Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

When renting doesn’t seem like such a bad idea

In winter there is a ferocious monster who roams the streets of Salt Lake City terrorizing neighborhoods. It’s called the Abominable Snow Plow, and with one quick pass of your house it can dump ten feet of dirty snow from the street into the driveway you just spent two hours clearing. The first winter we spent in our house was the worst winter I’ve ever lived through, and on more occasions than I can count Jon would spend hours shoveling snow off our sidewalks and driveway only to have the Abominable Snow Plow speed by and destroy every inch of his work. It became so ridiculous that Jon would stand in the street in the path of the snow plow, snow shovel raised above his head like a medieval sword, and scream an unintelligible sequence of damns and hells and sonofabitches. It was like a suburban recreation of Tiananmen square.

Every winter now Jon can hear the snow plow coming from miles away, and he often stands in the window waving his fist at the universe as the plow turns the corner onto our street. Until I owned a house and saw the work that goes into its daily maintenance, the work required to keep the driveway free of snow just so that we can use the car, I never knew a snow plow could be such a public nuisance, and now when I see one turn into a neighborhood I feel an unreal twinge of misery in honor of every person who is going to have to dig out from underneath its wrath. I also feel quite happy that it won’t be me.

In a sad and possibly financially devastating turn of events this week a new wheeled villain has been menacing our neighborhood. Today will be the third day in a row that two separate plumbing trucks have been parked in front of our house, and right now it feels like we’ll never be able to dig ourselves out of this mess. The neighbors have gathered outside like people do in the South during a tornado warning to whisper about the possible devastation and to try and determine what this means for everyone else. One of them was so worried about whether or not it was going to turn into a bigger problem that to comfort herself she made up a story in her head that Jon and I were going to a costume party as plumbers and these trucks were an elaborate part of our disguise.

Tuesday afternoon while Jon and I were working in the basement we heard a strange gurgling noise coming from the downstairs toilet. I noticed it first and stood by as Jon tried to plunge the toilet only to see water shooting up through the sink every time he pushed down on the plunger. Jon immediately called the plumbing company who helped us with our kitchen remodel, and within thirty minutes they had a truck at our house. The plumber said it should only take him an hour to cut through the blockage in our line, that it was probably a tangle of roots that had penetrated the pipe. Happens a lot in these old neighborhoods, he said, and we most likely had nothing to worry about.

Three hours later he had to call another plumbing company because he hadn’t seen a line as bad as ours in a few years, and he needed a bigger set of equipment. Not to worry, though, because once that other equipment was here he could blast through the blockage and get us back up and running. Three hours after that both plumbers sat in our living room giving us the bad news. Things didn’t look good, they said. They would have to come back the next day and dig a hole in our driveway to get at the problem. And even then they might not be able to save it. We should prepare ourselves for the worst: replacing the whole sewer line.

Yesterday two plumbers from Roto-Rooter were here for 12 hours trying to save our sewer line. They dug a ten foot trench in the middle of our driveway and spent half of their day drudging up the most insane things out of the pipe — tree roots, and paper towels, and what looked like a beach towel. At 9:30 PM last night one of them finally gave us more bad news. They would have to come back again today and dig another hole, this time at the start of our driveway so that they could fix the connection between our line and the city’s line because they have never seen anything like this. Before you even think it, no, I do not flush beach towels down our toilets, although I could see the appeal of doing that if you were renting and really hated your landlord.

As if these plumbing troubles weren’t enough, this week we also had to pay taxes. And replace the brakes on our car. And schedule Jon for a root canal. On the first night of this plumbing disaster my neighbor called to ask about the Abominable Plumbing Trucks that had been parked in front of our house all day, and I joked that quite possibly this and everything else that has happened to us this week was the Lord’s way of calling us to repentance. He does this sort of thing, don’t you know? Those hurricanes happened because of those floating casinos, and San Francisco sits near a fault line BECAUSE OF THE GAYS! She laughed and said, “If you do find religion in all of this, you should totally come with us to the Orthodox church. We have much better food than the Mormons.”

