11 December 2007

This Old Motherfucking House: Episode IV

Episode IV: Roto-Rooted

I am not at work this morning. Oh, I'm still connected to my work files and email, via the wonders of modern technology, lest you think I'm here with my stockinged feet up, quaffing caffeine and stalking you.

I'm home because I'm expecting a visit from the Roto-Rooter man. No, you freaks, the plumbing and sewage company. If it were any other type of Roto-Rooting, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting at my keyboard.

The drains are backing up again. Since this just happened in October, and seeing as we have since installed a high tech "hair catcher" that sits atop the bathtub drain, I'm thinking my problem may be worse than Teen Demon's prodigious hair donations. I suspect every homeowner's nightmare: tree roots.

My last house, a rental, came complete with a cheap and petulant property manager: a small, elderly, British dame named Doreen. Doreen was, to borrow a phrase from my father, "Tighter than a crab's ass ... and that's waterproof."
The homeowners had moved to Georgia, on a mission to translate the Bible into Georgian or something. Yes, I mean the U.S. Georgia. My rent covered the owners' mortgage in Georgia, the monthly payment to Doreen's property management company, and left them some profit to play with. Bitterness over that arrangement is what got me into my current situation, having thought that I, too, could finally catch a break by getting in on the formerly-profitable Seattle housing market.

We all know how that turned out.

Anyway, one time our drains clogged up. Doreen came by, all a-flutter, and said, with a pinched face, "Well, you have two teenage girls in the house; they can't be flushing those feminine products down the drains! Children use too much toilet paper! Now they don't know any better, but as the tenant, you are responsible for the cost of clearing drains due to negligence!"

First of all, unless you've drilled peep-holes into the walls, Doreen, you have no idea what we're flushing down the drain. We lived in a country where you could barely flush toilet paper down the drains before moving here; we're not stupid enough to flush tampons.

Second of all, you're a bitch.

Anyway, this being beyond Jay's abilities, she called out the plumbing crew. She imperiously informed me that they would run a camera down the drain - at extra expense - because "the owner" wanted to know the cause of the blockage. She had apparently briefed the plumber on our irresponsible flushing habits, because he told her, "Well, your problem is bigger than a clog, ma'am. It's not bathroom products after all," [Ha!] "You've got tree roots! Got nothing to do with the tenants -- you need to start regular root maintenance. I can schedule you out for every 6 months." He then pronounced, "Good thing you had us run that camera down there, ma'am!", with a sidelong wink to me.

By the look on Doreen's face, you'd have thought the plumber gave that stick up her ass an extra good twist.

Anyway, Doreen grudgingly paid the bill, the guys cut out the roots, and we were flushing freely once more. She informed me that the plumbers would be coming by annually to clear the roots. "Didn't he say every six months?" I asked. "This visit cost enough," she replied. "I've spoken with the owner, and annual service will be fine. Those plumbers always try to sell you more than you need. The owner isn't made of money, you know!"

Fast Forward: Christmas Eve, 2004: Cowbell is draining boiling water off the potatoes in preparation to mash them up into yummy deliciousness. The water doesn't go anywhere. I foolishly flip the disposal switch. Boiling potato-water erupts. Somehow I don't get burned.

I won't detail the rest of the story, mainly because I enjoy low blood pressure. It was a sad and sordid tale, starting with me borrowing a plumbing snake from my boss on Christmas Eve, and ending with a porta-potty in the front yard for two weeks during 20-degree weather, bulldozers in the back, a large scale pipe replacement and intensive sewage cleanup. Guess what, it wasn't the potatoes, too much food in the drain, or wayward feminine products, much too Doreen's surprise. It was the tree roots. Seems the annual maintenance schedule wasn't quite enough to keep those pesky tubers out, and the entire pipe collapsed.

The owner ended up with a bill for about $10,000. This included a new sewer pipe, the porta-potty rental, replacing carpet and walls on our lower level, and paying for COIT to clean up, sanitize, and dry the place. Yes, the sewage pipe backed up into our ground floor. Nasty doesn't even begin to cover it. At one point during this whole Charlie-Fox, Doreen came by to check the progress. She handed me a Glade plug-in air freshener. "I thought this might help," she announced. I stood there staring at the thing, wondering how that was possibly going to make a dent in the situation.

I bet she billed the owners for it.

The bill did not cover our ruined Christmas dinner, or the fact that a dear friend visiting from the East Coast could not bring herself to stay in our house, so I didn't see as much of her as I'd have liked. It didn't cover my frostbitten ass, or the humiliation of using a porta-potty in my FRONT YARD. One of the neighbors actually waved to me as I was heading in there one time. I only paid 1/3 of my rent that month, which twisted the stick up Doreen's ass even harder, but after reading my all legal-like letter, she sucked it up. "Well," she huffed, "I certainly don't know how the owner will take this ... the bill was so expensive, he's really going to need that rent money,"

Not my problem. Hope he has enough left over to pay your fee.

Anyway, that experience was pretty much imprinted on my brain, so tree roots were the first thing that entered my mind this morning. Oh what I wouldn't give for a simple grease clog, or a load of flushed tampons.

The Roto-Rooter people refused to give me a ballpark estimate over the phone, but they cheerily informed me that their Free Estimate was absolutely free of charge! (Yeah, I know what "free" means, lady)

This guy better get here soon. I've got to pay a visit to my friend John, and it's not going to be a quickie.


So I pretty much hate Roto-Rooter. First off, the lady on the phone this morning told me twice, very specifically, that they charge by the job, not by the hour. Okay, fine. Second, I'm in the wrong business, folks. Should've been a plumber. The guy, once he gets here, tells me his rates are $170 for the first half hour. They charge in 15-minute increments after that. When I relayed Phone Lady's info, he looked puzzled and said maybe she was new. Right. Whatever, asshat, you think I don't recognize your company's sneaky sales tactics? Please.

He estimated it would be between "$211 at the low end, to about $350 on the high end. Before tax," That's assuming it's not a bigger problem than he can ascertain before getting in there with his snake. He was nice enough to go get his bigass wrench and take the cap off of the clean-out access in the yard for me, once I told him that his price is not an option for a single mom before Christmas. He also gave me some DIY tips. Y'all know how I love DIY projects! Why let him have all the fun? So anyway, I'm getting ready to play with my snake now. I've only got a 25-footer, with no cutting blades on the end, but who knows, maybe it will be a giant hairball after all. Or maybe someone's been secretly flushing tampons. If only.

Oh, by the way, I went to coffee shop and bought a chai latte. The real reason for the latte was so I could surreptitiously utilize the latrine.


The bad news: it looks like roots are involved. I pulled up a small but very nasty mass of TP and what I thought might be a tangle of hair. Whoo, was I happy to see that disgusting mess. Upon closer inspection, however, it was actually a tangle of very fine, dark, baby roots. Crap. The good news: it looks like they're only about five or six feet into the pipe. Worse news: my snake is too puny to handle it. It bent in several places.

I'm headed to Lowe's now, to get a more substantial snake, one that can actually handle my needs.

Also, if you ever go to a coffee shop, specifically to use the restroom, but you buy something to make it look like you're not just there to use the restroom, don't buy something with caffeine. I have to pee already.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I've got a fever ...