Monday, July 28, 2008


Last night I fell asleep--as I frequently do--while watching the local news, a nightly ritual where "Back to you, Wanda" fills in for "happily ever after" in my bond issue-and-school board-filled bedtime stories. My brain's screensaver had barely flickered on before I was awakened by something bubbling. And gurgling. And sucking. Unless I'd accidentally ordered Turner & Cooch* on pay-per-view, this was something that needed to be checked out.

I got up to investigate and realized that the sounds were coming from my toilet--"The Master Toilet", as I like to say because that sounds more impressive than "Toilet Closest to My Frequently Unmade Bed". I lifted the lid expecting an infestation of Ghoulies but instead was met with an unholy eddy swirling with scraps of Charmin and a liberal dash of evil. I attempted to flush it back down but the lever just flopped impotently on the tank as the bowl continued to taunt me, spitting out bits of toilet paper like a finicky toddler confronted with a fork full of unfamiliar vegetables. I closed the lid and backed away slowly.

Since I'd foolishly broken the seal on the Tanq & Tonics I'd thrown back earlier in the evening, I spent the rest of the night half-consciously stumbling to the guest room, which is all of four feet away, but it's the principle. I was up at the crack of homicidal to call the plumber whose number was listed in my building's handy Guide to Troubleshooting (Except On Weekends and Holidays and After 5 and Maybe Some Other Times Like If Demolition Man is On).

I probably could've saved myself from dialing seven digits and just cruised the parking lot trying to catch the attention of one of the plumbers who always seems to be visiting, along with the ever-present HVAC repairmen. These condos are nice but were thrown up incredibly quickly and may have been constructed by the Doozers. Either there's some shoddy craftsmanship or the Fraggles are gnawing chunks out of the air vents every night.

Anyway. I dialed their number at 6 a.m. expecting to only get a voicemail but was instead greeted by a human. The friendly dispatcher promised to send a crew over and--this is why I like The South--asked if they should bring me a cup of coffee. I politely declined because, let's be honest, I'm not sure I want one of their pipe-clearing paws to touch something I'm going to place near my mouth.

Within the hour, two plumbers knocked on the door and I was immediately disappointed that it wasn't Mario and Luigi. Instead, I got Hank and Jimmy. I'm not sure who was who but one was missing his front big tooth, the other was down an eye and they both smelled like they'd been marinated in Marlboros and Old Spice.

They came in, each sipping from steaming styrofoam cups, and asked what the problem was. I led them to my bathroom, home of the bubbling cauldron where I used to sit and read my catalogs. I politely moved the stack of Domino magazines** while they laid their tools--the same instruments that had been plunging the depths of other people's poop-clogged pipes--on my white bath mats. Watching them drop their, uh, shit there, I felt the same kind of helpless revulsion as someone who's just seen Lindsay Lohan sit on their upholstery.

I stood around wondering if it would be impolite to start Febreezing the rugs, when Hank--the Cyclops--pushed me toward the door, suggesting that I leave them alone. The other one was busily blanketing the floor in plastic like they were expecting a rain delay as I reluctantly walked out, Cyclops closing the door behind me. Fifteen minutes later, Jimmy the Toothless Wonder emerged, excusing himself to go down to his truck. He came back with a bucket. Another five passed before Cyclops asked if he could use the guest bathroom. This was going well so far.

I was busily calculating how much it would cost to move away when the door opened and they both came out. Neither of them would look at me. Cyclops theatrically removed his Red Man hat, wringing it between his hands like a doctor forced to inform the family in the waiting room that he had some bad news, that there'd been complications, that grandpa would never again have use of his tongue.

"Well, we done finished," he said, handing me a water-splattered invoice. "You don't even want to know what the problem was."

"Yes, actually, I do," I said, because I think getting a piece of paper worth $116 that is possibly soiled with my own pee deserves an explanation.

He put his hat on the counter and rubbed his neck with both hands. "Well, you know how beavers make a dam?"

