Friday, March 11, 2016

In a Fascinating Development, 'Promise of a Perpendicular Rebirth' Is the Name of My Gentle Giant Tribute Band. But I Digress

Why yes, I do use an overturned rowboat for a workbench while mucking out my sewer. Doesn't everyone?
It is an odd feeling to push all your chips into the middle of the table. Sitting in that frozen pit, holding on to a squirrelly cable while watching it spin in the pipe, I realized that everything that had come before meant nothing if this was as far as I got. I was to be judged solely on the outcome. There was no extra credit. No make-up tests. An "Incomplete" grade would be a notice to move out of my house or dig up the sewer line using money I don't have and couldn't get. The ground  was frozen solid anyway. Money can't cure that. The whole thing had been win or walk the whole time.

I don't know what my son thinks about me. I am not my son's friend. I am his father. I know what that means. It's fatherly malpractice to be your son's friend. It's an abdication of responsibility and an imposition. You can't be king and hail fellow well met at the same time.

He helped me without a murmur of complaint. He was really helpful, too, like a real man. I stopped thinking of him as a kid, my kid. I was in charge because I was Stanley Baker and he was Michael Caine and I had a few days of seniority in an arbitrary system that decides who's who and what's what. We'll both get exactly the same pincushion treatment if we don't fight and win.

I said nothing about my doubts. I pictured the crazy iron flail grinding dumbly round and round in the dead end of one pipe, with the promise of a perpendicular rebirth in a world just beyond its reach. My life is like that a lot. Grinding blindly around and covered in excrement is no way to go through life, son.

By some miracle, it made the turn. Now, I know luck when I see it. Well, I would know luck if I saw it. I guess I would. How would I know? At any rate,this was just like luck, so I didn't push it. There was no power on Earth that would make me pull that cable out of the pipe until I'd gone all the way to Glory Land.

When the snake gets going, it basically pulls itself into the hole. My son advanced with the machine, we'd stop, unhook the end, back up the machine ten feet, hook on another length of cable, and let it rip again. It went fast. We had eight, ten-foot lengths of cable.

I knew that high-level analysis wasn't necessary. We were boring a hole (and my readers) right through the center of the clog. If I made it to the end of the clog, the level of the ooze in the cleanout pipe would get lower. The slop made noises like an endomorph at a Sizzler, but it hung in there. We kept adding cable until we had seventy feet in the pipe. I was already twenty feet past my meager estimate. If the clerk in the tool rental crib hadn't thrown some in for free, I would have held a busted flush, and I mean that every which way.

My son advanced on the hole with the auger, and I looked longingly at my pis aller, or piss aller, I guess -- the last bent, dirty, rusty, nasty length of cable lying on the floor. When I turned back, the poop sauce in the pipe was two feet lower.

I know you're expecting huzzahs and hosannahs, but we weren't home yet, and I knew it. The head of the cable must have found air at the other end, and the thinnest part of the gruel made it through. It could close back up and I'd be back at it again. We needed to back the cable up, then perform the back and forth action over and over until water ran free through the pipe. When we put it in reverse, I discovered what was plugging the pipe.

[to be continued]

[Update: Many thanks to Chapman G. from Virginny for his generous contribution to our PayPal tipjar. It is much appreciated]
[Up-Update: Many thanks to Russell D. in the Land of Mary for his very generous gift along with an uplifting sentiment. It is much appreciated]
[Additional Update: Many thanks to Victor P. from the Nutmeg State for his generous contribution to the PayPal tipjar. It is much appreciated]


Anonymous said...

“When the snake gets going, it basically pulls itself into the hole.”

Hey, that’s the name of my Whitesnake cover band!


Sam L. said...

Mr. Sippi, I'd repeat my comment of yesterday, but anyone interested can look there. Ain't NO WAY you'd be boring when you're writing. Anything. It's all good, some's better, and a more than fair amount is brilliant.

Fanboi, Over and Out.

HMS Defiant said...

Oh please don't tell me people actually pay you for this crap! :)

they are poor folk who never got a memo from the skipper describing all the horrors that awaited the CHENG who left his skipper to pinch cheeks all the way to Vancouver and back to San Diego.

vanderleun said...

The suspense is killing me!

Leslie said...

You and me, both, Gerard.

Mizz E said...

Thank heavens for the extra cable. Can hardly wait for the reveal.

Mark Matis said...

So you're saying that snake found all the e-mails that Hillary "lost"???

I.C.Nielsen said...

Mark Matis. Brilliant, like your style. Mr. Sippican, are we finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?

shoreacres said...

Somewhere along the line, I realized I couldn't stop reading. It looks like the payoff is coming -- either that or a Crappapalooza concert with the dangest lineup of tribute bands I've ever seen.

RonF said...

I'm thinking it's Jimmy Hoffa.

RonF said...

I will offer a minor plumbing story that didn't start out as plumbing. Nothing as complex or frankly particularly dangerous, but pretty screwy.

My front door is about two steps up from the ground. The one step used to be a concrete stoop 5' deep by 12' long by 8" thick. One fine day a crack appeared. It started in the front about 2' from the right-hand end and eventually extended diagonally to about the middle of the rear. Then the right half started to sink. My father-in-law, a union carpenter for decades who built his own house and had built just about every different kind of building indoors or out all over the Chicago area told me that I should hire someone to mudjack the slab back up by pumping concrete under it.

I didn't do anything until the thing really sank down. Then I figured "I'll just jack hammer this thing out of here and put in a wood stoop." I'd never used one before, so I figured here was my chance. Off I go to Home Depot, rent the equipment, half-listen to the advice of the clerk telling me how to use it, and off back home.

Started at the sunken end, hammered off the end a piece at a time. The hammer would bang on the concrete and then sink a bit as it hit the dirt. Until it didn't - it got to the end of the concrete and dropped 2 inches. Shift to the left, do it again, now it drops 4 inches. Six inches over again and it drops the entire hammer shaft. After a while I find two things. The minor thing I found out was that the reason it broke diagonally was that the rebar in it started from the left side but didn't go all the way across. They also weren't the same length, with the shorter pieces next to the house and longer in front. It cracked right where the rebar ends were.

Then I found out that the sewer pipe from my house exited underneath that slab; that the connection between the cast iron pipe and the clay pipe had broken; and that the rushing sewage had over time eroded away a cubic yard or two of dirt and gravel from underneath the slab and flushed it down about 120' of clay pipe to the street sewer. How that had not plugged that run of clay pipe up or the junction between that run and the street is beyond me. Apparently all my Sundays of going to church paid off.

The details of the rest of the job aren't worth your time. But I did find out that just because someone knows more about construction than you ever will doesn't mean that they are right when they give you advice about construction. I shudder what would have happened if I had taken my FIL's advice and pumped a bunch of concrete under there ....

Bilejones said...

I'd be interested to know how many rural people have not been blessed with similar afflictions at some point.