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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The rest of the story, specifically, The End

I'm back from the UK trip so the story of the epic battle waged by the plumbing in my old house finally ends today.  

In case you've lost the thread, or never picked it up to begin with, the first parts covered the pipes' initial rebellion, which occurred in 2003, a few months after I bought the house and twenty-four hours before I threw a large party.  Four years went by without incident.  The plumbing let me know in late October of 2007 that the war had not, in fact, ended, and that's where the story resumes today.   

(No doubt that extra day in between the prior portion and the finale really added to the dramatic tension. And it gave my sister a chance to write another guest post, which she's been gunning for since October.) 

Several friends had come to town for the Marine Corps Marathon and were staying at my house.  One of them, Harry, was running the race with me.  Each of us was running in support of a charity.  In addition to hosting boarders, I had also decided to throw a huge party right after the race to thank the dozens of people who had made donations to my cause. 

The pipes’ patience had paid off: after a four year wait, the time was ripe for an ambush.

At 5:30 that morning I was in the kitchen, pulling out peanut butter and jelly to make pre-race sandwiches for me and Harry, when his wife rounded the corner, forehead creased with worry.

“Is everything okay?” I said.

“No, not really.”

“Uh-oh, is it Harry?”  I assumed he was struggling with pre-race adrenaline, and  I understood better than most the way nerves could wreak havoc on the body. 

“Oh gosh no, he’s fine,” she said.  I let out a sigh of relief.  “It’s your shower. And your toilet.  They’re both backing up.” 

She looked ashamed, perhaps because this scenario tops the list of horrors catalogued in the Handbook of Houseguest Nightmares.  But I knew my friends hadn’t strained the plumbing.  The tree roots had mobilized and were staging a sit-in.

I needed to restore order to the pipes, and fast. This wouldn’t be easy on a Sunday morning. 

I considered staying home from the race yet couldn’t bring myself to do it, not after raising $4,000 and training for months.  But perhaps someone else could.  Lisa, a close friend since college, would soon be en route to my house to join our group of spectators and help with party prep. 

Though it wasn’t yet 6 a.m. I called her.  On any other Sunday morning the home phone could have rung with no fear of being answered for several more hours, but today Lisa was up.  I explained the situation and asked the unthinkable: Would she stay behind and babysit the plumbing?

She laughed. “Of course I will.  I don’t mind at all, and it’ll give me a chance to nap. You know I’m usually not awake til ten!”

With one problem solved I got to work on the other: finding a plumbing professional on short notice.  If I couldn’t do that, I would throw myself at the mercy of Port-A-Potty people and hope they could summon up enough compassion for a last-minute rental. The call to Roto-Rooter bore fruit.

They agreed to send a technician sometime before noon, a mere hour ahead of the party start time.  It wasn’t ideal but I had no other choice.  I grabbed my race provisions and at the last second, my cell phone, just in case we had trouble finding our friends at the finish line.  Harry and I made a break for it.

My phone rang somewhere around Mile 13.  Marathon etiquette frowns on taking calls mid-race so I didn’t intend to pick it up.  A glance at the caller ID changed my mind. I answered.

“Karen? Hi, this is Pam from Roto-Rooter.”  As Harry and I ran, she gave me the diagnosis I expected.  

Other marathoners passed us, casting strange looks in our direction when they heard me say things like, “So you think he can snake it? Tell him to go for it!” at top volume and without breaking stride. 

We crossed the finish line at Iwo Jima a couple hours later but didn’t have much time to bask in the post-race glow because we had plumbing and a party to attend to.

The catering truck pulled up in front of the house seconds after we did.  Harry and I had started to stiffen up.  We made our way gingerly up the stairs of the long walkway that led to the front door. 

The caterers were moving at a much faster pace despite being loaded down with huge trays of Mexican food, and they soon made a bold passing move.  In doing so they narrowly missed a direct encounter with my Roto-Rooter hero as he exited the front door, loaded down with bags of sodden tree roots.  

Half an hour later, seventy-five revelers descended on my house.  We spent the afternoon celebrating our fundraising feat.  When they left I spent the evening celebrating my victory in the latest campaign on the plumbing front.  A respected foe had tested my mettle and I proved myself a worthy adversary.  This time.


  1. Wow! Way to throw into action. I'm impressed. You were juggling so much that day! You're the kind of person I want around in crisis. So you can help the people I'm not helping. I won't be helping anyone. You'll find me shut down in a corner.

    1. Oh, so that was YOU in the corner that day. Mystery solved! I think fairly well on my feet. Staying on them is a different matter, of course.

    2. I envy this so. I need to practice and come up with a different tape for myself. Like... "I got this!" And some flexing and a Wonder Woman pose.