Taxes, a toothache, car trouble and THE SEWER. Can’t think of a better way to spend a life’s savings. And yet, I know we’re going to get through this with our fists waving furiously at the sky.

  • La Dolce Lissa

    It was like a suburban recreation of Tiananmen square.

    LOL. I can just see a parade of snow plows rolling down the street and Jon climbing up to the door of one, “Get out of my neighborhood!”

  • JennJenn

    Hilarious until I got to the part about the sewer…then it become sad…no, more gross than sad.

    Here’s to being a homeowner!

  • Sarah

    Some weeks just suck giant donkey balls.

    Hang in there, sweetie. If anyone can handle this stuff, its you guys…look how much you’ve already been through!

  • Laurie

    To me, this is Murphy’s Law. If something bad can happen at the most inopportune time, it will. Murphy, that evil bastard, has hit me a few times, too. Sucks.

  • luckeygirl

    This is just wonderful! We’re closing on our first house next week…I’m already freaked out about it and now I bet we’re going to find a beach towel in the pipes. I didn’t need the sleep anyway. 😉

    Really sorry to hear about your week! And Jon’s root canal…ughh!

  • My Dad always has said, when you own stuff you’re always going to have headaches. I hate it when he is right.

    Wishing you all better times ahead….

  • Meg

    Is it possible that having a hole in your driveway was a secret dream tucked away in the back of your mind and that this is the universe’s way of fulfilling it? I mean, just think of the stuff you could keep in there!

  • Wow, I’m really intrigued by the Abominable Plumping Trucks! Are they like the hot dogs from the early nineties?

    🙂

  • Wow. First the Suburban Bliss household, and now the Dooce household.

    This is the first time I’ve actually felt grateful to have moved from a house to an apartment. Yikes!

    I’ll be pulling for you. (wince)

  • JennJenn

    That was just a hilarious post.

    I especially liked the part with Jon shaking his fist in the air, kinda like Homer with God…”Your pushing me baby!!”

  • I know I’m being punished for failing to condemn the gays, or celebrate Easter. My iguana died this week.

  • Hang in there. One year in a span of one week our then 7 month old daughter got Roseola and spiked a 105 temp which caused me to drive to the ER with my flashers on, our attic caught on fire and my husband got hit by a car on his motorcycle. Somehow we survived, but we all look back at that week and wonder how.

    Ugh, we had our septic tank pumped out last year and when that didn’t fix our problem the plumber came out and unclogged the beach towels that someone obviously flushed down our toilet, too. That was an expensive week as well….

    I’m not sure God’s calling you to repent, but if you decide to you can always go Baptist ya know….lots of potluck dinners and if you see people from church at the bar/Hooters/casino they don’t make eye contact. We see ’em at the casino all the time, but everyone mysteriously doesn’t recognize anyone.

  • SurprisingWoman

    Hey Jes, The Mormon food of choice would be jello salad. Green is the prefered flavor and I have heard rumors of carrots in it, but I have never seen it myself.

    Plumbing problems are the worst. Check with your homeowners insurance, but it is likely there is no help there for you. Sewage backup is a separate endorsement that probably wouldn’t cover even if you had purchased it (which if you haven’t I would suggest it.)

    Good luck on your week from hell. I think we just get these weeks to make us appreciate the other 51 in the year.

    Brenda

  • We had a similar problem not long after moving into our house. I got really freaked out wheh the guys said they pulled a large number of white mice out of the line (I mean, what the hell were the previous owners doing? Keeping a snake in the sewer line?) until I found out that’s plumberspeak for tampons. To make matters worse, this happened the same morning of a large picnic/party, so we had to rent port-a-potties for our guests. Classy!

  • *sigh* for once I’m happy I rent!

  • Amanda

    Sweet baby Jesus, I am NOT looking forward to owning a house. Unfortunately, that’ll be next Thursday. Yippie!

