Sunday, April 26, 2009

O Ralph

I may have mentioned this before, but Ralph, the God of Plumbing, enjoys testing me. Every house i've lived in, no matter how long, has had crappy plumbing of one shape or another, and always, Always, the water-related problem has reached critical mass when I've been the only person around to deal with it. Today, naturally, was no exception, but it was a small matter--the outflow pipe from the kitchen sink detached and created a large puddle in the cabinet underneath, but it's drying out okay. But every time--and believe me, there have been dozens--that my plumbing goes awry I shake my tiny fist and fight the urge to shout "O Ralph, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"

Anyone who has lived with me in the past few years and seen me go all twitchy when the shower rots out, the toilet won't flush, the intake or outflow pipe corrodes, the basement floods, the bathroom floor goes swampy, it won't get hot, it won't get cold, it's been three days and the water is still running red, oh my those tiles popped off and now a plague of locusts is swarming into the tub (true story), may be interested to know that I was adept at handling a toilet snake when i was 6. I'd been using my bathroom on the third floor of my new house for about a month with no problems, when suddenly it backed up in the middle of the night and started overflowing--from the bowl, from the tank, everywhere. I didn't know how to turn off the intake valve, so i tried to mop it up with a towel, but it kept getting worse, so, being 6, I screamed. My daddy ran up the stairs and, after stymieing the water, showed me how to use a plunger. Sadly for the lesson, it didn't work--by two a.m. the bathroom was soaked and dad grumpily admitted defeat. The next day he bought a toilet snake and ran it the length of the pipe to try and find the blockage--it went out a full 30 feet before it reached something that wouldn't budge. After fighting with that for an hour he called a plumber, who eventually followed the line down to the basement, tapped around, and cut the pipe just below...a big wad of construction materials. yep, concrete, kicked in by construction workers or crammed in by punk kids, gave me hours of joy standing in half an inch of water tainted with my own wee, throwing out my minuscule back with the strain of fighting an intangible obstruction and set the pattern for my encounters with plumbing from then on. To give you an idea of how far-reaching this curse of mine is, I can say "The toilet is clogged" in three languages. I've bought metric and imperial pipe fittings. I'm known on site in hardware stores in four time zones. I've troubleshot heads on historic ships, had toilets fail at thirty thousand feet, and prevented an overflow from flooding the Louvre. And I'd just like to make one thing perfectly clear. There is nothing remarkable about my bowels, there is nothing reprehensible about my toilet practices. I use just enough paper to do the job. I clear my hair out of the drain after every shower. I don't try to cram crud down the sink. I have a responsible attitude toward plumbing, but I guarantee you if I ever move to Niagara it will somehow clog.

O Ralph. Why me?