I didn't know if he was actually asking for an answer. "Um...I think so? They gnaw trees and stack up the branches and--"

"I know that. I meant you know of a beaver dam".

"Saplings, really," Jimmy interjected. "They use saplings."

Had my toilet been infiltrated by semi-aquatic rodents? Because I can't imagine how they got in, unless it was that day I left the patio door open. I also didn't know where they were going to find a sapling.

"It's them Tampax applicators," Cyclops continued.

"Wait...the beavers were building with tampons?" I felt like this was something that Sigourney Weaver should be narrating. "How did they open the packages?"

"Yeah, what does this have to do with the beavers?" Jimmy asked.

"NOTHING", Cyclops said, exhaling a nicotine scented cloud. "I mean she--you--done made your own beaver dam with them Tampax applicators.".

"Not on purpose!" I told them, wondering how often in their line of work they got to use nature metaphors. "And it wasn't even my fault. It had to boyfriend."

They stared at me, understandably confused, but letting them think I lived with a menstruating man was somehow better than their assumption that I was some sad old spinster who sits here alone, firing little plastic missiles deep into the pipes.***

"So, um, I'll tell him to stop it," I continued. "But HE SAYS that the box says that they're flushable."

"That's what they want you to think," Cyclops said, jabbing a finger at me and hinting at some kind of super-absorbent conspiracy that I didn't know about. "That's just marketing. They ain't any better for flushing than Q-tips or paper towels".

"Wait... I can't flush those either?"

He laughed the laugh of someone who hates me. "You should probably take a card. And a magnet. Jimmy, give her a magnet".

Jimmy extracted a wallet the size of a throw pillow from his back pocket and handed me several magnets that I immediately decided I would not be placing on the refrigerator. And that was it. They pulled up all of the plastic, picked up all their tools, and left me with a stack of business cards and the lingering scent of cigarettes.

I tossed the rugs into the washing machine before giving the toilet a test flush, making a mental note to stop sending paper products through the pipes. And to keep the patio door closed. They never did tell me how those beavers got in.

*One of the classics, right up there with Sperms of Endearment and Lord of the Wangs.
** I only read home decor magazines in the can because I think I have a better perspective on the rooms from that angle. I'm able to stare out the door, agreeing with this month's issue that soft yellow paint really would enhance the pattern on the duvet cover. Unfortunately, I'm letting my subscription lapse because the only home improvement item I can currently afford is a lint roller.
*** Not a euphemism.


Random Esquire said...

Naaace. Naaace work!

I have a friend from law school who went to her boyfriend's place (also in law school with us) for Christmas and flushed a tampon. Her boyfriend's dad was a federal judge and they lived in this older home, etc. Anyway...she flooded the basement and the plumber came up the basement stairs and announced to the entire family that someone had flushed a tampon, causing the entire mess and, since they all knew NOT to do that, they all turned and stared at her. Including the judge. Nice, huh?

She said, "There was only 2 inches of water but I almost plunged my head in it to drown myself."

Ben said...

I heart when you have to call in service men. Always classic.

Sarah said...

I should have gone the frantic-call-to-management route when my apartment toilet backed up...but oh no, I had to be all can-do single-girl Home Improvement-y and have at it myself. Thus it was I found myself with one bare foot on the edge of my tub and the other on my sink, stradding a fetid puddle that was rapidly heading for the door and screaming at my cat to STAY THE FUCK AWAY! Luckily I had about three weeks' worth of the Detroit Free Press stashed under my kitchen table and after a heroic long jump over the cesspool into the hallway I liberally applied the Free Press to my bathroom floor (there's a dose of irony, no?). I managed to unclog my toilet myself but at great personal sacrifice. I wish I'd just picked up the phone.

The reading material I get in my current half bathroom in my house are car parts catalogs, a hunting dog training book, and hot rod magazines. Clearly I am not living the single girl in an apartment lifestyle anymore.

Kaeti said...

Menstruating beavers ...

Just, wow. Thanks for making my morning a little brighter.

Monkey said...

