10/23/12

I'm all plugged up.

Last night I decided to sit in the hot tub for a bit and relax, and when I came back inside and dried off, I heard the thing nobody wants to hear right before they are about to get into a nice soft bed:  My wife, yelling from the basement.   "Are you up there?  Something's wrong with the washing machine.  There's water all over the basement floor!"

I muttered an obscenity under my breath and grudgingly donned my underwear and my boots and headed downstairs.  (What? It's a good look for me.)  It didn't take a genius to see that my wife's suspicions were correct -- The ancient washing machine sitting in the corner had decided to expel 20 gallons of water directly outside of itself, one gallon for every year it has been resentfully doing our bidding.  I'd call it a piece of shit, but any appliance that can go 20-plus years with only some routine maintenance probably doesn't owe me anything. The bad thing was,  I had no idea which washer-orifice it had come from, since the clothes had spun dry and weren't telling any tales.

That meant that not only did I have to fix the washer, I had to make another damned mess to see exactly what it was that I had to fix.  The first thing I did was look down into the drain pipe from the top.  It's just an open hunk of pipe with a trap about six inches down, then it runs about 20 feet down a 1.5" pipe to the sewer pipe.  The only thing is, it's directly behind the washing machine and flat against the wall, so it's not exactly easy to look down into.  Picture me in my tighty-whities, squatting on the top of the washing machine like Spiderman with my face mashed up against a dirty basement wall, holding a flashlight, looking down into an empty pipe.  On second thought, don't picture that. I don't even want to picture that, and I was there.  My relaxing hot tub soak was nothing but a distant memory.

No water in the pipe, so I figured that was a good sign.  I transferred the clothes into the dryer and started an empty cycle.  About five years ago, something had gone wrong with the sensor that determined how full the drum was, and the water just continued to pour over the side.  That was fun. Luckily we were home and heard the splashing noises, so there wasn't a ton of damage.  It was a pretty easy fix, too.

Since the spin cycle had finished, I figured that wasn't the issue this time.  My guess was that something was up with the part of the cycle where it pumped the water out of the drum.   I sat there for five minutes watching it fill up, and holy crap, five minutes is a long-ass time.  This thing put the watched pot to shame.  I just wanted to go to bed, but instead I stood there in my underwear and boots watching this giant Kenmore shitbucket fill up with ice-cold well water.

Once it was full, I manually spun the dial (that's how old this thing is. It has clicky dials) to the little * symbol that someone over at Kenmore who is probably dead by now thought would be a good representation of "Spin."  It's a top-loading washer, so there's a little safety pin on the door that goes into a hole on the top of the washer itself and determines whether it's open or closed.  Presumably, this is so it won't spin up with the top open and take your arm off or something.  So this obviously means that you have to jam something into the hole to make it work with the top up.  I jammed the pinky of my right hand into the hole, and pulled the dial out with my left to engage the spin cycle.  Immediately, the pipe behind the washer started spraying high-pressure, freezing cold water all over my half-naked self, and I knew instantly what the problem was; the drain pipe was somehow plugged.

Now that I was soaking wet and sure it wasn't the washing machine itself that had shit the bed, I dried my face, arms and legs, and went upstairs and got ready for bed.  I figured I'd diagnose the pipe today after work.  I went up to the bedroom and told my wife, "Well, best case, it's a plugged up drain pipe.  Worst case, the septic system isn't draining properly and there's nowhere for the water to go, so it's backing up into the basement."

I fell asleep, and dreamed of chocolate water.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  I've been thinking about this all day.  I have a washing machine full of water, and two other hoses that drain into this same open-topped pipe -- the dehumidifier pump and the water-softener backwash.  So I have to fix this today.  It's 3:01 pm, and I have to make this quick because I want to finish a chair in the shop.

