I had to snake out the sewer today. When I say it that way, it sounds kind of cool, as if there might have been trained snakes involved that would do the work for me. The reality was a lot less cool. Practically zero cool, after all the pros and cons canceled each other out.

What sucks most about snaking out the sewer is all the shit that comes up with the snake when I pull it out. I suppose there’s a more delicate way to put that, but really, why? It’s shit, and that’s all there is to it.

The snake is thirty feet of tightly coiled steel, like the spring on a typical screen door. What you’re supposed to do is shove it down the sewer pipe and give it a twist so it will whip around in there and, with any luck at all, bust the clog loose. What actually happened to me before this was, the end usually got caught on the first right-angle turn in the pipe and wouldn’t go any further no matter how hard I shoved. Then, when I tried to use the bent piece of pipe that came with the snake to twist it, I discovered that maneuver was all but impossible because there was still twenty-five feet of tightly-coiled steel hanging out the end of the sewer pipe. How do I get that part to go round and round? I ended up pulling it out with the clog unbusted and the snake coated thickly with globs of black, smelly shit, not the most encouraging way to end a plumbing adventure.

I had to figure it out, though, or call the Roto-Rooter Man, because the clog was not going away no matter how many times each week I flushed the pipes out with a hose. And here’s what I did. Don’t tell Roto-Rooter. I don’t want them to know I beat them at their own game.

The key to making the snake work is the twist, and not just one or two twists. It’s got to go round and round more or less constantly while you’re shoving it into the sewer. If it’s not, it just gets hung up in the muck, develops a kink and won’t go any further. The hardware store had one of these snakes in a bucket attached to a motor that spun it round and round, all for the low low price of three-hundred dollars and change. What I did was bought a plastic bucket with a snap-on lid for six dollars, drilled a hole in the lid so the snake would slide in and out, and screwed a lazy Susan to the bottom of the bucket. Voila! Home-made roto-rooter!

Granted, it would’ve been a lot easier on my arms if it had been motorized. It took me two hours of hand-cranking my manual roto-rooter to finally clear the clog out of our sewer. The best part, though, was that, with the clog busted and lots of clear water running down the drain, the snake came back up nice and shiny, and almost not smelly at all. I still took a very long, hot shower after I was done, though.

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