A tepid pool of toothpaste, water and spit
The upstairs bathroom sink has been draining more and more reluctantly.
A few days ago, it gave up altogether.
This afternoon, I drowned the whole basin in Drano and watched it trickle down the hole, to no avail. Frustrated, I asked my father what his assessment of the situation was.
"It always drains eventually."
My father has always had an extremely laissez-faire attitude toward home repairs. But what he said was true, technically. It would drain, eventually ... long after you'd already left the room. In the meantime, you had to brush your teeth above a tepid sinkful of toothpaste, water and spit. When pressed further about whether I should take the pipes apart to find the clog, he suggested we wait it out.
"It's probably just hair. It will decompose eventually."
I prefer to address problems right away. In my father's mind, there is always time to consider the antecedents. Perhaps he was thinking about the miraculous case of the side door, which did one day finally "fix itself" after not locking properly for a decade or two. For my entire childhood, we "locked" the side door by wedging a shovel in between the door and the bottom step of the stairs next to it. I would check this setup obsessively before going to bed, always wondering if it would hold if someone tried to kick the door down. Then one Christmas, long after I moved out (I may have been in my 30s by then), I came home and discovered that the lock suddenly worked. I was thrilled: My parents had actually fixed something around the house! But when I brought it up to my father, he shrugged and laughed.
"I didn't do anything. It just started working again."
Whatever magic had happened with the side door, I was not content to just wait for the hair in the pipes to decompose before having a working bathroom sink again. Unfortunately, after relying on New York City apartment supers my entire adult life, I have basically zero experience with plumbing. I immediately started unscrewing the pipes anyway. They were the cheap PVC variety and I was able to take them apart with just my hands. Inside was a coating of filth and grime so thick and gray it was almost exciting—I mean nauseating. I washed the plastic tubes and joints out in the bathtub, being careful not to let the crud that came peeling off in slimy sheets wash down that drain, although there was something amusing about the potential irony, like "You wouldn't believe it, I clogged the bathtub drain with the gunk that was clogging the sink drain!"
Instead, I transferred it all to the toilet. You will have to take my word for it that it looked worse than any bout of diarrhea or vomit, because rather than taking a picture for the blog, I just flushed the whole stinking mess.
Putting the pipes back together was a bit of a struggle, but after a few failed attempts I figured out how to get them tight enough that they didn't leak (there was a rubber seal at the base of the pipe with fasteners that needed tightening with a screwdriver).
A major success!
But then, not as quickly as before but just as ominously, the sink began to fill with water. I'd cleaned the pipes between the basin and the floor, but the problem was deeper than that ...
Soon I'll be tearing up the floorboards ...
No wonder my father doesn't bother with crap like this ...
But I can't abide staring at a sinkful of toothpaste, water and spit every night anymore, so it's out into the snow and subzero temps for more Drano/Liquid-Plumr for me ...
I hope I don't lose my mind over this ...