Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Rooter of All Evil

Thomas Crapper, the man credited with increasing the popularity of the flush toilet in America, was born in 1836. It is important to know that Crapper was NOT the man who invented flush toilet. That award, as we well know, goes to the team of John Harington and Alexander Poopsalot as early as 1596. Then came the first public installation of toilets at The Great Exhibition in 1851, and since then nothing good has come out of the toilet.

I've said in the past that if there's one thing in the world of home improvements I will avoid whenever possible, it's plumbing. Especially toilets. It's not that I'm not physically capable of installing a toilet, but I just think it's a wise move to avoid messing with anything that can severely damage your home AND that involves poop (of course, our kids fall into that category as well, but that's another story). Something as simple as a slow leak could end up causing the kitchen ceiling to rain down on your waffles. Trust me. It's happened to us. And I was really annoyed because they were good waffles.

As part of our home renovation we added a new master bath. We spent a good amount of time searching for the right blend of shower, toilet, sink, and and toothbrush holder, and in the end were happy with the result. Our throne of choice was the Champion Cadet Elongated "Right-Height" in bone color, for several reasons. For one, it could flush thirteen golf balls without clogging. This would be important for my short game (achem. I mean, LONG game). For another, the elongated bowl was a key feature because, well, think about it. Let's just say I need my space. At least that's the argument I gave my wife when we were shopping.

Our plumber installed the fixtures with only minor issues, and since then the bathroom has made a fine sanctuary for us to primp and preen and disappear with copies of This Old House for hours on end. Until the other night, when evil reared its ugly head.

Actually I need to back up for a moment. A few weeks ago, I started noticing a black, mysterious substance that appeared to be seeping out from under the toilet. It was fibrous and odorless, and my thought was perhaps there was some sort of insulation or sound baffle that the plumber had installed under the toilet, and it was literally squeezing itself out as people sat down on the unit. I kept an eye on it, and noticed it continued to grow in size. And, the toilet started to rock slightly, implying the bolts were loose.

Okay, it was time to pull the toilet and reinstall it. I kept avoiding the issue, until the other night when I noticed water on the floor. Now it was REALLY time to fix things.

But I wasn't prepared for what I saw next. When I pulled the toilet off the floor, I was greeted with more of this mysterious substance. As you can see in these photos (one and two), which really you should only look at if you've got the stomach of Iron Man, this black, fibrous funk surrounded the drain opening and actually entered into the pipe itself. What could this be? Could it be a relative of the Sarlaac, the multi-tentacled alien beast with the immense, gaping mouth that inhabits the Great Pit of Carkoon, on the planet Tatooine? I suppose it was quite possible.

Of course the first thing I did was call dad. He had no idea. So I tracked down the number of the plumber who installed the unit to begin with, and called him at 9:30 in the evening. He had no idea either, but was certainly intrigued. He then went on to tell me about the fun things he's found clogged in toilets past, such as hairdressers' combs, mayonnaise jars, and Tonka trucks. When I was able to get a word in I asked him if there was a chance there was some sort of felt or insulation underneath the toilet when he installed it. He said he did not recall any and couldn't imagine why there would be any.

Oh dear.

This led me to believe that this foreign substance is not something man-made, at least not manufactured by human hands. And it didn't make me feel better when the plumber started his next sentence with, "In all my years of plumbing...."

After a quick bout of the heebeejeebees, I quickly grabbed every ounce of disinfectant I could find, along with about six layers of rubber gloves and a portable decontaminiation unit I borrowed from the local Haz-Mat team, and began the defunkification process. I won't gore you with the details. But suffice it to say that since then, every minor itch I've had, every need to cough, every twitch of a muscle has made me think I've caught an Ebola virus.

Surely, there must be a better way.

Today the plumber came. Yes, I could have just has easily reinstalled the toilet myself, but the way I see it I had better things to do, like not falling prey to a Sarlaac and being slowly digested over thousands of years. I'll leave that to the plumber as well.


Jonny's Mommy said...

Oh dear God. What was the gunk?

I'm so grossed out right now.

I'm also afraid to go home and use my bathroom, but I really have to pee and I'm on my lunch break.

I hope I'm not eaten by something icky thing coming out of my toilet! yikes!

Natalie & Jessica's Dad said...

Ah, Another satisfied customer!

Richard said...

Am I naive in thinking that the gunk was just the wax plug seal that was continuing to ooze out as you sat on the toilet and the weight pressed it out? I know a lot of plumbers put two down just to make sure it seals and then that has to go somewhere when the toilet presses it down.

If it wasn't sealed right and the plug was still oozing out that might explain the water leaking once the seal was broken. We spent one week installing and reinstalling the same toilet (sometimes new seals) until someone suggested their might be a hairline crack causing the leak. New toilet, new seal and it was fixed.

All that being said, there is nothing pleasant about a broken toilet. At least discovering a new lifeform would be cool (until it ate you).