Ed Pfeifer: Plunging into the New Year with time-tested techniques
Friday, December 27, 2019 | 12:01 AM
My friend Steve and I plunged a bathroom drain a few weeks ago, and although my resume includes the plunging of countless drains, this one was especially disgusting and difficult.
The clog, a super-common concoction of hair and soap, was somewhere between the sink and the bathtub. Despite the clog’s humdrum ingredients, it was freakishly tough. Not a glug of water was moving, and plenty of filthy backup lay in the bottom of tub and sink alike.
We knew it was repulsive, and we knew there were a few things we’d rather be doing. But we also knew that the job simply needed to be done.
Could we have conquered the blockage with any one of the two dozen chemical drain openers I sell in my hardware store? Perhaps, but some of those drain openers stink to high heaven, and most have the potential to damage the 110-year-old pipes with which we were dealing. A sewer snake, for reasons you certainly don’t care about, was not an option. So we plunged.
We started at the tub, pushing and pulling the gross water column back and forth. No luck. Next, we moved on to the sink, where we also failed. We kept at it, though, plunging one and then the other — sink and tub — all the while bits of stinky, sloppy debris splashed our faces, arms and hands.
Frustrated and nearly plunged out, we decided on a new approach. Instead of alternating, we plunged in unison — Steve at the sink and I at the tub. Like two fools operating butter churns, we plopped and slopped until finally we heard the beautiful music of free-flowing water.
Later that night, after disinfecting, I collapsed into my recliner, reflected on the day’s plunge-athon and came to a few conclusions.
First, I hate clogged drains. I hate them in a big way, too — not like I hate bad haircuts and burnt steak. No, clogged drains earn a special kind of hatred I reserve for things like flat tires, sprained ankles and Twitter.
Second, I am truly grateful for the fact that no one was videotaping Steve and me as we slugged our way through that project. I’m sure we looked hilarious, each hunched over our respective bathroom fixtures plunging away, covered in foulness and swearing like sailors. Those images, gladly preserved here in ink with carefully chosen omissions, would make for an embarrassing video.
Third, and most importantly, plunging drains, while “old-school,” unsexy and kind of yucky, works. So, too, does the whole idea of adapting new technique to old technology.
As we enter a new year in a world overstuffed with gizmos designed to deliver immediate gratification, I can tell you that while I’ll try my fair share of them, I will, at the same time, remain faithful to many things tried and true.