Misadventures in Plumbing, or, Occasions When My Nine-Year-Old Demonstrates Better Judgment Than I

Last night I was leaving the house in a rush. I had taken a shower and was trying to finish getting dressed and ready in time to still make dinner for my kid and give him time to eat it before we both had to leave. This is not actually that unusual an occurrence in my house, it often feels like I’m rushing to get things done before I’m off somewhere.
My mom used to describe such a scenario as, “off in a cloud of nuts and bolts,” and how it irritated me when she would bring out that tired old phrase and laugh to herself about it. She certainly gets the last laugh on that one, though, because I now use it to describe myself fairly often. Sorry for doubting you, Mama, you were right all along.

In any case, such a scenario was playing out last night and in my attempt to put the cap on my facial toner bottle, it bounced off the sink and flew into the toilet. The toilet my son had just peed in. The bottle splashed into the bowl and, for a long moment, my son and I both just looked at it. Then I had the brilliant idea to flush the toilet so as to exchange the pee water for clean water before fishing out the bottle. I thought I was being pretty darn clever, let me tell you. My son was uncertain about this plan; he had his doubts. One might even call them serious reservations. He felt quite sure the bottle was small enough to be flushed away with the pee, but I felt quite sure it was not. Suffice it to say, he was right and I was most definitely not.

In retrospect, I had several other options. I could have just reached into the toilet and grabbed it, then washed my hands and the bottle thoroughly. I considered that option. Another option I only thought of later was to put on a rubber glove before retrieving the bottle, sparing myself some of the ick factor. I could have even tried to bribe my son into grabbing it out for me (low chance of success for that one). However, the choice I made at that critical juncture was to flush the toilet, which did indeed suck the (smaller than I thought) bottle into the pipe whence it became lodged in a place no wire hanger could reach.

In that horrible instant of realization, I knew I didn’t have time to address the issue at all. Dinner still needed to be made and eaten and my destination still awaited me. It would have to be dealt with later. Telling my husband about my foolish and embarrassing misadventure was bad enough, telling my landlady was truly painful. I couldn’t even, in good conscience, blame it on the kid, especially when he had advised against my chosen course of action. Also bear in mind that we’ve only been living in this place for about a month and a half. What would the landlady think of me? That I’m an idiot? Fair enough. That I’m a troublesome tenant? Well, generally I’m really not, but she has no experience of that. I harbored the faint and wholly unreasonable hope that the bottle might just slip back down out of the pipe by morning and no harm would be done, and no one outside of my immediate family would have to know how rash and insufferably stupid I had been. Alas, it was not to be.

Not only did I have to tell my landlady this morning, but her brother spent several hours today trying to dislodge the damned thing from the toilet pipe. He had to completely remove the toilet from the bathroom and carry it outside (dripping highly questionable water from the bathroom to the front door, to my dismay) before attempting every conceivable method for removing the accursed bottle. He couldn’t even reach it to break it out. Finally, in defeat, he went to the home/hardware store and bought a replacement toilet bowl. At long last, he finished installing the new bowl and reinstalling the existing tank, and then turned the old bowl upside down once again to remove the seat and lid. The bottle fell out.

He was entirely gracious about the whole thing. I am still mortified. They aren’t even going to charge us for the new bowl because they should be able to use the old one in another unit, he said. I am grateful. I am grateful for the kindness and tact he showed and for the fact that I have a functional waste disposal device in my home.

Next time, I’ll heed my son’s advice.

Marcel Duchamp, "Fountain"
“Fountain,” signed R. Mutt, by Marcel Duchamp

One thought on “Misadventures in Plumbing, or, Occasions When My Nine-Year-Old Demonstrates Better Judgment Than I

  1. I absolutely love this story! Wisdom comes from moments such as these!

    This caught my eye:
    “My mom used to describe such a scenario as, “off in a cloud of nuts and bolts,” and how it irritated me when she would bring out that tired old phrase and laugh to herself about it. She certainly gets the last laugh on that one, though, because I now use it to describe myself fairly often. Sorry for doubting you, Mama, you were right all along.”

    Of course you use it to describe yourself now. Like it or not, we tend to become our parents, particularly the parts of them we had the most trouble with as children. It’s a simple matter of habituation. You had more significant conditioning to be scattered and rushed in leaving than organized and methodical. At this point, you COULD train yourself to be fairly consistently organized and methodical, and while it might feel satisfying, it would always feel unfamiliar. That’s the thing about personal and family patterns: whether we like them or not, see their value or not, we repeat them. Not because they are necessarily a good or bad idea- just because they are familiar. And in the ever-changing world where rules and definitions are always shifting, sometimes even an uncomfortable pattern that feels familiar is a source of comfort, after a fashion. Like computers, human tend toward the “default.”

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