Super Soaker

Looking around the house for something really manly to do after lunch, I was absolutely gobsmacked when a manly fix-it project came looking for me. I shouldn’t have been. By this time I should really expect something like a broken water pipe to sneak up on me while I’m trying to work on something else. It’s almost customary, really.

But I thought I’d get away with doing just one or two manly tasks on my own today, like draining the water softener’s brine tub and dragging it up the stairs to the driveway where I could rinse it out with the hose. I don’t know if that’s something you should do to your water softener or not. Usually all I do is fill it up when the salt melts all the way to the bottom, but when I opened the lid earlier this week I was so grossed out by the glob of gray sludge left at the very bottom that I did what I pretty much had to do.

After I rinsed all the gray glop out I found a baffle at the bottom of our brine tank made out of what is commonly called hardboard that has somehow survived years of being submerged in salty water. In my experience hardboard usually disintigrates to mush when you get it wet. Maybe the salt has something to do with its relatively good condition, or maybe I’m thinking of particle board. Whatever. I was surprised to find a slab of wood down there. Make a note.

After rinsing out the tank, putting it all back together and dragging it down to the basement I was confronted by a pool of brackish water standing in the basement sink. My Darling B was washing clothes, and the wash machine drains into the sink, usually without any problem but occasionally with very bad results just like this.

Adventures in plumbing really suck, mostly because they involve getting drenched by lots of slimy, cold water. That’s probably the reason plumbers make you give them so much money. I never argue with plumbers about the cost, I just pay them whatever they ask for, especially in light of the fact that by the time I’ve resorted to calling one I’ve gone through all the options I could think of and botched the job pretty badly myself. I’ll bet they get a lot of that. That’s probably another reason they ask for so much money.

The fix today was relatively simple, just messy and involves unreeling a pair of garden hoses across the floor and up the basement stairs. In spite of it being so simple, it took forever to get the job done because I was trying to figure out why the drain keeps backing up, and I think it’s because it’s not properly vented. Actually, I think it isn’t vented at all because I climbed up on the roof and poked a stick down the vent. It went about six inches and came to a dead stop. That seemed odd, so I crawled into the attic to look for an elbow in the vent pipe, and couldn’t find any kind of pipe anywhere. So I shined a flashlight down the vent. It appeared to be a dead end.

Which makes sense. If it were properly vented, then my method of unblocking the drain wouldn’t work: I stick a hose down the drain in the kitchen sink and another hose down the drain in the basement sink, open up the spigot and let the water run for about five minutes. At least some of that water ought to go shooting up the vent like a geyser, but it doesn’t.

I busted the clog using my garden hose trick, cleaned up the mess and put all the tools away, then took a scalding shower that lasted thirty minutes, after which I almost felt clean. Then I sat on my butt drinking beer and cracked open the thousand-page Harry Truman biography I should have been reading almost all afternoon if I hadn’t been up to my elbows in sewer water.

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