The dreaded gurgle

A couple of weeks ago I was braiding Leta’s hair in the downstairs bathroom when the toilet suddenly started making awful noises: ka-thunk, ka-thunk… blurp, blurp, blurp… ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk. Both of us stood still in an attempt to determine just what the hell was going on, and the noises only grew louder. Leta looked at me like, wait a minute, I know I’m only five, but even I know toilets aren’t supposed to do that, so in a fit of absent-mindedness I yelled out, “Jon! JON! The toilet sounds like it’s going to explode!” I didn’t know how else to communicate the urgency of the situation to someone not in the room, and EXPLODE just seemed like it had enough oomph to lure him away from whatever he was doing. I guess I could have yelled STEVE JOBS NUDE! or MYTHBUSTERS MARATHON! but I didn’t want him to be disappointed by the truth.

Turns out that was TOTALLY the wrong word to yell, because now Leta has an enduring fear of exploding toilets. She refuses to use the bathroom alone because what if the toilet explodes? It very well could because her mother mentioned the possibility, and I’d really like to punch myself in the face for this instance of hyperbole. I should know better. You just don’t use words around that kid that have any connotation of disaster or tragedy because she will obsess about it to the point of insomnia. And for a week she got out of bed at least once a night to check and make sure that the toilet hadn’t exploded. Which is a pretty terrible reason to get out of bed, don’t you think? Can you imagine explaining why you’re so tired to coworkers? Look, I didn’t get much sleep last night, I had to keep tabs on my toilet, that thing is so unpredictable.

Recently someone casually mentioned EARTHQUAKE while Leta was in the room, and I am not at all ashamed to admit that when she asked me what one was I totally lied. I told her it was hard to explain, a combination of a unicorn, a rainbow, and a pink balloon full of glitter. In other words, IT WAS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. I just don’t think the inevitable, crippling anxiety was worth telling her the truth, not now anyway, not when three-quarters of her brain is overwhelmed with the physics of exploding toilets.

Turns out that those dreadful ka-thunk and blurp noises were the toilet’s kind way of telling us that there was a problem with our sewer line. You should read the end of that last sentence as a deafening echo: A PROBLEM WITH OUR SEWER LINE… PROBLEM WITH OUR SEWER LINE… SEWER LINE. Some of the more veteran readers of this website might recall that we suffered the death of a sewer line at our old house in 2006 (a horrible experience I chronicled here, here, and here), a plumbing nightmare that cost us our life’s savings at the time. You can bet that when we put that house up for sale the first thing we mentioned to every potential buyer wasn’t the brand new kitchen or the newly refinished hardwood floors or the original gumwood moldings, no. It was YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO FEAR WAKING UP TO FIND THE BASEMENT COVERED IN POOP.

Because we lived through that trauma, watched as giant bulldozers dug a hole in the street the size of a swimming pool, I fear that we are now in a category of homeowner that could easily be taken advantage of by anyone in the service industry. Because this time, after our washing machine starting draining directly into the hallway and Jon called the plumbing company, I was personally prepared to do whatever we had to do in order to avoid replacing the entire sewer line. They need to run a blade through the entire pipe? Fine, do it. They need to flush it with water and examine it with a camera? DO IT. Treat it with root killer? FINE. Have me and my husband stand naked inside a circle of fifty votive candles while chanting Enya? Here, hold my panties.

I would have done anything they asked, and even though the bill kept rising with each request, the total after everything was said and done was a tiny, meaningless fraction of what it cost us three years ago. And still, even though we know everything is fine and working, Jon and I are so shell-shocked from the near miss that we’re both reluctant to flush or pour anything down the drain. We’ve even considered honoring Jon’s pioneer heritage and digging a hole in the backyard which would not only preserve the life of the sewer line but would also remove the exploding toilet quotient altogether. HA! Talk about a parent hack! Years from now when Leta asks why she grew up having to use the bathroom in the backyard, we’ll go BECAUSE WE HAD FORGOTTEN WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO GET A FULL NIGHT’S SLEEP.