When an Easy Project Continues to Go Wrong

Last week I told you about a little mishap surrounding what should have been an easy project. I drilled a hole in my bedroom wall to hang a mirror and accidentally hit a return air vent pipe that, belying all logic, had been filled with water. That water gushed out of the hole, down through the drywall, and into the family room ceiling below.

Good times, good times.

I'm here to report that this story gets better. And when I say "better," I actually mean the opposite of better. This story gets worse. 

Let me take you back to last Friday when our contractor friend arrives, inspects the hole in the drywall, confirms that no return air vent pipe (theoretically) should have any standing water in it, and then climbs to the attic so he can run a snake down the pipe and dislodge any clog that's causing this water backup.

Curious, I climb the ladder into the attic, too, so I can hear his take on the matter. "I've never seen this problem before," he says. "I shared the photos you sent to a buddy of mine who's been a plumber for 40 years. He's never seen anything like it, either."

I don't take this uniqueness as good news. 

He runs the snake down 30 feet. "If there was any clog, that should have cleared it." When I ask how we'd know, he shrugs and admits, "We really don't know."

I fill in what he's left unspoken, "You mean, we don't know whether this worked unless we drill another hole at a lower spot in the pipe to see if more water drains out? If a clog was cleared, there'd be no more water in the pipe, right?"

He nods. I nod. Then he drills another hole. 

Let's just say that more water drains out. Unlike the original water, which ran clear like a weirdly placed water fountain streaming from my bedroom wall, this water is brown and sludgy. We caught as much of it as we could with a bucket. I mop up the rest with towels. He plugs the newly drilled hole and says, "We're gonna need a bigger snake," to which I made a terrible "We're gonna need a bigger boat" joke.

Then we laugh and laugh, ha ha ha, because this all is terrifically funny.

You'd think this would be the lowest point of the story. But no. It's not. It continued because I did a load of laundry to wash the towels I had used to mop up the sludge-water. I tossed my sweatshirt into the load since it was covered with crud. Then I noticed that our weighted door draft stopper, which had been on the floor, was splattered with sludge-water, too. I tossed it into the washing machine as well.

About an hour later when I transferred the laundry from the washer to the dryer, it dawned on me that weighted door stoppers are "weighted" because they're filled with small rocks. Those small rocks had escaped through a tiny hole in the door stopper's fabric. There were now hundreds of them at the bottom of the washing machine agitator.

I assured myself that I'd remember to clean this up before I did my next load of laundry. 

Hours passed, during which I ran an absurd amount of errands, driving back and forth between my house and the school three times to drop-off, and pick-up, and drop-off, and pick-up children at various activities. In those hours, I did not think about laundry. Or rocks. Or weighted door draft stoppers. Nor did I think to tell the one child who was still at home about this whole scenario.

She did a load of laundry.

Those hundreds of rocks, which had been resting benignly at the base of the washing machine, swished and swirled their way through the wash cycle, embedding themselves in the agitator's holes, clogging the pipe, then burning out the drain pump and killing the motor.

Suffice to say, the coolest part about this story — besides how I drained the full washing machine by hand with a bucket, or how my husband came home from his travels an hour later with a suitcase full of dirty laundry — is the relative cost comparison of a weighted door draft stopper (say $20), which I tried to save by washing it, and a washing machine (say $700), which I broke by washing the draft stopper.

Joel and I spent a few hours the next afternoon at a laundromat. It was the same laundromat we had frequented over 20 years ago when we were newlyweds renting our first apartment. I reminded him of this while we waited for our clothes to dry, noting that we were pretty much having a throwback date.

That, my friends, is how you keep a marriage spicy after two decades. You have a date in the laundromat because you've spectacularly killed your washing machine, because you unfortunately washed a weighted door stopper, because you accidentally drilled into a return air vent pipe that's unexplainably filled with water, because you originally tried to hang a mirror to surprise your husband while he was traveling.

Indeed, the surprises just keep coming.

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