An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • Sorry about that, dude – I’ve been totally busy. And I don’t make it to Utah too often. Will tell Dad you’re having poo issues. – JHC

  • 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 anser that).

  • Charlie

    So your house is constipated, too?

  • aprilbob6

    Oh, you laugh…

    Our toilet on the 1st floor hasn’t worked for a month, since his mother came and mopped our floors (very thoughtful) and then flushed the dirty water down the toilet (not so thoughtful)… Just this week we managed to fish a RAG out of the toilet that was dumped in there with the dirty water. So people DO flush stuff like that down in the plumbing.

  • Hang in there, Dooce! At least this is good fodder for your blog, right? 😉

  • Rock on. You sound like you’re handling it well.

    The best part about having all the plumbing trucks and digging is that Leta should be seriously entertained by it all.

    When we had something similar happen, it took all of strength to keep my then two-year old son from jumping into the hole with the diggers to help out.

  • Oh the joys of homeownership. Less than a month after I moved into my house, water started draining into my yard (it’s so cute to have toilet paper coming out of a sewer grate in your front yard).

    Luckily the city paid for everything, but a backhoe tractor thing and three huge trucks were involved. The whole street and my driveway were blocked.There was a man with a jackhammer and an 8 by 4 foot huge hole that appeared to be 4 or 5 foot deep and full of something totally ungodly.

    The dude looked at me and was all, “Swimming Pool!” Gross.

    At 10pm that night they were still there. Now added to the previous racket were huge spotlights shining everywhere. I, the new neighbor, was listening to a dinosaur with headlights ravage the front lawn at 11pm and thinking about exactly how much my neighbors hate me.

    Our atomic superhero dumps were too much for the sewer lines to handle. At least I didn’t have to pay taxes that week though. That’s rough.

  • Pete Eisenmann

    Unfuckin’ believable! I was laughing and swearing and crying at the same time. Being a homeowner has it’s highs and lows. These are pretty low lows. What does Chuck think of all of this traffic, and people, and digging, and stuff in the basement? I know we love to do a “stream of consciousness” dog narrative for our dogs when weird shit happens – it gives a us a humorous look and feel when we are losing it. You guys will make and and laugh. Later.


  • I’m SO clicking all your ads today. I hope it helps. I also hope everything gets solved – and quick!

  • That totally stinks (pun intended)

    I had to laugh at the Orthodox comment. They really do have great food.

  • MeAhna

    See what happens when you put things on your dog’s head? You get punished….hahahahaha! (kidding)

    I am sorry this is all happening, but I believe when something bad happens, something even better happens afterwards. And with all of your luck you’re experienceing now, just think of what you have to look forward to.

  • Ah, the inevitable ‘it all comes at once’ rule. This month we have had a big scratch resprayed on our 3-week old new car, new wing mirror on said car when some unruly bastard damaged that too, 2 dental visits, duty fees on imported parcels and vet fees for our 2x cats. It couldn’t have happened gradually over the past couple of months when it’s easier to pay for it all, oh no…

    Now all we need is a mishap with the plumbing…

  • on the bright side, there isnt much left that can go wrong, it can only get better from here

  • Alfina Vague

    I feel your pain. I am moving out of my current apartment because they refuse to fully repair the sewer line. The plumbing has backed up into my bathroom four times in the last six months! I have wished so many times that I had the power to call out two different plumbers who would, you know, actually attempt to fix the problem.

    Best of luck with everything!

  • mikes074

    Dooce, tough luck week. Beware though calling the insurance company, is always a price to pay later when they pay for something. Besides how pissed would you be if they deny it then call back in a month to see if you fixed the problem? They do such things.

  • jemima

    Gah! What an awful day! Well, tell the plumbers just to install an itty-bitty cheap sewer line, since only 1/3 of your household will actually use it.

  • I first read about this at Blurbomat. I really sympathize.

    And like Karen Rani said, I’ll actually click some of your ads today in hopes that it helps. That’s a lot of stuff to deal with in one week.

    I’ll keep my beach towels stored safely away.

