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).

  • Amy D.

    um, YAH…..if I’ve ever heard of a good reason to go out and put an overpriced lunch (with too many drinks on the side) on a credit card, THIS would definitely be it! Daytime drinking is for emergencies, and this totally qualifies…, rilly 😉

  • WhateverLola

    I can’t believe my first comment is going to be a confession. When I was in my heyday of going to frat parties and convincing mathematicians to sell me 6 $2 shots for a $1, I also found myself attending to strange bathroom configurations such as toilets being across the hall from bathrooms in dark and dank frat houses. In such a situation, my well lubricated self sought out a urination location and found my way to the “water closet” (quite literally) which was supplied with absolutely no TP…therefore, I used a nearby bath towel. I know, I know. It’s gross and a bit disrespectful of the young men who hosted such grand galas…but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. So…it was with these fond memories I offer a possible answer to the beach towel mystery. I imagine crazed Mormons drunk on Sprite and dry humping running out of TP…maybe not?

  • Gretchie

    Maybe the towel went down an open man hole in the street and found it’s way into your sewer line? It just sounds more likely than someone sitting there, very patiently with thinly rolled up towel flushing and flushing and flushing…

  • Jon wrote that you’ve only been there three years. Perhaps the previous owners loved their shit tickets too. You cannot be held responsible since you have had your own personal plumbing problem, thereby not pooping nearly as much as the people who shat before you in this house. Do you have their number? 🙂

  • DRMPro

    Now I know why all our beach towels disappeared.

  • zitsmom

    I can top any of the posts here~~when I was in highschool my best friend was known for launching enormous poops at my house.My step father said that she was causing plumbing problems so he insisted that she “chop up” prior to flushing and he kept a teeny garden shovel in the bathroom for her to use….I was horrified~he is long gone now and no, I do not miss him.

  • What a waste! To flush a large piece of steak down a toilet! I’d prefer to think that it fell in accidentally. Perhaps someone was trying to multi-task by combining the eating of the dinner with the pooping of the breakfast, and didn’t have a good enough grip on the steak, what with trying to balance the plate on their knees and all. Still, what a bugger for it to be the steak that fell. I bet they cursed the gods that it couldn’t have been the peas.

  • I am still amazed that it is possible to flush ANY kind of towel. Wow.

    Also, my friend at the water department said not to use the “double-ply” tp. She said since we live in an old house, that double-ply will clog those lines real fast, as well all those tps with lotion, etc. Of course, I don’t know what difference it makes, when I have to use TWICE as much single-ply to prevent the “poke thru” – but there’s your tp tip o’ the day.

  • PixieMegh

    Oh! I’m just sick for you on this entire mess. However I commend you on the ability to find a moment to collect some fantastic photos, despite the ickyness.

    Todays POTD is fantastic! I love yesterday’s as well. Baby toes are the cutest things ever!!

    Sympathy and crossing fingers that there is no more bad news to come!

  • sandienotsandy

    Aw Heather… if you’ve only been doing the excessive drinking in the nighttime, you’re not QUITE there yet.

  • kidsmom

    When the plumber pulls up in a $50K car, you know you are in trouble.

    Raise hand if you’ve had a back hoe in your front lawn because your blue pipe broke. Raise other hand if you wanted to blame the smell on the neighborhood dogs.

    My sympathies.

  • I’m still astounded by the beach towel.

    And yes, dude DOES take things way too seriously. A little humour goes a long way my friend.

  • Just think if you had been a regular pooper and had a child that was a regular toilet user….they tend to use more toilet paper than even the extravagant of all tp users…I bet my husband uses more than you do….I still think the “he takes his shit too seriously” comment was the rocker…I’m still cracking up over here

  • this is probably not surprising, but these comments are some of my favorite yet. i will think all day about how someone flushed a large piece of steak down their toilet and it will make me happy.

  • What I wouldn’t give for bidets to catch on here…

  • have you thought about framing or otherwise preserving the beach towel? our cat recently got a hairball so bad, he had to have a $1,500 surgery. i wish we had saved the hairball because it would be the most expensive thing in our house.

  • Vicky

    Oh my GOD, don’t even go into that ‘using too much paper’ territory. My ex used to use whole forests each time he had a shit, and would then scrub his hands like a surgeon preparing for theatre. I think he had issues about anything produced by his body touching his skin. This extended to other… fluids, but – we won’t go there. (She said darkly)
    Anyway, because of this mild OCD, our toilet would be blocked on average once a week – if not more. Plus we got through a lot of toilet roll. He said our toilet was “English” and therefore weak and ineffectual. I said: he had to go.

    Heather, I hope you get through this shitty time. And I say that not only ironically (heh) but with real sincerity. Can you think of a crappier thing to spend lots and lots of your beautiful money on? Neither can I.

