Saturday, October 17, 2015
Hooray for the Clogged Kitchen Sink!
Tuesday morning, prior to going to work, I ran the garbage disposal and saw the sink erupt like a geyser. Something like this.
There was a clog in the drain line somewhere. I wrote a warning message to my younger son that the sink was clogged and left for work.
It was yesterday night before I summoned the nerve to address the clog problem. Why the delay? Because I am afraid of plumbing problems. This goes beyond my incompetence as a handyman; it is a full-blown anxiety that I will fail so spectacularly that I will shame myself in the eyes of the plumber whom I will eventually be forced to call. For me, a clogged sink becomes an existential crisis. This is a psychological impairment that I need to overcome.
Yesterday night, with my younger son offering guidance and moral support, I nervously unscrewed the PVC trap beneath the sink and inserted a six-foot snake down the vertical pipe. I had a few unsettling moments as I struggled to push the snake past the pipe elbow beneath the kitchen floor. After that, the snake didn't hit any resistance at all. With fading hope, I pulled the snake out, reconnected the trap, and turned on the faucet for a test. My efforts had been useless: the water quickly backed up into the sink. I gave up for the evening.
This morning, after a troubled sleep, I resumed the battle. My son had discovered a plumbing remedy on the internet involving baking soda and vinegar. He chucked a half cup of baking soda down the drain. I poured down a cup of vinegar as chaser. We waited for ten minutes to let the potion do its work and then turned on the faucet. The water backed up faster than before. The baking soda and vinegar had made the clog even more tenacious. Dismal visions of a judgmental plumber filled my mind.
My son, who is never dismayed by household repairs, suggested we rent a heavy-duty snake from Home Depot. Off we went to rent a fifty-foot snake that was spun by an electric motor. It was a formidable piece of equipment. How could a mere clog — essentially nothing but a ball of disgusting black grease, oatmeal lumps, and discarded tea leaves — stand up to such an implement of destruction?
Its tip was a fearsome instrument of medieval clog torture.
In the interest of saving time (and sparing my nervous system), my son took charge of the snake. He donned his trusty deerskin gloves and fed the snake down the pipe and past the initial elbow. About seven feet along the wall, he ran into clear resistance at another elbow and tapped the motor switch to give the snake a spin. The resistance went away. He continued feeding the snake on and on through a long, straight run of pipe. He explained that there was a danger of half measures — that is, leaving the clog largely intact and simply relocating it downstream. To be on the safe side, he ran the snake all the way, some thirty-five feet or so, to the big drain pipe in the garage that led to the sewer.
I was ready to claim victory. However, my son, with characteristic thoroughness, insisted on reeling in the snake and then repeating the entire process. Only then was he ready to reconnect the trap. He carefully cleaned all of the pipe threads to ensure a tight fit before connecting. (This sensible precaution would never have occurred to me.) He then stood up and turned on the faucet full blast. The water sped freely down the drain. The clog had been obliterated!
Our triumph had manifold benefits. On a practical level, we once again had a functioning sink and could use the dishwasher. On a psychological level, the experience had diminished my fear of plumbing. And, best of all, I had the satisfaction of working closely with my son in solving a problem. Hooray! I was almost thankful for the clog. We celebrated at a nice restaurant this evening.
The only unhappy note was that my son's fine deerskin gloves were befouled.