  • This is a scarier story than the Exorcist to me. (I just bought a house.) Sorry about your avalanche of expenses, Heather. It can’t be God’s justice though or Donald Rumsfeld would at least have lost a few limbs by now.

  • NeoCleo

    Must be the time of year. I just found out I need a third root canal which won’t be covered by insurance and on the heels of that received a letter from the IRS which unfortunately was not a refund. They want me to pay $13,840 in back taxes and penalties for the 2004 tax year. Now I just need something on my car or house to go wrong and that will make it three!

  • beccola

    Sorry to hear about your troubles, hang in there!

    Just to clarify, in the South, when there’s a tornado coming, everyone hauls ass to the grocery store for bread, milk, condoms and beer. That whispering thing usually happens when someone’s husband has been fooling around with the girl who sells beer on the golf course.

  • saw this on jon’s site WITH the pictures… and I know it’s not POOP… so sorry… I hate taxes too!

  • Andrew W

    Yay Orthodox! Way to represent in Salt Lake. We do have great food–instead of celebrating Easter with chocolate bunnies, we celebrate it with shots of vodka with the deacons at 2am Sunday morning.

    Plumbing sucks in the worst way. At my very first condo board meeting ever last month, I asked if there was any money in the budget to find and fix the leak in our building’s shared line. The board president stared at me and said, “It doesn’t leak if it doesn’t get backed up. It doesn’t get backed up if people don’t put food down their drains. People don’t put food down their drains if they don’t have a disposal. The *neighborly* thing to do would be to take out your disposal.” :-/

  • Noelle… mmm church food. My current parish is like no prize winner… I wont even tell you what they fed the bishop last night. I mean… lord.. that’s humility… eating what the DRE fed him. Then he thanked her publically for her hospitality. Talk about the compassion of Christ right there LOL. But really… The Greek Orthodox cathedral has a greek food festival every year, and my husband and I HAVE to hit that sh-t. *drool*. They could open a resteraunt and fund all kinds of funnness like underground parking garages or nefarious plots to take over the world. I always have to hit the Indian food festival at the end of the summer. My sister and I just like… dont eat for a day so that we can hit every booth, then watch a Ballywood movie in the park while devouring our spoils. Churches that cook food for me are my favorite churches. Oh yeah, and I make funnle cakes for God every year at our festival. And they iz gewd. Especially with icecream on top. *drool*

  • Yikes. What a week. I wish you strength Armstrongs.

    On a lighter note, doesn’t anybody else find it suspicious that recently Heather wrote about having overcome the constipation problem and now this?
    Egad woman! You broke the sewer.

  • This is a letter I received from my vacationing boss:


    It would’ve been less expensive to go to the Outer Banks than staying home this vacation. On top of the $4,500 for the new roof:

    Monday: Root Canal $825
    Paint and supplies 100

    Wednesday: Car service/brakes 380
    electrical work
    in basement (outlets) 450

    Thursday: New gutter 312

    Friday: Going to finger lakes and
    paying $3 a gallon for gas . … PRICELESS

    Hang in there.

  • Ugh, I totally I feel for you. A few months ago water started coming out of the WALL while my boyfriend was taking a shower (I am unmarried and live with my boyfriend, and sometimes we even have sex, (although not as often as he would like to!) so I also experience the wrath of God). I thought the house was going to collapse. We knocked a hole in the wall to find the leaking pipe… and then my cat jumped through the hole and got trapped under the floor. Keep Chuck away from the sinks! Sometimes I wish we were still renting a crappy apartment, then we could just call the landlord to fix everything (and wait a month).

  • sprklnld

    i went to my grandfather-in-law’s funeral in utah and even though i was warned, i was suprised that at the reception afterwards there really was just a ham, some potatoes and about 30 different kinds of jello salad. and water – no ice. i’m not complaining, i just didn’t beleive it would be true. ohio is similar to the mormons in that any large gathering such as a wedding or funeral the food choices are ALWAYS mostaccioli (also fittingly and commonly referred to there as sewer pipes), new potatoes and green beans. at weddings there is always a cookie table, too.

    i am sorry about your plumbing issues.