I have a drain snake, so I decided to try it.  The only problem is, it won't go past the trap.  Then I notice that there's a little nut on the bottom of the trap to drain it -- it's maybe three-quarters of an inch wide, if that. So I take that nut off, and shove the drain snake in.  The snake has this little screw auger on the end so you can sort of chew through the hair blobs and then extract them.  I ran it all the way down to  where it met the sewer pipe, and I feel nothing.  I can't feel a clog, I don't hear anything out of the ordinary, just this drain snake rattling around in an empty pipe.  So I pull the snake back.  Right when it was about to come out of the hole, I see this big clump of hair on the end of the auger.  Hey! Success!  I must have snagged the hair clog.  I grab onto it and pull. I can't really get a grip on it, because it's pretty slimy, and this thing isn't budging.  It has to be big.  For a second, I think it's maybe a hunk of material, like panty hose or something, but it looks like washer lint, hair, some slimy crap…typical drain clog stuff.

I grab the auger and screwed it back into the hairball, and I'm really hauling on it.  Finally a piece of it tears loose and a bunch of nasty water hits me in the face, and the auger hits the floor. I pick up the hunk of hair ball, and there's this stuff that looks like a Twizzler or some kind of flexible plastic mixed in with it.  I poke at it a little, and suddenly I realize that what I'm holding in my palm is a piece of meat.  I drop the meat, and immediately start thinking about the water I was doused in a second ago.  Meat water.

Guts.  I was poking at guts.  I can feel the bacteria climbing up my arm already.  I grab a towel and wipe my hands, and I get back to work.  I can't get the mouse or whatever it is to come out.  I try poking it from the top with a broken aluminum arrow, pulling it from the bottom with the auger, but I'm having zero luck. It just keeps moving back into the pipe.  I can't really make myself dig into it with the auger after I realized what it was, so I'm trying to figure out another option. I figure that maybe I can pull it out of the top.  I have to see what position it's in to do that, so I climb back up on the washing machine with my flashlight and look down into the pipe.

And there is a fucking EYE looking back at me.  And this eye belongs to something that is definitely not coming out of a 3/4" hole. Not without being blended first, anyway.  It's huge.  And it doesn't belong to any mouse.

At this point, I am done.  I have no idea what this horrible THING is inside my drain pipe.  I go get my saw, and I cut off the last eighteen inches of pipe, trap included, and I bring the entire thing out to the back yard.  I knock it on the ground a few times, and finally, with a sound like "THOOMP!" something shoots out.  I look at it, and for a second I think it's a rat.  Then I see that it has a furry tail, so it can't be.  I poke at it with a stick and I'm pretty sure it's a partially decomposed chipmunk.*  (If you really, really need to see it, it's right here.)   They can't be happy with just eating my wife's Lily bulbs -- they have to go after the washing machine too.  Little bastards.

I tossed the carcass into the woods, cleaned the pipe under the hose faucet, and went back inside to finish fixing the drain pipe.  Luckily, I had a spare connector and some PVC cement.

I had the pipe completely repaired in about five minutes and life was good again, except for the mental scarring.  I went upstairs and practically bathed myself in the kitchen sink.  In retrospect I probably should have just taken a 30 minute shower under scalding water. I think I can still feel microscopic pieces of chipmunk meat on me.

I was thinking about it later, and it occurred to me that the only way into this pipe was from the septic tank side.  I couldn't even imagine how horrible this chipmunk's trip had been.  It was like Andy Dufresne breaking out of Shawshank, only with more fabric softener and less success.  He crawled through a leach field, a tank full of excrement, six feet of 4" pipe, and twenty feet of 1.5" pipe  that dead-ended at my washing machine trap, where he probably died trying to turn around. Then he was hooked with an auger and partially pulled through a hole smaller than his  head.  What a way to go.

Also, I think I am going to skip dinner tonight.  Anyone want to join me?

*Someone more knowledgeable than I am about dead rodents said this is more likely a baby squirrel. What he was doing in the septic system is anyone's guess.


43 comments:

  1. Yeah, I'm not very hungry anymore.

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  2. Valgal8:16 PM

    Must be the one you were feeding peanuts...

