Friday, September 18, 2009

Royal Flush II

Only 12 more posts after this to make it to 500.  Maybe I'll make it by Xmas.

So, there was a time long ago when I never thought about sewer lines.  This was like, 1970 or so.  After that, we had A Problem at the family home there and we (well, Dad) had to dig up the sewer line and replace it.  I think he had some help, maybe from Grandpa, but it was a really hard job.  And to top that off, the back porch and the lawn were never really the same after that.  It pretty much left a scar.

You never forget that smell of a sewer.  It isn't exactly the smell you expect, my gentle reader, but it is distinct.

Fast forward to just about 1:10 AM a week ago.  We were now back from getting everything set up at Ardenwood for the Renaissance Faire, and busily getting all of our personal stuff ready to go.  For hours.  It always seems to take way too long.  We had hot tubbed, and packed up and repaired a chair and, and, and.

And then I needed to go.  So I went.  Then came an, "Uh oh." from the other bathroom.  It seems the convenience wasn't draining; in a somewhat inconvenient manner.  'No worries', I think.  Out with the handy plunger.  This does the trick 99 out of 100 times.

This was That One Time.  So, the next step is to get one of those water jet do-hickeys that goes on the garden hose.  That goes down the clean-out and into the main drain line and forces the clog downstream under pressure.  Works like a charm.

Except for this time.  Speaking of time, it was now about 1:45.  AM.  And we were getting up at 6:30 (HA!) to head out for the faire.  Not so fast, buddy.

So I break down and Call A Professional.  Actually about three of them.  "We can be there at 8 AM".  "We can be there at 7 or 8."  "We can send a technician now." (Rescue Rooter)  They also insisted that they COULD NOT TELL ME THE (big state secret) PRICE until the technician was there.  What a load of crap.  Of course this is possible - give me the minimum charge for the estimated hour of service.  The tech did within five minutes, after asking me about three questions that I had already explained on the phone.

So the tech called us back in a few minutes after we got off the phone.  He could be there in an hour.  That would be about 3 AM. :-)  So I took out my contact lenses and tried to get some sleep since I was gonna be on my feet all day.  Sharon and I joked that it could be worse, it could be raining.

3 AM comes with a knock at the door.  The technician and I get familiar with the situation around the clean-out.  He gives me the estimate.  $354.  It could be worse.

It starts to rain.

I get a garden umbrella and a flood light.  The tech gets his rain coat and a very substantial power snake unit out of the van.  It is heavy enough that the van has a power lift to get it in and out.

The lightning and thunder starts.

The cable is prepared and fed into the watery abyss.  The tech says the only thing that could go wrong is if the cable goes the wrong way, up into the house plumbing - which could be "bad".  Since the clean-out pipe is full of "water", we can't really see which way the cable is headed.

LOTS of cable goes into the pipe.  Like 80 feet or so.  Much farther than it is from the clean-out to the city sewer under the street.  The tech asks me ominous questions about how far it is to the bathrooms inside the house (about 5 feet), and how the house is plumbed...

"Honey, there is a weird growling noise in the kitchen!"

Cue more lightning and rain.

On investigation, the cable has in fact traveled the wrong way and followed the drain line that comes from the opposite end of the house (90 feet) and the 2-1/2 inch flexible cutter head is scraping clean the inside of the 2" drain line.  The dog is confused by this weird noise and only comes out from under the desk to bark at the thunder.  The wayward cable is reeled in.  The grumbling technician gets a shop vac out.

"I have an idea." he says.  A few minutes later he has the "water" out of the clean-out line, THEN asks me where he should dump it.  It start to rain a little harder and more often for greater poignancy.

So NOW (3:40 AM) we can see the bottom of the clean-out and which way the cable is headed.  Finally, it looks like we might succeed.

The cable goes about a foot before it tangles on "something" the tech explains.  Out comes the cable.  The 2-1/2 inch cutter is exchanged for the smaller one... Victory is ours!

The cable jams about one foot in.

The tech patiently tells me how the best way to fix this is to (simply) dig up the tee connection at the end of the clean-out pipe and put in a proper "sanitary tee" which has a sweeping bend from one pipe into the next, and then cable the line again.  It's pretty clear this isn't in the scope of work he can do at 3:50 AM.  He packs up his gear and gives me a receipt.  And leaves.  At 4 AM.

So, in a last desperate act, I try the water jet thing again.  It is very hard to get round the corner in the pipe but eventually I am able to make it seal.  And then I flush out the line for a minute or so.  Either I have burst the line and irrigated around it or it is clear.  Out comes the hose.

Toilets are flushed as I watch the "water" rush on by at the bottom of the pipe.  It worked!  Sharon jokes that, "The blog post almost writes itself."  Sorry.  No pictures.  You'll thank me.

I hit the pillow at 4:20 or so.  The dog continues to bark at the occasional thunder for another half hour.  6:45 came WAY too soon.


Anonymous said...

Holy Moley, Bob. I thought you were going to say you had to replace your sewer pipe.

See, it COULD have been worse!!!


Anonymous said...

I'm VERY sorry you had to go through that, but it was a pretty great story the way you told it. I was envisioning each step cinematically in my head, and I kept hoping that each step would bring resolution... I hope you've had a little sleep since then!

MacDude said...

Timing my boy, it's all about timing!

So, how was the rest of the day?