An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

The Armstrong Plumbing Disaster

Jon and I are in the middle of our own personal hell as the outside of our house is swarmed with city workers and plumbers and loud machines that have little regard for children’s nap schedules. Our sewer line replacement didn’t begin until Monday morning because certain city permits had to be filed including one that would allow the plumbing company to block off the entire street and dig a swimming pool right in front of our driveway. I asked them if they could throw in a diving board considering how much this is costing us, and one of them scowled at me for trying to make light of such important work. If you ask me, dude takes shit way too seriously.

Jon has been taking notes through every step of this process while I’ve been inside reviewing the finer points of an anxiety attack. I have the excessive nighttime drinking part down, and the incessant pacing while gripping the hair on the back of my head, but I haven’t yet had the chance to throw a heavy object at someone who doesn’t deserve it. I keep waiting for Jon to open the door with a heavy sigh to bring me the bad news that they’ve found something else wrong, that it’s going to cost us more than the incomprehensible estimate they gave us last week, that they’ll take our house plus a down payment of one kidney.

But he says the lead plumber working on this problem is an expert in the field and everything is going as textbook as possible. There is a very sick part of me that feels a sense of pride in the fact that a Sewer Line Expert found objects in our pipe that he had never seen before. You can imagine the things he’s pulled out of the ground during his tenure, he’s an expert after all. Think about all the things you’ve flushed down your toilet: that dead goldfish, an old Steely Dan cassette tape your husband thought he’d lost, a neighbor’s cat.

But until last week he had never been confronted with a seemingly impossible violation of physics. HOW DOES SOMEONE FLUSH A BEACH TOWEL? I have no idea, but for the rest of my life I will brag about the fact that it happened here.

Jon posted about everything he’s learned here and here, recommended reading if you live in an old house and like to use a lot of toilet paper (raises hand and feels a bit ashamed considering the relative smallness of my ass, admits it does seem a bit indulgent if not totally unnecessary, but doesn’t want to know if you are the type of person who skimps on toilet paper, that type of information wouldn’t damage the friendship but would definitely determine whether or not we could eat at the same table).

  • Rumblelizard

    You and Jon need to stop taking such gorgeous pictures if you want us to believe that your disaster is really a disaster! Let’s get some pictures of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, here. Otherwise, it all looks like a high-concept art project focusing on the Beauty of Construction.

    As a homeowner, though, I shudder and break into the cold sweats when I think about going through what you and Jon are facing. Please pass the vodka. And a bucket-sized cocktail shaker.

  • WHERE ARE YOU POOPING throughout this fiasco?!?!

  • susan @ yow

    You haven’t lived until you have clogged toilet at work. The water pressure is very weak, ok???!!!!

  • dreama

    Kudos for the beach towel! My boyfriend once rented a room in an older house his friend had just purchased a month prior. Being a money pit home, the first thing to go was the plumbing when the toilets refused to flush and the dishwasher was washing dishes with shitwater. The guilty culprit…dozens and dozens of used condoms! The guys each swore that neither had yet to ‘christen the home.’ Get this…the previous owner was a sweet, little ole elderly lady. Grandma was gettin’ her freak on! Hang in there, Heather!

  • flushable wipes, ahhh, that felt good.

  • Highly recommended for minimal use of toilet paper: a latex or vinyl glove for wiping hand, the type they use in hospitals. Very cheap at most drugstores. I discovered this when I developed a bad case of dermatitis on my hands and was told by my dermatologist to use gloves to avoid getting my hands wet. As the brochure the doc gave me says: “Wash your gloves, not your hands!”

  • Lin

    I’m all over your joint sewer postings and the only way I can make you feel better is one little six letter word…SEPTIC. Yeah, it’s worth typing in caps when it comes to the vagueries of a SEPTIC system. We’ve had it camera(ed). Turns out we have two SEPTIC systems. Who knew? Both root-clogged and using old clay pipes. Some of the clay is now plastic due to a massive digging up the front of the house job but there’s nothing like the whiff of a suspect septic system on a summer’s day (here in Topanga). Nothing like it on the day after sodding Xmas, either. This stuff can make you crazy and my sympathies are with you. ACK.

  • Molicious

    I’m a wrapper personally. AS in I wrap the toilet paper around my hand several times. So as to not make actual contact with my skin on my hand and my skin on my butt.

    I have to buy the HUGE rolls of toilet paper. It’s not cheap.

  • Why in the world would someone need to wipe their butt with a beach towel? Now THAT seems a bit excessive.

  • There was, of course, a much cheaper solution to all this.

    Stop pooping.

    But no. Nobody ever listens to me.