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  3. Fortunately I had already eaten. However, isn't it possible this chipmunk fell in behind the wash machine? HAHAHAHA

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. No, there's no way. it's a one and a half inch pipe with 3 things shoved into it. There's barely enough room for the hose from the dehumidifier pump. HAD to come from the other direction.

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    2. I love Shawshank Redemption, maybe the chipmunk was watching through a window while you watched it on TV or something! The lure of human food just overcame his disgust!
      Jay

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  4. Oh lordy. This gave me flashbacks to my disaffected teen years when my heartily resented household chore was cleaning the pool filter. (Embrace the irony, completely opaque to me at the time, that the source of my angst was the fact that my parents had the audacity to have an in-ground pool in the backyard, that my friends and I could use every day if we wanted to. Oh, the pain.) Anyway, my parents' backyard backs up to a cornfield, so a wide variety of cute fuzzy wildlife saw our pool as a convenient watering-hole that they would then fall into and drown. And apparently, a pool filter is strong enough to deglove the furry pelt at least partially off the carcass. I found mice, chipmunks, bats, moles, voles (had to research that one), squirrels, and thankfully only one groundhog.
    tl, dr: I feel your pain.

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  5. Anonymous9:32 PM

    That chipmunk made the entire trip in pitch black darkness. Imagine how much worse that made the whole trip. A rodent version of that 19 year old Ukrainian girl who got lost in the catacombs of Kiev and wasn't found for years.

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  6. oh that was gross...i had to go gag and brush my teeth just from reading.

    if i have nightmares tonight, i'm blaming you!

    your life...it's not dull!

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    1. Oh it's pretty dull. I get up, I go to work, I come home, I work out, I dig decomposed animals out of my drains…all the same stuff everyone else does.

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  7. Must have been using iOS6 Maps.

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    1. Did you see the SNL bit on the iphone5? Inspired, and hilarious.

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  8. Anonymous8:16 AM

    Let's hope that the little guy wasn't blazing a trail for others.

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  9. You being their regent, this may have been a pilgrimage that ended in tragedy.

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    1. You mean there could be more on the way? I RENOUNCE MY KINGDOM!

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  10. And here I thought I was about to read about you being "All stuffed up" with a head cold....you'd think I would know better by now after reading this blog for so long. Silly me.

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  11. Your experience with small animals and washers is more disgusting than mine with small animals and dryers. One morning we heard this strange scratching sound coming from the turned off dryer. A little investigation revealed that a small bird had made its way from the vent on the outside of my house through the vent tubing to the back of the dryer. The poor bird couldn’t find his way out at either end and he wouldn’t allow me to grab him. He just moved further back into the vent tube. My wife had a brilliant idea – just turn the dryer on and “blow” him out. Before I could say anything, she turned the knob, pressed “on” and we heard a brief whirrrr of the dryer and then a CRUUUUUNCH. Then, a puff of feathers fluttered out of the back of dryer. Apparently the little guy made his way into the back of dryer (after I reattached the vent) right where the fan is that blows the air just as my wife pushed “on.” Guess who had to clean up that mess. Not the bird murderess…

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    1. Oh man…the poor bird. At least he didn't rot back there. That would have made the clothes smell nice.

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  12. Good grief, I haven't laughed so hard in ages.... both your story, JV, and these comments are cracking me up! (Badass Geek, I'm talking to you. Yep, our friend Apple really shot themselves in the foot this time.)

    Poor you, JV!!! I would totally flip my cookies if I peered into a pipe and saw an eyeball, much less a pipe that had recently spewed water all over me. Not. Good.

    And poor chipmunk. Your line about Andy Dufresne with more fabric softener = priceless! A trapped and decomposing animal would not be the first thing I'd think of if my washer outlet pipe was clogged, but then, I don't have a septic tank. Still hard to fathom that the critter made its way that far through unspeakable darkness.

    Two more things:
    1) I can't wait to read this entire post to my husband and son tonight, preferably while we're eating dinner. Ought to make Hubby feel pretty guilty about neglecting household maintenance chores like putting cabinet door handles back on, when you're willing to go to this length.
    2) You know that from now on we are going to picture you crouched on a washing machine in your boots and undies, right? :-)

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    1. I edited it to include a picture if you really want to gross them out. I tried to get my wife to take a picture of me on the washing machine, but she wouldn't so you're in luck there.