  • marianne

    Would just visiting your website a bunch of times a day be enough to help or would it be better if I clicked on all the ads? Money stress is so scary, I hate it and I hate that this is happening to you.

  • Raughy

    Have you been letting Leta play with beach towels? Our last plumbing emergency was when the terlet backed up, and valiant husband was unable to set it free. We called Mr. Plumbing Rooter, or whoever, and he came with his magical sewer cleaning tools, and found: a hairbrush, a toy truck, lots of paper, a fisher price “little people” dog, and a beanie baby. Turns out then 2 year old daughter Kathryn had been recreationally flushing things down the toilet to see what happens. Good luck with the abominables, and how unfair is it that you have to PAY someone to give you a root canal? Surely there is an S&M dental club somewhere where people pay YOU to give you a root canal? Maybe not in Salt Lake City.

  • choice

    After reading Jon’s equally amusing post about this situation, and viewing the photos (awesome), I am glad to see that you have stopped crying and started laughing. I was worried when the daily photo collection had morphed from sunny yellow to melancholy green to just plain blue. I guess that new tile and carpet will have to wait until the Fall. Others have said it, but this suffering is temporary. I, too, will be happily clicking on your ads throughout the next few weeks in hopes that it sends a little revenue your way. Just know that there are a lot of us out here raising our fists and screaming at the sky in sympathy and empathy.

  • You are SO lucky.
    My husband would have his uncle bring the backhoe over and they would try to fix it themselves. One time he was supposed to replace a rotten board and I came home to find my kitchen had a 1×10′ hole in it. You could see the ground! It stayed theat way for weeks.
    Everytime the backhoe comes over it blows hoses and we have to replace the hydrolic fluid which has leaked all over my yard. Maybe that’s why nothing will grow now?
    You buys your ticket you takes your chances.
    Good luck with the repairings!

  • It always tends to pour, doesn’t? I’ve had occassions like that more than once. It always works itself out. Just remember to breathe. And that hiding in small spaces does not remove the problems- believe me, I’ve tried.

  • I used to live in your neighborhood as a child – the sewage system has been rotten for decades! I have a good handful of memories in which I sat near the bottom of the basement stairs, watching my mother in her swimsuit, donning rubber, knee-high “Sporto” boots, plunging away at the toilet, standing in several inches of backed up sewage water that had flooded our entire basement… The very first time it had happened was of course the worst. I remember hearing my mother sob, as she surveyed all the sewage soaked storage boxes stashed near the washer/dryer.
    Hardly ever, did I witness my mother cursing, but while she’d plunge away, I could always faintly hear a nice string of obscenities flowing from her mouth.

    A beach towel? man – hope for good luck in that this’ll be the worst of it!

  • cindyloohoo

    Contrary to popular belief, landlords are not required to repair everything in most states. If your roof blows off, and you are a renter, the landlord does not have to fix it if he/she does not have homeowners insurance. Most do make repairs, of course, but by statute in many states, they do not have to.

    Here in Illinois, they have to provide working heat, but it is up to the tenant to keep their own electricity on. I rented for years, and have had to pay for some of my own plumbing repairs, so, renting does not mean that you just pay monthly rent, and the landlord pays for anything that goes wrong.

  • Dear God, Heather, that’s awful.

    You should make RotoRooter, Jon’s dentist, Midas and the IRS buy big-ass ads on your site. The least they could do after all you’re forking over to them.

  • We’re actually going through similar problems.

    The other week, I got a voicemail message from the contractor renovating the bathroom in our condo.

    “Call me. We have a poop problem.”

    Apparently, a sewer line that runs beneath our condo was leaking, and had semi-flooded our crawspace.


    Called HOA. They said that this has happened before and that they would be sending out the “Mold specialists”. Mold Specialists? Not good.

    Let’s just say, two weeks, 10 men, 5 pumps, 3 dehumidifiers, and a ton load of buckets later and they’re still trying to dry out the air space.

    Good news? No mold. Mold would have sent me to an early grave.

