I should have gone to plumbing school. Instead, I wasted five years of my young life on Huntington Avenue, the home of Northeastern University. They never taught me anything about pipes and drains.
Every few years the plumbing at the 1950s era Cobb Manor decides to go on strike. Last week, the tub started gurgling when I used the bathroom sink. I know, it is a mystery to me, too.
That should be a warning that the tub needs a heavy application of Drano, or some other lethal product.
Naturally, I ignored the warning even as the water failed to drain during showers. The matter came to a head this week then the bathroom drain started emptying into the tub. Now, something had to be done.
Day 1. I took Plunger No. 1 and gave it 20 strokes. Then 20 more. Nothing. I stupidly filled the tub with more hot water thinking the pressure, plus the plunging would break the dam. No. The tub began backing up, filling with a noxious mixture and would not drain.
My bathtub had turned into a cesspool.
Day 2. After an overnight wait, I employed Plunger No. 2 which seemed larger and more effective. I gave it 20 more plunges, then 20 more. Didn’t do a single thing.
I should have gone to plumbing school. I called a plumber and left a message. Nothing.
Day 3. Blue Eyes showed up with Plunger No. 3 a smaller, more focused model. This would surely free up the drain. I gave it 100 strokes (with frequent breaks) all to no avail. We dragged the garden hose inside and jammed it in the drain. Nothing.
I called a new plumber and left another message. Help! No answer.
Day 4. I never went to plumbing school but I did hear about a mysterious object called a “snake” that works wonders on plumbing problems. At the local tool rental joint, they said that “snakes” were effective and all, but too many people returned them with disgusting material (you figure it out) that had to be carefully removed, so they don’t rent them anymore.
They suggested Interstate Septic Co. an outfit I use for my septic tank and the cellar pipe, which clogs every few years.
I called, crying, and they said the truck, luckily, was in Camden and would be right over. It was too good to be true. The truck came within 20 minutes and my hero started plunging the toxic brew. It worked as well as when I did it.
The tub looked like the stabbing scene in “Psycho.”
“Get me some rags,” he said. I did. He blocked up the air pipe behind the drain and blocked the bathroom sink. He applied a few deft strokes and the tub started draining.
You have to plug up the air hole or plunging does no good at all, he explained patiently. The disgusting goo in the tub was a combination of hair, soap, conditioner, skin and God only knows what, he said. The prescription was not Drano but boiling hot water with a touch of Dawn, at least once a month.
Did they teach me any of this on my five years on Huntington Avenue? They did not.
As the tub finally drained after a long week without showers, my hero said that would be $80 for five minutes work. I would have paid twice as much. Now I could take a shower and wash my greasy hair and foul body.
I should have gone to plumbing school. I would be rich by now.
Emmet Meara lives in Camden in blissful retirement after working as a reporter for the Bangor Daily News in Rockland for 30 years.