Saturday, September 7, 2013


I'm not sure exactly what the opposite of joy is, but that emotion is exactly what I felt today when our downstairs toilet started exploding with potato peels.

That's right.  Not poop.  POTATO PEELS.  Ones that went down our garbage disposal.  The garbage disposal that is in our kitchen. (Is anyone else humming "there's a hole, there's a hole, there's a hole in the bottom of the sea," yet?  If not, you are now.  You're welcome.)
My good friend who moved away recently was back in town and needed a place to nap for the afternoon.  Of course, I offered her the use of our basement. (There's a basement, there's a basement, there's a basement at the bottom of our house...)  The last time I was down there was when my girls who live in the basement ("there are girls, there are girls, there are girls in the basement in the bottom of our house!" Yes, I'll stop.) were gone on a mission trip and I cleaned their room.  Like, I REALLY cleaned it.  That's been a couple of months now and one of the girls is back at college.  Apparently, she took all of the clean with her.  Or, maybe it was still there UNDER ALL OF THE CRAP.  The basement was a disaster.  Lulu and I started working on it frantically and managed to get it bearable so that my friend and her daughter could rest there.  I went upstairs and laid down until the ibuprofen kicked in (pain management...different blog). Heather arrived and went to lay down.  Then our toilet started exploding. 

Jason started yelling for me and I hobbled down the stairs as fast as my crippled up body and growing sense of dread would let me.  He was standing in our tiny, main floor half-bath wielding a mop.  There was (what I assumed to be) poop water everywhere.  

Me:  (stares, immobilized)
J:  (plunge, mop, plunge, mop, repeat) What IS this? (points out the large flakes of STUFF floating in the overflowing toilet) 
Me: That's...oh, gosh.  That's potato peel!
J:  (plunge, mop, plunge, mop, repeat)  Who put potato peel in the TOILET?!?!  
Me:  I don't know.
J: (plunge, mop, plunge, mop, pause, intense stare) You didn't peel potatoes into the toilet?
Me:  I haven't even peeled potatoes lately!  (Just for clarification, I'd like to emphasize that I have NEVER peeled potatoes into the toilet, but apparently my husband wouldn't put it past me...)  We had potatoes last night, but they weren't peeled.
J:  Then how did this get in the toilet?  Did you peel potatoes into the garbage disposal?
Me:  I didn't PEEL potatoes...but Buttercup was picking the peels off of her cooked potatoes.
J: I guess they went down the garbage disposal. (Please not that J does not suspect the 5 YEAR OLD of putting potato peels into the toilet.)
Me:  So...they are coming up in the toilet...from the sink???
J:  Get this water cleaned up!  I've got to go outside!
Me:  How should...
J:  I don't care, but it's going to run downstairs if we don't get it cleaned up!

So, I ran to the garage and grabbed the shop vac, plugged it in, and at the last moment remembered to check for the filter (this ain't my first rodeo).  Of course, not only was the filter on, but the dumb thing was full of dirt and junk.  Imagining the water running down the basement walls, I yelled for Lulu to grab a garbage bag as I unscrewed the filter.  When she got there with the trash sack, we used team work to empty the shop vac.  Finally, I turned it on and started sucking up the growing puddle on the bathroom tile while stressing about what all of this must sound like to Heather downstairs.  Meanwhile, Jason was in the yard, snaking the clean-out.  He managed to break through the clog (or whatever it is that causes things that went down your kitchen sink to come back up your toilet...) and the toilet gurgled and slurped like Jabba the Hutt AND THE FLOOD WATERS RECEDED!  

I was immediately relieved...and then I stepped out of the bathroom and surveyed the scene.  Gross.  I decided to clean up and put away the shop vac, first.  Because I know nothing about shop vacs ( I would like to point out again, here, that I REMOVED THE FILTER BEFORE USING IT TO SUCK UP WATER, though. So, there's that.) and I am the least efficient human being on the planet, I decided to start with the filter.  That filter was really dirty.  Like, it was just caked with dirt and it was completely encircled with hair.  Long, human hair.  And, having completely panicked about water running into the basement (let's all take a moment and blame Jason for this...), I had set that disgusting filter on one of our nice chairs.  When I picked it up, dirt fell onto the chair like ashes from a volcano.  I wasn't sure whether I should wash the filter, but since the dumb thing has to be removed to wet vac, I thought it was a safe bet that I should keep it dry.  I gingerly carried it over to the trashcan that was propping open the bathroom door and proceeded to bang it on the edge of the trashcan in an effort to shake out the junk.  Then I beat it with my hand like a really yucky tambourine.  Then I shook it.  I wasn't sure that I'd actually made any progress with the filter until I stepped away and there was a clear outline of my feet on the floor...where the dust couldn't reach the tile.  Fail.  I know when I've been defeated, people.  I tossed the filter back on the chair and pushed the shop vac aside for Jason to deal with!

So far, in trying to clean up the mess, I'd succeeded only in creating a mud puddle.  It was at this point that I remembered that my steam mop broke this week.  So, here's what I did:
I got out a plastic cup and filled it with floor cleaner and hot water.  I splashed that around on the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room floors.  I grabbed my Hoover steam vac from the utility room, turned off the scrubbing brushes, set it to "rinse only.  Then, I steam cleaned the tile with it, alternately spraying and suctioning just like on carpet.  And, IT WORKED!  Victory!  Miraculously, none of that disturbed Heather or her daughter and they emerged from the basement sometime later looking refreshed and ready to hit the road!

There are several morals to this story:
*People will never drop by unless your house is a complete wreck.  (Sub-moral:  despite your best efforts, your children will make sure that it's a mess.)
*If you manage to get the house clean before an expected visit from a friend, your plumbing and/or appliances will punish you for getting it together for a change.
*It's best not to delve too deeply into the mysteries of plumbing...for example, the inappropriate connection between your water using appliances and your poop disposing facilities.  You don't want to know.
*My husband thinks I may, occasionally, peel vegetables into the toilet.

Where the trashcan and my feet were.

After I shop-vacced. 

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