  • We had a similar thing happen to the house I lived in my last year of college. It was an old (1910) house and was not in the best condition by any means. One day the toilets stopped flushing and we had to get a plumber out to pretty much dig up the entire front yard. Lucky the landlord covered it 🙂

    On a separate and lighter subject, what do you think about Britney already knocked up with child #2?? Do you still harbor fond feelings towards her, even after her career (and I think her regard for common hygenic endeavours, such as showering or combing her hair) is sinking faster than the Titanic?

    Just curious 🙂

    Good luck to both you and John! (and sorry for the uber-long comment!)

  • Samantha

    All hail the Backhoe! How many time do you get to say that in a life? I will add my wishes for a speedy conclusion.

  • shan

    I will have a scotch night in honor of THE BEACH TOWEL.

  • I require an excessive amount of toilet paper.

    I hate hand to [fill in the blank] penetration. It doesn’t matter how many times you wash your hands afterward; the idea that it touched your bare skin-with total disregard to the fact that it CAME from your bare skin-burns itself into your brain and stays there…well, until the next time you wipe.

    You then remember what you now call (to yourself, of course) “The Incident” and vow to never scrimp again. Thus, the need for an excessive amount.

  • Heather

    A towel. Wow. That’s better than the G.I. Joe my son tried to flush last month. I will do now what I did then. Pour myself a double from the bottle of 20-yr-old single malt we got for a wedding present and salute you!

  • As long as the beach towel and the cat were two unrelated flushes, I’d say you’re okay.

  • You know, it’s hard to sympathize with your money woes when the answer is so obvious–Chuck and Leta need to stop being so lazy and get jobs already.

  • Metadoocil – a steady diet of Dooce is good for the soul and the colon.

  • Pammy


    Thanks for opening up the comments. Your site is more entertaining than ever! Best of luck with the plumbing disaster.

  • If memory serves, a few months back you made the connection between eating more and being able to poop. All this megaplumbing seems an awfully high price to pay for regularity.

  • It seems odd to be me that someone that never poops would have a problem with a backed up sewer. What a twist of irony! As for the beach towel in the sewer line, are you serious? Someone actually flushed a beach towel?!? I can imagine a hand towel, or maybe a maxi pad, as I have seen some stupid people trying to do both of these things. But a beach towel? That is impressive!

    Now I am scared. I would think that something like sewer would be the city’s responsibility. Don’t they pay for any of this for you?

    I was just thinking – if Leta is anything like my niece, maybe she is into flushing weird things. My niece once attempted to flush a tube of lipstick and a bottle of Kandoo soap. Maybe Leta has been sneaking beach towels out of the hall closet and has been flushing them. Just for shits and giggles.

  • blondeinthemidwest

    Oh that seriously sucks…I am so sorry!!

    BUT, I love the Komatsu “advertisement.” I have worked for a heavy equipment company for almost a year and would have not known what that “big ass machine” was a year ago!! Gotta love a hoss of an excavator sitting in your lawn!!!

  • Hrm. Thinking I can never live in an old house now. My ass is WAY too big.

    Oh and sorry about the beach towel. It was the only thing that would keep the cat down.

  • Stefanie

    This is the type of shit (no pun intended) that makes you want to go back to seventh grade where the only problem you had was to check the yes or no box and send the note back. Hope everything gets wrapped up quickly for you! Oh, if you find my 6 carat diamond ring, I’d really like it back.

  • BabyKEsq

    What is it with men and that God awful band, Steely Dan?

  • Don’t tell me you have still got the milli vanilli casette… isn’t that something you would be wiping off your ass in the first place? Yeah… I’ve still got mine to… it can be tough to let go of “Girl you know it’s true.”

  • Annie

    I can’t believe I am listening to Steely Dan today for the first time in a long while. Then I read this post.
    Happy Pooping Armstrongs. But I’m not flushing my Dan.

  • Stefanie

    This is the type of shit (no pun intended) that makes you want to go back to seventh grade where the only problem you had was to check the yes or no box and send the note back. Hope everything get wrapped up quickly for you! Oh, if you find my 6 carat diamond ring, I’d really like it back.

  • Sunni

    For future reference, when Leta starts potty training; those kiddoo wipes that are advertised as flushable…….are NOT flushable. I learned this the hard, and expensive way. Consider yourself warned.

  • This whole epidsode is really scaring me. That’s all.

  • episode, episode

  • Nifle

    For record, I have already noted that I read your blog toasted in the evenings. Also, to remind the precious readers of Dooce, that it was noted by another reader, that I was drunk before 8 pm CST. So, Heather, drink on to your plumbing problems…just think of it as practice for when Leta starts to date!

