Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Haunted Bathroom: The Gripping Conclusion, I Hope

I have been a little anxious lately. This is no secret. My bathroom is cursed. If the bathtub drains the toilet won’t stop running. If the toilet works right then putting water into any other fixture in the house backs up disgusting black water and even more disgusting, um, stuff into the tub. Don’t really know what those chunks are and I don’t think I want to find out. I just want them to go away. To all of you Americans saying “call the landlord” this is Italy. Maybe the roof and the stairs are his responsibility, the rest is up to us.

My dreams all take place in or near bathrooms now. Two nights ago I dreamt that I was at a fitness center and when the receptionist (who was Lana from the Campus Ministry office at Augsburg) showed me the bathroom, it was in a different building and in the basement. Not a nice bathroom. The kind of bathroom where you hover, you don’t want to sit down. As I prepared to hover a scorpion scuttled out of somewhere and trapped me in the corner. While I was deciding what to do and trying not to panic, a guinea pig that could have been the twin brother of the gopher from the movie Caddy Shack ran across the floor and distracted the scorpion. He will be forever in my heart as a hero. How do I know it was a “he?” Because he winked at me right before he ran in front of the scorpion.

Last night we decided to take matters into our own hands. The downstairs neighbor loaned us a super-sized, bright red plunger and suggested we try that before we move to more extreme measures. I’ve lived in lots of older houses in my life, I know what needs to happen. I was pretty sure with only two of us we were about four hands short, because for a plunger to work every other drain has to be plugged shut so the pressure stays in the pipes. We needed both of us in the bathroom, one to run the plunger and the other to stop as many drains as possible. This meant leaving the kitchen sinks unattended, but we had no choice and they were farthest away from the problem.

For some reason Leif decided that 10:30pm (or 22:30 for you 24 hour clock freaks) was the perfect time to start the project. It was like the most demented game of Twister ever. Leif got to handle the plunger. I don’t remember taking a vote or drawing straws, but that’s what happened. That left me with three drains to plug; the tub overflow, the bidet drain and the bidet overflow. For those who have never seen me I only have two hands. Luckily (I guess) they are all in the same general area (see illustration). The plumbing fixtures, I mean, obviously my hands are never more than two arm’s lengths apart. So this is how it worked…I used my right hand to plug the tub overflow and my left hand to plug the bidet overflow, firmly planted my right foot on the wet marble floor and put my left foot on top of the drain plug at the bottom of the bidet.

And then the fun started. Leif plunged his little heart out. Every once in awhile it would slide away from him, he’d hit one of those “anti-slip” bumps (that are slipperier than hell by the way) on the bottom of the tub and water would spray everywhere. I learned quickly that as fascinating as it was to watch the fun and try to see if it was working, a face full of yucky black water wasn’t worth it. I had my hands full trying to keep the towels I was using as plugs to stay in their respective drains and failing, which meant I was getting sprayed pretty regularly anyway. We decided that the drains in the hand sink should be stoppered too, but because we had no more hands we had to fashion a plug using a boot and old jacket wedged under the faucet.

We decided that the disgusting water should be taken out, not allowed to go back down the drain and replug the pipes, so we used my precious one cup measuring cup to bail out the tub into the toilet. It was the only functioning drain in the apartment after all. We sopped up damp sediment from the bottom of the tub with toilet paper, because we ran out of paper towels. We tried pushing the water and air down in to the pipes…we tried suctioning the water and (hopefully the plug) out of the pipes with the plunger. By the time we called it quits for the night (oh, about 11pm) we were both sweating and covered in dirty water and the drains were still clogged. We brushed our teeth with a thimble-full of water and went to bed.

This morning I dreamt that our bathroom was now outside our apartment. Like porta-potties at a concert, the three glass telephone booths that were our bathroom stood in a neat row. They were covered with daisy printed kitchen curtains for privacy. Directly in front of them my high school graduating class was performing a half-time show to music performed by one of our classmates and his boy band. With great fanfare they all turned to the “bathroom” and out stepped my brother, squeaky clean from his shower, wearing his swim trunks and a frilly, June Cleaverish apron. “Great shower!” he said (I sensed sarcasm, but I could be wrong). And I woke up. I felt anxious all morning. I was afraid to use any water because it had nowhere to go. I couldn’t figure out when or how much it was gonna cost to get the drains fixed, and quite frankly I am getting a little tired of the dreams. When I left the apartment to babysit for a couple of hours, Leif had a very determined look in his eyes. I wanted to tell him to wait for me, but knew he wouldn’t listen.

I got a text message from him right before I started back home. “Alfonso came with the 'snake' and the mission is solved.” When I got home he told me that he had (naturally) started working away at the drains this morning. Of course our neighbor could hear this. His apartment is directly below us. If he didn’t hear the noise from inside, he couldn’t help but hear from his terrace. Our bathroom window is immediately over their dining table. Alfonso either graciously decided to help, or just couldn’t listen to the mayhem and Swedish anymore. He brought his snake upstairs and they managed to get the drains working again. Leif tried to describe the plug. Let’s just say that judging from it’s size and the fact that it resembled concrete that it probably dates from just after WWII. He had already cleaned the bathroom and taken out all the nasty stuff so that when I got there it was like nothing had happened in there. If only he could clean my memory as well as he did the bathroom.

I am looking forward to taking a shower with more than a gallon of water tonight. To washing dishes with a full sink of water. To doing a load of laundry. Ok, I’m not going to use the bidet, but I am comforted knowing that if I wanted to, I could .I’m hopeful that tonight I will have dreams of anything but bathrooms.

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