  • heather, do you realize how many people thought of you when they wiped their asses last night and/or this morning? I hope that makes you smile….it did me! *smooch*

  • I live in an old house. My husband uses UNGODLY amounts of toilet paper…. I think it’s time to move before things get ugly.

  • RedSupra

    All this talk of things flushed has me wondering. Am I the only one who gets a thrill from playing Toilet Flush Roulette?

    For those who can’t guess, this is the time when, having used an evironmentally damaging amount of toilet paper, you flush and the bowl refills faster than the contents can escape. That rush as the water reaches almost to the top of the bowl is undeniably addictive. The results when it does overflow aren’t.

  • I feel so bad for your family having to deal with this. It is things like this that really scare be about owning a home. I hope all continues to go as well for you as it can, with no more unexpected problems.

  • vanabanana

    Husband went to bed early tonight, nursing a headache. Watched a little TV, then thought, what the hell, I’ll check out dooce. Read the latest entry, started reading comments, and have laughed so hard and so loud (wheezing, already) that aforementioned husband is now awake, not to mention deaf 13-year-old golden retriever. God, I love this blog.

  • momma 2 angels

    Darn. This is bringing me down big time. Rats!

  • I’m so glad the ordeal is over for you…hopefully you’ve got the plumbing thing sorted for the next 20+ years! (and without losing a kidney)

  • As a junior league constipator I’ve found a miracle in those adult baby wipe things that I’m sure are aimed at the elderly and infirmed. I dread to think though of what these soft saviors might be doing to our sewer line. They’re made of some sort of cloth-like (one might even suggest beach towel-like) substance.

  • Meg

    This happened to me last spring. They ripped up my entire front yard (including my very first garden ever!) to replace the broken pipe that ran between the street and my house. All I can say is thank heavens we DO rent! The massive cost was absorbed (ha!) by our landlords.

    The best thing to do is simply be in complete and total denial. Forget the anxiety attacks. Just pretend it all isn’t so. ;o)

  • Hello inappropriate, but this still made me think, dooce.

    “We understand that many people harbor negative ideas about diarrhea, but our aim is to change that. When people see just how luxurious our open-plan bathroom designs are, with marble tiles, built-in plasma screen TV connected to 57 cable channels, and even a mini-bar, they’ll soon come to realize that a week with diarrhea can actually be a enjoyable experience,”

    Here’s hoping I can make someone smile.

  • My heart goes out to you and your family…the horror!

    I don’t know how you flush a beach towel, but I do know a labrador who ate (and subsequently vomited whole) a pair of bicycle shorts. Sometimes physics doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it.

  • I am sorry.. I can’t stop laughing. I know the situation is not funny, but you make it seem funny. I hope it gets resolved soon and cheep!

  • lq

    I live in a brand new house for the first time ever – it has low-flow toilets, also a first for me. I had to replace a sewer line in my previous house (built in 1928), but the problem with the low-flow toilets is the toilet paper. I’ve learned you can use all the paper you want, just flush after two wipes. The beauty is it’s low flow, so it fills up fast for the next flush. Oh, and have the plumber’s friend handy. And bleach – oh yes, bleach!

  • I’ll bet the beach towel required a courtesy flush.
    Maybe it is a “If yo don’t pee in our pool – we won’t swim in your toilet!” Karma thing. 🙂
    Nothing wrong with using too much paper, but please don’t try to flush it all at once. I’m still trying to teach my 20 year old that. Except now the toilet in his home runneth over!

  • Kelly S.

    This has nothing to do with plumbing, since nothing I say will ease the pain. But, something that might have a similar effect as cookies is Pancake Mountain. It is a kid’s show hosted by various bands like Arcade Fire, Henry Rollins, Shonen Knife, etc. The bands play songs usually found on their CDs while wee-little kids jump around and dance. Blueberry Boy on Pancake Mountain (.com) is also pretty cool. Check out their web site – it will totally put a smile on your face.

    Remember to take deep breaths and know that (watch out, cheese ahead) that God (or whoever is pulling the puppet strings) gives us nothing we can’t handle. But I really can’t blame you for freaking out, either. There is really only so much bad news that one person can handle.

  • Sounds as bad as when we needed a new septic tank in the back yard. Like throwing money down the toilet.

  • If things are gonna go bad, they might as well go remarkably bad so it’s a good story.

  • mayberry_blonde

    my husband used to pump septic tanks and repair sewage lines and the like. dude came home one day and told me a brown penny loafer shoe had turned up in a clogged line they were “snaking” out. i was like wtf? a shoe?

    anyway he always told me that eventually enough “shit” will clog up a line over time regardless of what it is where it came from.

    hang in there!