I lived in a place where I couldn't flush tampons, let alone the applicators. I found that out after breaking the toilet. I feel bad for plumbers having to deal with all that nasty.

Kristina said...

When we were first dating, my husband saw a tampon that had not made it down a toilet at my house and asked me why there was a candle in there. We were both mortified by the whole thing, but my amusement at his dumbness endeared me to him forever.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Damn beavers! Damn menstruating boyfriend! The company fooled your boyfriend into thinking the tampons were flushable. You should actually send the bill, with piss included, to the company and have them pay. Their misleading marketing is what caused the beavers to come, after all.

a girl in port said...

I've heard that you also cannot flush dental floss. I don't do this but apparently others do.

menstruating boyfriend...amazing.

ÄsK AliCë said...

The first time I met my ex's parents I flushed a tampon and it came back up, along with water all over the floor. His young sister was the next to use the bathroom and screamed, "what IS that?"

Guess she hadn't taken sex-ed yet.

punchlinewalking said...

I once had to call my super for a toilet that wouldn't flush. When emerged from the bathroom after a half hour he told me, in his Ukrainian accent, that the problem was a "sheet. A huge sheet."

Essentially Me said...

I think this calls for a break up with the boyfriend. How dare he embarrass you like that!

J-Money said...

random esquire: This is why I spend holidays with my family. They've come to expect mishaps like this.

ben: Yes, File under "Things That Always End Poorly". Like most of my dates.

sarah: I'm adding "hunting dog training manual" to my list of required bathroom reading.

kaeti: I do what I can...

monkey: Plumbers should be given some kind of medals or commemorative plate or something. Or be immortalized in a video game.

kristina: That is the most adorable tampon-themed story in the history of, um, tampons.

clandestine samurai: If you're not in law school, you should pack up your thinks and go today.

a girl in port:'re not supposed to flush it? I mean. Um. Yeah, who would flush dental floss. That's just stupid. [races to pull spool of dental floss out of toilet]

ask alice: Think less of it as a mishap and more of shaping li'l sis's young mind.

punchline walking: I probably would've completely misunderstood and asked if it was a fitted or a flat sheet.

essentially me: Sadly, there IS no boyfriend. So I have an IMAGINARY menstruating boyfriend. If there's a sadder scenario, I don't know what it would be.

alexis said...

I loved this episode!

better than their assumption that I was some sad old spinster who sits here alone, firing little plastic missiles deep into the pipes.***

^ Best line!

nrichie2345 said...

haha I can definitely imagine those guys! very well written and entertaining and I loveee Domino magazine

Phil said...

The best part was when Jimmy didn't understand the beaver dam metaphor either. You'd think plumbers that work as a team would have their "explain it to the customer" routine down pat. That, and the "grandpa will no longer have the use of his tongue" line had me laughing at my desk.

Captain Steve said...

Oh, dude. I didn't know you were sposed to be able to flush the applicators! Thank God I didn't know.

lfar said...

I say this everytime but you are SO delightful. Favourite lines:

"I felt the same kind of helpless revulsion as someone who's just seen Lindsay Lohan sit on their upholstery."


"I told them, wondering how often in their line of work they got to use nature metaphors"

I'm sorry if you hate comments that simple reiterate the best parts of a post... because I'm really not adding any insight. But I love when people pick of specific lines. It makes me feel cool and special, YOU KNOW? Anyway. This post was so so so terrific. As usual.

amindinmotown said...

Perhaps I'm confused, but was it the cardboard applicators or the plastic ones that wreaked havoc on your pipes? 'Cause the plastic ones aren't flushable...

...And when you throw them into a trash can that an 8-month-old nosey puppy can easily access, you tend to find gnawed "plastic missiles" around the house. It's even better when she leaves them on the couch just in time for the new boyfriend to visit.

JustinS said...

This is why I don't keep my drugs in tampon applicators. Never know when the Man's gonna show up and you'll need to flush your stash.

dmb5_libra said...

