the lowdown. Tells me it might be roots. Before I moved to San Francisco in 1998, I rented a duplex in an older part of town that had to be cabled, so I know what that’s about.

3:53 pm: I’m in the car trying to make my dentists appointment on time. Not gonna happen.

4:12 pm: Arrive at dentist. Wait a few minutes, consult. Put on iPod to drown out the anxiety and noise. Turn it back down 28 seconds later to talk to the dentist. Walk out root canal-free with a couple of prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and a decongestant. Sweet.

4:40 pm: Call Heather to let her know I’m going to try to fill the prescriptions before I come home. She mentions that the guy might have to work overtime/call in reinforcements. Since it’s only been an hour, I’m not too worried. I tell her I’ll be home in a bit.

4:58 pm: Realize I’ve forgotten my wallet as i walk into the store. I left it home. Before I left for the dentist. Brain power, people. BRAIN power.

5:03 pm: Ask the pharmacist to quote me on the meds, even though I’ve forgotten my wallet. Not too bad.

5:16 pm: Arrive home. Greeted with nasty sewage smell. Go downstairs and see some nasty… stuff. Not shit, actually, just bad things coming out of the drain. Dude is telling me it’s going to take awhile. He hasn’t seen it this bad in a few jobs.

5:35 pm: Fill prescriptions.

5:54 pm: Arrive home, check in with the guy. Not looking good.

6:00 pm – 7:43 pm: Chaos. Dinner, friends stopping in, girls screaming, heavy machinery operating in basement. Leta goes to bed without a bath.

7:58 pm: Reinforcements arrive. Dude has a trailer with a lot of hose. Hose not initially used. Just this crazy attachment called “The Whip”.

8:32 pm: They ran the cable, with The Whip, to the street. Still no drain action. Time for the hose. It’s referred to as jetting it out. One guy on roof, one guy running the pump, me monitoring the basement. I’m watching the shower drain and toilet to make sure it doesn’t flood.

It floods. A little bit.

Diagnosis: There is a huge fan somewhere between our house and the street. The sewer line has likely “bellied”. In probably several places. Which is why the cable and Whip could get to the street, but the water wouldn’t drain. And the several thousand PSI water line that couldn’t clear the drains.

They have to come back tomorrow and dig. Both the guys were very somber when they told us we were looking at a worse case scenario.

Here’s what our downstairs bathroom looks like:
WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES OF SHIT-LIKE SUBSTANCE (Heather wants everyone to know that it’s not actually what it looks like or what you think it is. It’s sludge… soil and debris. Dirt from the damaged line. Honest.). DO NOT CLICK LINKS IF YOU ARE OF WEAK CONSTITUTION.



It’s not going to be cheap.

UPDATE: Heather is crying.