    As for the toilet paper melee, you must always use enough paper to clean your bottom (no matter the size) because, lets face it, no one wants a runway in their undies!

    PS…You should set up a Pay Pal account for the sewer..I’d send you a dollar!

  • God Heather, I’m sorry that you guys have to go through this. Yay for beach towels though I guess? ugh.

    And total compulsive wiper over here.

  • madison52578

    I am a long time Dooce lurker, but I had to come out and comment on this one…We could be friends and eat at the same table because I also use huge amounts of toilet paper. I feel it is only right to cushion and pamper my ass, no one else is going to do it. Of course I also have a two and a half year old daughter that repeatedly beats on the bathroom door while I am trying to find my sanity…so I feel it is only right that I rip off sheet by sheet to delay the inevitable of opening the door and facing her. That is why I go through half a roll of TP per bathroom visit.

  • Ok, so I am dying to know how much it is really costing. Are we talking tens of thousands? Gimme a hint!

  • Substitute the Steely Dan tape for a Milli Vanilli one and we’ll be set. Glass houses and stones, baby.

  • This is my husband’s worst nightmare. This is the reason he refuses to buy an old home next time (which should be in the next few months). He actually used old pipes and plumbing as an example.

    I love old homes *sniffle*. If only he would be willing to do what Jon recommended, and get the lines bladed every year, but that’s doubtful.

  • Now that I think about it, another piece of advice they gave us during Septic Tank Disaster 2003 was not only to limit our use of toilet paper (resulting in the “Five Squares Per Poop” rule at our house, applicable to all males), but also NOT to use any of that tp with aloe and stuff on it. So it’s plain ole Cottonelle over here.

  • Martin

    My pleasingly large glass of particularly potent Italian red wine is raised in sympathy to you. Hope everything is sorted soon!

  • Mack’sMom

    I am actually feeling sad that we just recently moved into our new house. On the last day of living in our apartment I would have SO tried to flush a towel just for the sake of DOOCE!

    Have you actually seen the towel?? Does it look familar or is it from before you owned the home????

  • I overuse toilet paper every, single day. When I lived with my birth father, he would make us use ONE SHEET from the roll, and then we had to put it in the trash after we wiped rather than flush. He is on a septic system and VERY ANAL. I am certain this is where my over-use came from.

  • Heather, dude. Steely Dan is one of the best bands of all time, amen. Deacon Blues? Yes, please.

    Gratuitous tp usage is a necessary evil. I have an 10 ply minium before I “go in”. I hope that you are able to poop in your house, because not being able to poop in your own house is intolerable. Here’s hoping the plumbers work mucho magic.

  • I’ll bet your neighbors are just LOVING you right now!

    It took some serious dedication to flush a beach towel. It would never go down in just 1 flush. The mystery flusher had to stand there for a good 5 or 6 flushes to get that puppy down there.

  • Toilet paper. Ick!

    After photographing nude bodies for more than 8 years I have a pet peeve about toilet paper. I’d tell you the stories but now is not the time or the place. Let’s just leave it at this:

    Does anyone ever stop to think that moisture is usually necessary for proper cleaning? I mean, think about it… would you clean up any other sticky substance with a dry towel? Why would you clean your ass with dry toilet paper? If you really want to be clean, invest in some flushable baby wipes! I have some sitting on the back of the toilet in every bathroom in my house.

    I guarantee you, after you’ve done your duty and then done your best with TP, take out a cottonelle and run it across yourself once. You’ll never ever ever have the cottonelle come away perfectly clean.

    Think about that one for a moment. 🙂

  • feep

    When considering TP, it is not always the quantity but the quality. Basically, 2-ply or not 2-ply… that is the question. I insist on 2-ply. Mind you, it won’t cut down on your usage of TP, but it certainly makes you feel better about wiping.

  • jes


    You TOTALLY have to contact the previous owner. That’s a story worth telling.

  • I once new a guy who had a two square rule. TWO! Needless to say, not many people wanted to eat at the same table he did. In fact, I think he may have been required to bring his own dinner and eat in the yard.

  • one time on a flight home from Vegas, there was: no TP, no Kleenex, AND no paper towels in the airplane bathroom….AND no water in the tank for the sink! The stewardess actually giggled at me when my friend gave me some Burger King napkins she had in her purse from lunch when she saw me heading back there. I’m thinking ‘no, thanks’ to the beverage service…because their hands were just spanking sanitary, right? fucking EW!

  • moonrattled

    There’s no way a beach towel got flushed down the toilet. It probably got there via an open manhole during sewer surgery.

    Kind of like the way surgeons sometimes leave sponges in people’s abdomens.

  • or you could just smoke a bowl…? that one’s still my favorite!

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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