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    2. Al-riiiiight! Decomposing chipmunk is definitely on the menu.

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    3. lol chipmunk on the menu :)

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  13. OMG gross. Sorry you had to go through that. (literally!) I have an ongoing war with the munks on my property in which they dig up my patio, I trap 50 or so, they overwinter in burrows against my house, and we do it all over again the next spring. The only permanent deterrent I have found is to use deer netting against the house to prevent them from being able to burrow. Being the stupid things they are, though, they inevitably try to defeat it, get caught up in it, and end up half eaten by I-don't-know-what and I have to dispose of a very similar looking carcass as you had, but with only the head. It's a charming look. ::shivers:: I effing hate munks!

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    1. I read up on them and I couldn't believe the complexity of their burrows. Insane! They can be 30 feet down!

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  14. Anonymous8:40 PM

    From the number of comments it looks like I'm not the only one who couldn't resist looking at the photo! Reminds me of when I was a kid and my dad would hunt for squirrels. He would bring those cute, little, dead critters home make me help clean them and they were usually dinner that night. Maybe that explains what's wrong with me.....thanks for the feel good memories!

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    1. this wouldn't have been so bad if it had been fresh. It smelled like bad roast beef.

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  15. Anonymous8:41 AM

    I can't believe I clicked the link....
    I have a chipmunk trap, a five gallon bucket filled halfway with water and peanut butter around the rim. A 2 by 4 as an entrance ramp.

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    1. I tried something similar, with a spinning can covered in peanut butter over a 5 gallon pail, but the racoons kept eating the peanut butter.

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    2. Anonymous11:37 AM

      You gotta find the hole where he got in. Is your tank concrete or something softer? Check your cleanout/riser caps.

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    3. had to be the leach field pipes. softer, with holes…the rest is concrete. Distribution box and main tank, plus the tank lid are all concrete. I'm just hoping the leach field "tunnels" aren't full of acorns. That would suck.

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  16. Thanks for the laughs, I think. By the way, Johnny, it's Drew's birthday. Pete n I are taking him out for sushi. Now I think I may just get plain rice. Shit! Plain white rice looks like magots! I'm screwed

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    1. Yeah, don't get the raw tuna.

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  17. OMG. I'm glad my washing machine is working, because I pissed myself laughing at the beginning of this and then vomited at the rest. I swear, your life is so dramatic.

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  18. I guess I'm the only one who is reminded of the Lemmy Winks/Mr Slave episode of South Park.

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    1. Hah! Now that you mention it...

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  19. Sadly, I was eating hummus and crackers while reading this. Gotta go barf now.

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  20. Anonymous3:38 PM

    A baby skunk once entered my home through the dryer vent. I was alerted to the intruder's presence when I could hear something eating the sofa I was sitting on.

    Even after the creature was caught, it took a while to consider upholstered furniture a benign and relaxing seating option.

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  21. ...and I thought my day sucked.

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  22. I am permanently scarred from this story. DId it stink?? That is all I kept thinking is it must have smelled terrible. I am holding back puke as I write this. I so wish I had not clicked on the link with the picture.

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    1. Oh...it stunk. Like spoiled roast beef. It was cold, so it didn't smell like road kill, thankfully, but it was not a pleasant odor.

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  23. I don't know whether I want to laugh, cry, or vomit. I was just about to go make some cheesy nachos. I'm going to pass now.

    I have a brilliant new idea though for my next fad diet. The 15 minute lunch blog diet. I will re-read this post anytime I feel like binging. Cheers and thanks for the weight loss in advance.
    DG

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  24. Anonymous8:31 AM

    I said "Ewwww" aloud at "meat water" (thinking, how did ground beef get back there?) and launched my body off the couch in a tetanus-like full body spasm, screaming "Auuuugggghhhh" at "guts."

    Okay, that's my workout for the day. Thanks.

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