Then after supper


Tonight: My Darling B tries to figure out how to feed the tax man without draining our bank account, and I try to figure out how to drain the bathtub without feeding the Roto-Rooter man.

I’m not sure, but I think I had the easier job. All I had to do was climb a ladder into the attic, bring down the garden hose, hook one end up to the spigot and shove the other end down the drain. Although I had to get dirtier, I didn’t have to do any math. Also, my job involved physics. Or something. A siphon is physics, isn’t it?

I thought I would have to take the drain apart and dredge it out with a flexible wire brush I bought from the hardware store for just this purpose, because there was quite a lot of grease and hair down there. It’s not normal grease and hair, either. That’s right, Abby Normal has been showering at our house, and she sheds a lot. I can pour any amount of lye down the drain and it won’t have any effect on the clog Abby leaves behind. Thus, the brush.

But first I set up the garden hose, cranked the spigot wide open and let the water run for a while to break up the blockage. That got the work started nicely while I went to the basement to get my tools. When I came back I found the drain gasping for air.

I don’t shove the garden hose down the drain, in point of fact. What I do is take the vent hole cover off and shove the hose down that. I used to plug up the drain because I thought the water would come gushing up out of it if I didn’t, but that doesn’t happen. I didn’t know why before today.

The gasping sound from the drain explained it. The water going down the vent past the drain pipe was sucking in air through the drain. Look up “venturi effect” in wikipedia and you’ll see why.

That’s when my brain cell latched on to the idea of filling the tub with water to break up the clog. If the drain is sucking down air, thought my brain cell, then it’ll suck down water, too; first a little bit, then a lot. Ever seen what rising flood waters do to an earthen dam when they find a way over the top? First a trickle dribbles over, then a stream. The stream cuts a gap and the gap gets deeper and deeper until the dam gets eaten away by the water.

Same idea in my bathroom drain, but substitute clog for dam. Once the siphon starts sucking water through the drain instead of air, the water should carry away the clog bit by bit until just about all of it is gone. And that’s just what happened. At first very little water went down the drain, but after about ten minutes of that the drain was sucking down water faster than I could fill the tub. I didn’t have to take the drain apart, I didn’t have to scoop hair and grease out with a brush and my fingers, and I didn’t have to mess around with lye or explosives, although if I could think of a way to unclog a drain using explosives, that would be very cool.

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