  • Oh, Heather! It seemed slightly awful at first, but as I’ve been reading about all this crap (pun intended) that’s been happening with your sewer line, it sounds like it’s escalating into the disaster of a lifetime. I really, really feel for you. But as a faithful reader who knows you much better than a complete stranger should, I can say that it seems like you’re taking it better than I ever would, and I don’t struggle with depression! I guess those cookies, ice cream, and M&Ms are working their magic. By the way, the construction (destruction?) pictures are incredible! Today’s Daily has an amazing amount of detail. Great job, as always.

  • That is quite a find, a beach towel. You do have to tell us who gets the flying dishes.

    I know your frustration and I really do feel for you. I seriously do not think that heavy drinking and violent fits are enough to ease your pain. Take a few days and go to a spa and get the royal treatment. You will get to use a nice clean toilet that you dont have to worry about, even if it does overflow. Walk out and just say ‘Hey, theres a problem with your toilet.’ while the water gushes behind you.

    2 words: Scott Tissue

    Never use anything else! And never flush anything but that in a sewer line. Use a covered garbage can if you have to. Oh, and please keep the towels at the pool. We dont need you going through this again.

  • Babs

    Oh my.

    I had no idea you were this famous.
    But that was before Wikipedia!

  • Jeff, the film prof

    Does Jon know what you did to his Steely Dan tape?

  • When we had our plumbing problem during my Week from Hell (detailed in off-topic rudeness in the comments of Leta’s singing) the worst thing was how green our lawn came up after we seeded it. Because everyone wanted to know what we did.

  • Shanni O

    Hi Heather, I’ve been reading all about you and your VERY NORMAL family since I found you while searching for “kitchen remodel” photos late one night. My husband couldn’t figure out what the hell I was laughing so damn hard for !!! But with all the perfectly palaced swearing, I thought I’d stumbled across my cyber twin. With your current plumbing fun I thought I just had to comment this time. My husband and I bought a 52 year old home about 2 years ago. Young by some standards but we had some fun surprises too. It’s currently on the market, all fixed & fine of course, so I won’t divulge the nightmare here. Small town and all that, you never know…

    Anyway, we feel your pain. The home before this, I was on a first name basis with several plumbers in town. We’d take who ever could get there the fastest. We ended up w/a full re-plumb of the entire house. That was a narcotics moment if ever there was one. They say it could always be worse, and just think… they could be INSIDE your house. Best of luck and hopefully you won’t have to sell Leta to a caravan of gypsies passing through town to pay for it.

  • Shelley Bonnechance

    Years ago, some comedian (Eddie Murphy?) did a funny bit about how if you don’t use enough toilet paper, you run the risk of your fingers coming through the paper as you…er…clean yourself…. and really hurting the opening of the poopchute. It’s best to get a big, soft, squooshy wad of paper and avoid senseless injury.

    There should be a PSA about this.

  • Elise

    It really is amazing what objects end up in inapproprate places. I work in a building that’s about five years old and one of the toilets in the women’s washroom never flushed properly. When they finally took it apart they found a pair of safety eye glasses wedged inside that had been left there from the initial build.


  • Beach towel from sewer + corn dog stick from Chuck’s intestines = Evidence that the Poop Family has issues.

    I hope shit gets better for you guys.

  • Bird Lover

    Holy crap! I was not going to comment today but katy66 made me laugh with her tampon story. It’s not often that you can combine the words poo, tampon, and the phrase “mom sauce” all in one story.

    I am still laughing. See, Dooce, tragedy brings people together. In a weird, twisted sort of way.

  • A beach towel? Dayum! That must been some nasty poop! LOL

    I’ve flushed food down the toilet…my husband’s cooking sucks.

  • Karla

    Some tips the roto rooter guy gave me for keeping the lines flowing:
    If you use a lot of TP, flush before and after wiping.
    Hold the handle down when you flush so the maximum amount of water goes down the pipes.
    If you live in a place where you aren’t required to have low-flow toilets, don’t get one! They are to blame for a lot of clogged pipes.

  • Me

    Didn’t Leta have an anti-pooping campaign going a while back? Maybe she’s a psychic little baby, if I believed in that which I don’t but if I did…

    then maybe she KNEW.

    How’s her eating going amongst this chaos? Some people eat more when they’re stressed, so maybe this is good for her, eh?

  • Me

    Didn’t Leta have an anti-pooping campaign going a while back? Maybe she’s a psychic little baby, if I believed in that which I don’t but if I did…

    then maybe she KNEW.

    How’s her eating going amongst this chaos? Some people eat more when they’re stressed, so maybe this is good for her, eh?

  • MommyofOne

    OMG, Heather. I’m nearly crying at the witty insights of your readers. These comments are cracking me up! I hope they’re making you feel better and better.

    And seriously, as a previous commenter noted, you should set up a Paypal account. I would also totally send a few bucks your way!!

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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