Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Can't Lye, The Snake Was Pretty Cool

We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather over the weekend.  It was unseasonably warm, with clear blue skies and lots of sun.  We weren't sure what we wanted to do to make the most of it.  The possibilities were endless; the beach, the park, a picnic, a day trip.  Snake handling wasn't on the list, but we'll get to that soon.

My daughter had just come downstairs after taking a shower and we were in the kitchen talking about what to do with the day when we heard a gurgling sound.  We listened for a moment and determined it was coming from the half bath.  The water in the toilet bowl was bubbling and churning.  I flushed to see if that would stop it, but it didn't.  The water continued to bubble and it wouldn't drain.

I called to Mr. W for help.  We knew the toilet itself wasn't clogged, but we thought there might be something blocking the drain further down the pipe.  The trouble started after the shower had been used, so maybe something had gotten into the shower drain.  We thought that by plunging the toilet, we could clear the clog.

In the backyard, just past the end of the porch, there is a pipe sticking out of the ground that vents all of the drains, so I went to check it out.  As I got closer to it, I could hear splashing.  To my horror, raw sewage was spewing out of it.  I ran back into the house and told Mr. W to stop plunging.

Initially, we decided to take the wait and see approach.  We waited for the "water" level in the pipe to go down. It took a few hours, but it eventually emptied enough that we could pour some professional strength drain cleaner into it.  This stuff was supposed to be strong enough to dissolve everything but the pipe itself.  We had high hopes, but, when our son turned on the shower to get ready for work, the pipe again overflowed.

Our next thought was to snake the pipe with a 25 foot hand held drain snake.  We managed to get the entire length of it through the drain without hitting an obstruction.  Not sure what else to try, we dumped some more drain cleaner into the pipe and waited.

By Sunday, we were getting pretty discouraged that the drain cleaner was not clearing the pipe.  We thought of calling a plumber, but we knew that would be outrageously expensive on a weekend, and being the DIYers that we are, we wanted to fix it ourselves.  Again, we snaked the drain, then we added some foaming root killer in case tree roots were the cause of the clog.

When Monday rolled around and we were still in the same predicament, we decided to try one last chemical treatment.  According to a number of online sources, lye was the chemical of choice.  I had serious reservations about using it after reading about the potential for explosion.  Still, we were desperate, so we carefully added lye to the offending drain.  There was no explosion, but also no progress.  It was time to call in the big guns.

Mr. W rented an electric drain snake.  It had a 100 foot cable and came with an assortment of blades for cutting through roots and debris in drain lines.  It took both of us to operate the machine, one to feed the cable into the pipe and the other to advance it, but we got the drain flowing freely.  We were kicking ourselves for not doing it Saturday afternoon instead of adding all of the useless chemical drain cleaners.

Although we can't say for sure, we're fairly certain it was a root blocking the drain.  There are a lot of mature trees around here and it's pretty common in old drain lines.  Should you ever encounter a similar problem, I highly recommend renting the electric snake.  It cost a small fraction of what a plumber would have charged and was pretty easy to use.

You never realize how much you take your plumbing for granted until it's not working, you know?


*All photos courtesy of Google Images

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


My daughter has a sudden fascination with horror movies.  She hasn't seen any of them, but with Halloween just around the corner, she's seen and heard references to a lot of them.  The Exorcist is of particular interest to her because she heard it was rated the scariest movie of all time.  She asked me what it was about and if I thought it was too scary for her.

It's been years since I've seen the film, but I remember the general storyline, so I gave her a brief description.  I told her it was far too scary for her and that it had some very adult scenes that I don't think are appropriate for an eleven year old.  Still, she pressed on, asking me what part of the movie scared me the most.  Without a doubt, I told her, it was the scene where Regan (Linda Blair) scrambles down the stairs on her back in a creepy fast crab walk.  Even a still photo of that scene gives me the chills (which is why I chose to post a different photo).

She wanted to know what other movies were scary to me, so next, we talked about the movie Rosemary's Baby.  As I've mentioned before, it made me terrified of my closet when I was a kid.  I don't want to give away the plot if you've never seen it (although it came out in 1968, if you haven't seen it by now....), but the closet plays a pivotal role.  My daughter asked me how old I was when I saw it and I had to admit I was probably about her age.  In any case, I think it's a little much for her.

Around that age, I was also pretty scared by The Amityville Horror.  I saw it at the theater with my parents soon after it came out in 1979.  The red room in the basement of that house was truly terrifying to me, and it continued to be even after we got home.  At that time, my oldest brother's bedroom was at the top of the stairs.  It was painted a deep orange and had orange shag carpet (very fashionable in the 1970's).  If the door was closed and the light was on in his room, an orangey-red glow could be seen on the hallway floor.  It reminded me of the Amityville red room so much that I can still remember running up the stairs and past his room as fast as I could to get to my own.  My daughter thought that was pretty funny.

As an adult, I told her that the one movie I couldn't finish watching was Hannibal.  I liked the first film of the series, Silence of the Lambs, but Hannibal was far too disturbing for me.  I started to give her a watered down version of the story, but she told me she didn't want to hear the rest.  I can't blame her, I had to walk out of the room when we rented it years ago.  To this day, I have no idea how it ends.

The only movie to give me nightmares as an adult was Fire In The Sky.  I just couldn't shake the image of Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) being examined/tortured by aliens.  Every time I closed my eyes, I would see that scene.  Whether or not you believe this is a true story (supposedly it is), it's still pretty scary.

We started to talk about the movie It, but as soon as I said "evil clown", she didn't need to hear any more.  I've always been freaked out by clowns and so has she.  I told her she could watch a clip of It online, but she declined.  Still, I posted it here.  Tim Curry plays the role of Pennywise The Clown brilliantly.  If this doesn't chill your blood, nothing will.

I told my daughter that I would try to think of a few scary movies that were appropriate for her.  She's already seen some of Night of the Living Dead, but that's so goofy and cheesy (which is what I love about it) that it doesn't bother her.  The only other movie that came to mind was The Others.  To me, it's more mysterious than scary.

Since then, I think she's changed her mind about watching anything scary at all.  On Sunday, Mr. W and I were watching an episode of The Most Terrifying Places in America on the Travel Channel and she asked if she could watch it with us.  We said yes, so she came in and sat down.  About 30 seconds into the first story, when they showed a reenactment of a ghost sighting, she suddenly remembered something she needed to do in another room.  I guess The Exorcist will have to wait a few years.