  • Anu

    Hopefully in a few years (maybe months) you’ll be able to look back and tell the story about when all hell broke loose one day in the Armstrong household. Lessons in patience take many forms I guess.

  • Erin

    Don’t you just love how all the big expensive (painful) things go wrong all at once?! It’s like when you run out of all your toiletries on the same day and have no deoderant, toothpaste, or tampons. It never fails. You’ll get through it though. Keep shaking those fists! 😉

  • Jenn

    Ugh, I just remembered that when we lived in our first apartment, our parking area was at the end of a dead end alley, so when the borough decided to plow it (which was maybe 1 in 5 times that it snowed) they left a giant pile of icy, slushy crap right in the middle of the parking spaces.

    Every time I hear a story like this, I get the urge to go down to the basement and start glaring at our pipes, in case they were thinking of clogging.

  • SO freaking funny. Sorry, but it is. We had to do it to our house too. And we ended up replacing the entire line. Alhtough they could have saved us like $1,400 by just telling us that first. But no they had to try shit first. Cause it could have worked.

    Sounds like a crappy week. I wouldn’t go to a church for food though. Even good food. Sounds like a trap to me.

  • apuraja

    maybe this is god’s way of punishing you heathens for running home internet businesses!! hahahah.. i guess god is a old school economy fan.. just kidding.

  • gdawg

    Heather – check with your homeowners insurance. We had our water line break between the house and the street. The insurance company covered what needed to be done to diagnosis the problem, but wouldn’t cover the actual fixing of it. It’s worth a shot – saved us a few hundred dollars.

  • jes

    orthodox food IS better than mormon food. but, do mormon’s have a certain food? i mean, when mormon’s get together, is there A Food that must be present? like a beancurd casserole or little vienna sausages?

  • Eek. Rough week. You’re bound to have something good happen next, because you totally deserve it after a week like that. I’m sure all of us can relate to having a bad week like that at one time or another. Doesn’t make it any better though, does it?

  • toddlermama

    In our family, that’s called “The Immigrant Fist Shake,” in honor of my Polish mother-in-law. One Thanksgiving when she cut into a cake to find it filled with pudding and not buttercream like she had ordered, she marched down her street in Brooklyn with the offending cake in one hand and the other fist shaking the whole way to the bakery at the end of the street. They replaced the cake on Thanksgiving Eve. May your sewer line replacement be as entertaining and go as swimmingly. 😉

  • The EXACT same thing happened at Chez Nelson a little over a month ago. It was disgusting and we were, for the first time, glad we were renting. I am sorry to hear about the fact that you guys have to deal with it. It sucks and sucks and eggh. But then it’s awesome once it’s fixed.
    If you need a beverage of the adult persuasion, please drop us a line. We understand and have sympathy and empathy for your troubles, bein’ tax payin’, sewage troubled, bad brakes in need of a changin’ sinners ourselves.

    Best,
    k and p

  • Folklore

    Ouch. I feel your pain, being a relatively new homeowner myself.

    Psychotic neighbors and/or landlords that will drive you crazy

    vs.

    The endless parade of improvements/fixes/random acts of destruction to your home that will drive you crazy

    Hang in there, Heather. Any way we can help? Clicking, paypal, whatever? You’ve more than earned a few bucks from me, having helped me kill many a corporate workday reading your archives. Thanks

  • saywha?

    Maybe you guys should poo in ziplock baggies, and put the white mice in there as well. Only liquid down the toilet.
    I have been completely paranoid of this experience since two of my friends have had basements full of sewage this year. That is nasty.
    I am investing in baggies for the whole family.

  • Shash

    When I read the post on Jon’s site the other day, I winced because I knew what you were going through. We here at casa de crazedmommy are having plumbing issues too. It must be related to taxes and the season. Our lisr isn’t as long as yours, but it’s just long enough for us to lament any home improvment plans we may have had.

    Hang in there!