"...they both smelled like they'd been marinated in Marlboros and Old Spice"

mmmm yum.

i've read about this though. places where you can't flush tampons....i was shocked, but i guess it just depends where you live.

you had me cracking up for reals though.

AK said...

So funny. Menstruating boyfriend is a classic!

I love domino mag... I think I'm on my third year of subscribing.

stealthnerd said...

This was...well...amazing. Less so for you I suppose, but you tell it well so that has to count for something, right?

Victoria said...

You know, that was one hi-larious story, but that story prompted some of the funniest comments ever. Whoo. Lots of amusement for my afternoon.

Alice said...

Awesome. You want me to send you a pack of OB's?

Stephanie said...

I didn't know the applicators were supposed to be flushable..

rs27 said...

Wait so we need to be doing stuff instead of watching demolition Man?

I disagree.

Also when you said two plumbers came to the house I thought this was going in a Lord of the Wangs direction or at least "House Calls: Laying Pipe"

Not that I've seen that.


Christy said...

SERIOUSLY!!! I'm waiting for neighbors to knock on my door now because I'm sure I woke them all up laughing so cats started going nuts, anyway. I'm also pretty sure I'll have interesting dreams tonight of tampons & toilets.....especially since there was a foreign-looking spider by my toilet tonight, but mostly because of your BRILLIANT writing!

& just to clarify: You're not supposed to flush something that is clearly marked as FLUSHABLE?! Better go call my plumber now... (bad time of month to be telling me this!!!)

saratogajean said...

Lord of the Wangs is definately a classic, but I don't recommend falling asleep to it. Talk about your weird dreams...

In my first apartment, the plumbers fished a toothbrush out of my toilet. I had a hard time trying to explain how it was *not* the result of a revenge scheme gone wrong.

Jenn N Butter said...

Ouch... That's all I have to say!

Phil said...

Inspired by your tale, I have two stories for you:

1. When I was a camp counselor a few years back, I was warned by a parent that a camper of mine had "unusually large stool." Day one of camp: the toilet got clogged to the point that the plumbers had to bring in the 'snake' tool to clear it. Yikes.

2. When I was 19 I went to Denver with my two older brothers. We got a killer hotel for a great deal, but on the first day my oldest brother worked his magic on the toilet. We didn't realize this until after a few hours because we'd headed out for dinner. Upon our return, our entire room was flooded. Yeah, that was a fun call to make to the front desk.

Anonymous said...

don't forget to eat your pork & beans @

fun, sports, beer, girls.

Two Left Feet said...

they sell animal traps at the home depot. i suggest getting one for your beaver infestation.

TheStarterWife said...

Did you know that plumbers often call the tampons they have to dig out of pipes "white mice"?

Me neither, until one had to dig out our entire driveway to clear the clog.

Outnumbered2to1 said...

Coming out of lurking to comment on this as it is the most embarrasssing moment of my life. I had to sit through my husband snake my tampons out of our sewer drain one at a time. Then, the next day, once again by an overweight plumber as he made a pile next to his big crack. Yup, two days, two men, two piles of used tampons...I don't flush em anymore!

Lyla Lou said...

HIllariously amazing, I love anything with a Demolition Man reference. And your plumbers sound so nice! When the toilet backed up in my last apartment the maintenence men left a threating note that read "Do NOT flush tampon applicators in toilet. If this happens again you will be charged". My roomate and I were pissed, but too embarassed to say anything about it.

lady H said...

Can I has the magnets? I have a lot of papers to put on my fridge.

Also...what the hell!? you can't flush Q-tips? Thats so retarded.

Also, this was my word verification: ezqphhze

Jessica said...

like the other fifty people above have mentioned, you are just too funny. I wish I did have a business so I could hire you. Oh well, if I become like super duper world's best teacher I'll see what I can do.

mindy said...

So you're kind of a beaver I guess?

Matt said...

Honest to god, I was just talking about fraggle Rock yesterday...

I hear they are making a movie...

TC said...

They offered to bring you coffee? Seriously. Wow.

Hilarious post. Glad you got the beaver problem fixed though.

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