    Wish you the best with your own poop problem. Wishing us both low, very low bills. 🙂

  • Portia

    Thank you Heather for the reality check… just when I thought I was truly having a bad day, yours is worse. Okay, your whole week has been worse. Maybe even the month… better yet, the year.

    My hat’s off to the Armstrongs. Hang in there.

    Love your blog! Hugs to Miss Leta! Did I mention I have a three-and-a-half-year-old-son with one hell of a college fund (courtesy of the grandparents)? And, we’re also anti-organized religion?

  • That’s awful. I too will be clicking on all of your ads for moral support.

    This is only somewhat related, but I know Jamie will appreciate it. When I was in 8th grade I convinced my parents to let me have a huge birthday party in my backyard. We hired a DJ, catering, the works. Our cesspool chose that night to overflow (all over the backyard) – and was surely exacerbated by the 100 teenagers using my bathroom. Instead of being considered the “best party of the year”, my 14th birthday will always be remembered as “the party that stank like shit”. Good for the ego at 14, too, let me tell you.

    Good luck!

  • amandab

    That reminds me of when my family was having sewer problems, and so my dad, who used to work on/in sewers (I never asked for much detail on that issue–just did not need to know) put a manhole in our front yard so he would always have easy access in the future, just in case, you know. I lived in minnesota, and for some reason, the snow always melted over the manhole cover. huh.

  • Noelle

    From my experience with churches throught the years, the best food is in a Sikh Gurdwara. There is always vegetarian Indian food on hand for anyone who happens by. You usually have to remove your shoes, cover your head, and eat it on the floor, though. Still, if you ever come across one, you’ll find much tastier food than the standard juice and cookies at most Christian churches.

    Oh, and thanks for the brilliant idea. The week before I move out of my place, I’m going to flush all of my old rags down the toilet. That should make up for all the nasty suprises my landlady sprung on me after I moved. Good luck with that!

  • Mack’sMom

    In a house where only one person poops how could their be plumbing issues? The pipes were starving for attention!

    As to the hole in your driveway, a perfect place to put the dead bodies!!! You weren’t trying to flush them were you??

  • JC

    wow. good luck with all that. i’ll click an ad on my way out to contribute to your available fundage.

  • My parents only use their basement for storage. So when the sewage line backed up, they didn’t notice it until the smell began drifting into the upstairs. The plumbing people estimate that the sewage had to be collecting for like five to seven days before it drifted up through the air conditioning system. The entire basement had about four to six inches of raw sewage in it. Took rotor rutera week to fix it. Turned out the company that redid the sidewalk covered over a vent with rocks and stuff so it backed up. We tried to contact them, but the fly-by-night bastards were gone. There’s nothing more unpleaseent than walking through the sewage while you haul everything out of the basement and put it out for the trash. It’s been an inspiration to me to never collect stuff that needs to be stored that isn’t a decoration for christmas or halloween.

  • for the cost, either home equity line or refinance your mortgage adding in the money the plumbing work costs and take the excess cash to pay the bills. That way you have a lower interest than a credit line and you can pay it off in teeny tiny payments over several years so it packs less of a punch.

  • dubltrubl

    We had water in our (carpeted) basement earlier this week and it had me scheming about selling our house and becoming renters again. When stuff like that comes up it definitely sucks. Best of luck in getting it taken care of quickly and being able to move on.

  • JC

    wow. good luck with all that. i’ll click an ad on my way out to contribute to your available fundage.

  • flytrixie

    This too, shall pass. At least you guys aren’t the ones working in the White Mice Hole.

    I like the idea of the auction on e-bay. Couldja offer a playdate with the former Congressman? I’ll bet you could cover your sewer expenses with that one.

  • The fun part comes when the plumbers ask you if you want to see what they’ve extracted from your sewer lines. Go ahead and get a mask and goggles so you can say YES!

    We found all kinds of Legoes, a shoe that had been missing for a long time, and a necklace.

    No, we didn’t keep any of it, but it was strangely exciting to know where it had been.

  • Although the motive is still unclear…

    Chuck knows about the beach towel.

  • Oh man Heather… When it rains it pours! I hope the good stuff starts coming soon to balance it out. You guys hang in there!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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