    P.S. What are your thoughts on arranged marriages? My 4 year old son is in love with your daughter via your site. Just thought I’d ask. 🙂

  • katy66

    I feel ya sistah. My handyman hubby went to replace a bad flush on our ancient toilet on Saturday. HE then discovered we would have to replace the whole toilet. Then while removing said toilet, he disvoered the sub floor was rotted out. So then, he replaced the sub floor. He then notice somthing with the pipes, then found out that pipe connecters and such the like in our bathroom, were discontinued in the 1930’s (our house is 120 years old.) So we have to replace all of the pipes. NOw we have to replace wall tiling.

    Sometimes I dream of livin alone and not caring about a bad flusher on the toilet.

  • that SUCKS!!!!
    whenever someone is pulling large foreign objects out of your sewer, you’re barraged with a variety of emotions. Strong fascination, panic, despair… I’ve managed apartment buildings for a few years now so I’ve had to experience this on a larger scale. The nicer thing about it is that my company pays the bills and not me…

    We bought a house last December and, in January, I came home at 8pm to find our boiler completely shut down. It’s gas so I only screwed around with things on it I knew about, but I couldn’t get it working, nor did I want to blow the house up by messing with things I didn’t understand. AND my 9mo son had massive viral gastro-enteritis at the time. So we called a plumber we showed up within a half hour, stood in front of the boiler, grabbed a knob, turned in 180 degrees, and said “well, there you go!”
    he then handed me an invoice for $250 and was on his way.
    LUCKILY, we have a warantee on our house so Century21 covered it, but we had to pay it and then get a check in the mail.
    And yes, I did memorize what that “plumber” did and put a tag on the knob for next time.

  • Is there no way the city bears any responsibility? Usually the workers on your line are pretty good about getting some of the cost charged back to the city. Damn it, someone should help pay. That’s it. Begin the Save Our Sewer campaign, and start auctioning yourselves off as dinner companions on eBay. Seriously, and if you brought Leta, you could charge even more. She might even eat a full meal. Seriously though, if everyone shot you a few PayPal bucks, we could have this cleared up in no time at all. Commenters challenge! Who’s with me?

    Good golly, this sucks. Think of it as a period in which your beautiful sailboat has run upon a sandbar, and you will come loose soon, to sail (not sink!).

  • Last year, we had to call the guys who deal with septic tanks. We bought the house a few years ago, and thought it was time to get it checked out when things were a little weird. My father in law thought it was probably all the tampons from the teenage girls in the previous family. Turns out the previous parents used a LOT of condoms, and flushed them all. Loved the look on the septic guy’s face – I felt so dirty even though they weren’t ours, and I’m married to boot. Never mind the fact that I’ve been pregnant most of the time we’ve been here (number 3 is on the way)
    🙂

  • literatigirl

    I think God’s a little confused. In order for the whole ‘wager with the devil’ thing to work, the subject of the wager needs to be a believer, e.g., Job.

    And this too shall pass, dudes.

  • katy66

    I feel ya sistah. My handyman hubby went to replace a bad flush on our ancient toilet on Saturday. HE then discovered we would have to replace the whole toilet. Then while removing said toilet, he disvoered the sub floor was rotted out. So then, he replaced the sub floor. He then notice somthing with the pipes, then found out that pipe connecters and such the like in our bathroom, were discontinued in the 1930’s (our house is 120 years old.) So we have to replace all of the pipes. NOw we have to replace wall tiling.

    Sometimes I dream of livin alone and not caring about a bad flusher on the toilet.

  • ShimmyShea

    We have a problem with tree-roots in our sewer lines, too…our next door neighbor has two GIGANTIC trees that I think aren’t even allowed in city limits anymore (they are that gigantic) and she refuses to cut them down. I have some powder type crap I flush down the toilet twice a year to help, even though I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to do. And speaking of which, I think I forgot to do it this past time. Ack!

  • katy66

    I feel ya sistah. My handyman hubby went to replace a bad flush on our ancient toilet on Saturday. HE then discovered we would have to replace the whole toilet. Then while removing said toilet, he disvoered the sub floor was rotted out. So then, he replaced the sub floor. He then notice somthing with the pipes, then found out that pipe connecters and such the like in our bathroom, were discontinued in the 1930’s (our house is 120 years old.) So we have to replace all of the pipes. NOw we have to replace wall tiling.

