Saturday, March 05, 2011

Flushed with success

One thing I will probably never succeed in doing is conveying adequately to other people how very dominated by unlikely things our home life is. And one of the most dominant features is the toilet. A lot of our life revolves - one might even say, "swirls" - around the toilet. Getting kids to the toilet on time and coping with the times when we don't make up a big part of every day. And apart from normal use, we also have to deal with James's very innovative approach, which involves flushing things down as entertainment.

Clogs were such a frequent occurrence, that when we had to call the plumber two weeks in a row to unclog the same toilet, he finally took pity on us and recommended we invest in a super-toilet. After a few more experiences, we did, and this is the monster we now have in the main floor bathroom:

It is the American Standard Champion 4, and believe me, it's a brute. But plumber calls have dropped dramatically since we installed it some 6 months ago. When we eventually have to replace the normal toilets upstairs, we're going to get these, but we did the ground floor because that's the one James and Thomas tend to use the most.

Not that things are entirely problem-free now. We don't have so many clogs, because this toilet is so powerful and the pipe is wider, so things can actually make it down the bend. I'm pretty sure James flushed my car keys down the toilet, because I've searched the whole house and there's no sign of them. He also sometimes tries to flush his Thomas the Tank Engine toys down the toilet, and those can get wedged in strange angles, which makes them hard to dislodge.

That's why I also bought a drain snake last year, to try to get some of this stuff out myself. First I got a little one, and it worked well, fully justifying the $15 or so it cost. After that experiment succeeded, I decided it was worth investing in a big 6' long industrial-size one for $75 to cope with bigger problems.

I have to say, it's a marvellous tool, and has paid for itself several times over. The best experience I had was when I put it down the toilet several times, and managed to bring up one of the train toys - it had caught the tiny little plastic coupling tab between the coils of the head, and pulled it out that way! This thing has worked on at least 3 occasions, saving us about $100 each time for a call to a plumber, so I have every reason to recommend it.

Last week, however, something went down the toilet and nothing would dislodge it. The event started with me at the computer, and James standing at the door to the bathroom, looking over to me and saying several times "Uh-oh." Foolishly, I ignored him because I wanted to finish what I was reading. After these attempts to get my attention failed, I heard the fatal FLUSH - the flush that didn't finish with a big roar, meaning that the drain was blocked. Too late, I leaped to my feet and hurried to the toilet, but it was too late. Nothing was visible, but a few flushes proved that water could only slowly filter down. Ten sweaty minutes with the plunger produced nothing. Finally I pulled out the big snake, but this time even that failed me. I couldn't get the wire coil to go in even one foot, and twisting the handle did nothing. This time, I figured we'd HAVE to call a plumber, and I was steaming.

But before abandoning all hope, I reasoned that if the snake couldn't get down at all, it meant that the clog was really close to the opening. Maybe I could poke something down there and reach it. My hand was too big, so I unravelled a wire hanger and tried pushing the two ends in, rather like a pair of forceps. Once, twice, then hurrah! Something moved and I was able to pull it towards me. I couldn't believe it - James had managed to flush an entire electric shaver down the toilet! I mean one of those chunky Phillips shavers, with the triangular head with 3 round shaving blades. It came out in 2 pieces, the main body and the detachable shaver head. We lost the plastic guard that fitted over the top. And most amazing of all, the battery still worked! I figure it was only because the toilet was as powerful as it is that the shaver got down even part way; in a normal toilet, it would have just lain at the bottom of the bowl, but this managed to suck it down until it wedged in the drain.


Anonymous Pageantmaster said...

Thank you for this fascinating insight.

Fortunately British plumbing is still 'wide guage' and massively over-engineered. Nevertheless, Thomas the Tank Engine might push it to its limits.

1:26 pm  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

According to my mother, my younger brother and I shared similar fascination with flushing objects down the loo, frequently jamming them up, resulting in frequent calls to the plumber. My late father recalled coming home from work once and seeing out in the back yard the plumber and his assistant wrestling mightily with an entire toilet, which they had removed from the bathroom, trying to free some object either my brother or I had deviously managed to wedge into the thing.

In short, you do not suffer this plague uniquely.

5:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

would a iphone disappear down that toilet?

3:13 am  

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