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.