    Sometimes I dream of livin alone and not caring about a bad flusher on the toilet.

  • Six years of playing long-distance landlord to tenants in my old condo scared me off of homeownership for sometime.

    You guys are going to be fine; you have too much on the ball both individually and as a team not to. But man, I hear and validate your transitory pain. There are many nasty things to have to spend money on, but plumbing and taxes are down there with the worst of them.

  • does it help if we all start furiously clicking your links?

  • mmoxxie

    my heart goes out to you. i think you should take that vacation to gaylesbian island now. i’ll buy your tickets.

  • EmmeJemme

    For the first time in my life I’m glad I rent. I’m so sorry for the week you’ve had. No one deserves a week like that, especially people as cool as you guys.
    Doesn’t the city or insurance cover stuff like that?They did my my parents lines broke…huh.

    Oh, and the Mormon food of choice besides Jello salad, which comes in many forms and colors, is Funeral/Wedding Potatoes: hasbrowns in a cream sauce smothered in cheese and corn flakes and baked to perfection… GLAAAAAAARGH…..(falls out of chair, twitching and drooling)….Sooooo Goood…..GLAAAAAARGH!!!! Why did I leave?? WHY!?

  • Kung Foodie

    Ha ha…isn’t life grand?

    Our car was stolen last weekend while I was shopping. It’s a great feeling walking around with a $200 cart load of consumer crap wondering if you’re totally high and just lost your mind. The cops actually found someone driving it two days later, but it cost us $500 to get it back from the towing company (double the crime victim fun). We’ll be spending more to replace all the items stripped from it, but at least the police rocovery report didn’t classify it as a “burned hulk”. Yippee!

  • I also thought I would mention that Green Jello is just the start of Mormon Food. There’s also Frog-Eye Salad and “Funeral” potatos… but for all the wacky things Mormons have done in the past, you will still never catch one eating crow.

  • mediaguy74

    I have 2 words for you… Homeowners Insurance

  • Deb

    I am so thrilled to hear that my family is not alone in the Universe of Hell We Are Currently Experiencing. An ironic place in the current Hell is the fact that we cannot afford to buy a house and are forced to find a rental house where we will continue to throw away thousands of dollars a month to live in. But hey, I can call the landlord to fix the sewer right…..Problem is, what if they WON”T or just DON’T.
    Silver lining is you guys are taking care of it all. No pentanance…just life…..and you have each other…AWWWWW

  • “And yet, I know we’re going to get through this with our fists waving furiously at the sky.”

    I’d be waving my middle finger instead of my fist.

    Keep on trucking mama!

  • madelaine

    take a picture! 🙂
    best of luck

  • Flieswithoutwings

    Maybe it would be better if you looked at these things as INVESTMENTS. Taxes: Investing in your country. Sewer Line: Investing in your home for equity or resale value. But who replaces the brakes on their car? Isn’t that why God invented bushes? Put’er in neutral and play it where it lies. If you tie one end of a string to a tooth and the other to a doorknob and give it a SLAM! the tooth comes right out and the infection drains just like the dentist done did it. I’m not worried about you guys. You’re survivors.

  • My sister accidentally flushed a dish rag down the toilet and it cost my parents a small fortune for Roto Router to come & clear out the line.

    The Roto Router guy also found old tampons that got caught on tree roots, and lemme tell you how embarassing it is to have a plumbler hold up old tampons & say “you might want to stop flushing them down the toilet.”

  • Urs

    i’ve accidentally left my car in the street ONCE during the winter and of course it snowed and the sonofabitch plowed all the snow around my car so that i couldn’t get out. ONCE! i feel your pain jon!

    p.s. i can’t fathom your sewege problems because i thought you couldn’t poop heather! does jon poop for two? (you really don’t have to answer that).