Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Moving, Exploding Toilets, Pushing Cars, and More…

Well, it’s official. After 2,100+ miles, nine states, and thousands (ok, not really…) of heavy boxes and infernally heavy entertainment centers, my wife and I officially reside in the Chicago area. We managed to find a rental house reasonably close to the school – with a washer and a dryer, which is a huge plus, and quite rare for the area, I might add. Now we’re just unpacking some of the last few boxes, and our house is finally starting to feel like a home.

So far, the house has been great, with a few minor exceptions and one not-so-minor exception. The latter occurred late at night a few days ago – I had just finished taking a shower when I stepped out into a puddle of water on the bathroom floor. My first thought was, “Dummy, you didn’t close the curtain all the way.” I began to mop up the water with a towel, but started to notice that, gee, there was a lot. And it kept coming. There was no obvious flow from any one area, but after checking the tub and sink with no obvious findings, I narrowed the source down to underneath the toilet. We had noticed earlier that the toilet seemed a bit unsteady, and I thought that perhaps the wax ring was old and had finally failed. So, I turned off the water to the toilet and began trying to drain it of water, first by flushing it. This, unfortunately, didn’t work, as the toilet seemed to be backed up. Darn.

I went back to mopping up some of the water for the time being, just to get it up off of the floor. I was running out of towels, though, and figured I would eventually need some more. I didn’t want to grab any towels I wasn’t supposed to use to mop up toilet water. I went into our bedroom to check with my wife, but she had already fallen asleep – it had been a long day of unpacking already. I didn’t want to wake her if I didn’t have to, so I went back to mopping. Eventually, though, I really needed more towels. So, I wandered back into the room and tried gently shaking her. She was out – totally in REM sleep. I tried shaking her again and speaking softly – I didn’t want to startle her awake (i.e. “We have an EMERGENCY!!! Get up now!!!), so I started with, “Well, it looks like we have the first problem in our new house; our toilet seems to be leaking water.” After a bit, she slowly awoke, looked up at me dreamily, and sighed, “I looove you…” and started to drift off again.

Well, this wasn’t working.

I gently shook her again and repeated myself. She began to awake again, looked up at me (obviously only half-awake), and this time mumbled cheerily, “Why do you say silly stuff like that?”


On the third try, she finally registered what I had said and got up to help me get some towels. Unfortunately, water was still seeping out from under the toilet. So, since the toilet couldn’t flush, I used a coffee mug to scoop water out of the toilet and the tank. I couldn’t get it all, though, and what was left would eventually end up on the floor. The toilet had to come off. So, I unscrewed the bolts on the floor and lifted it into the tub. Now, I could see that the wax ring was indeed shot but that there was also a plug somewhere down the line – water was backed up to the point where it was level with the floor.

It was slowly draining, which was good – that meant this could wait until morning. So I asked my wife for a hand towel that she never wanted to see again and stuffed it down the drain to keep the sewer smell out of the house.

In the morning, the landlord called the plumber. After the plumber spent some time rodding the pipes out through the opening for the toilet, he walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “This is a problem…” That was reassuring…

He went and grabbed his handy-dandy pipe video camera – essentially an endoscope for drains. It was pretty cool to see the inside of our pipework, actually, and he was able to localize the problem: a small clump of fine roots had grown into the drain, creating a catch for things like toilet paper and…other things... eventually leading to a clog. Over time, this reached the “clogging threshold,” which in turn created enough pressure in the pipes to cause the wax ring under the toilet to fail, which resulted in the seeping toilet water I stepped into when I finished showering.


Anyhow, he rodded it out as best as he could, and recommended copper sulfate to send down the hatch occasionally to kill the root buildups. If we could avoid digging up the pipes, that would be best for all parties involved. We’re crossing our fingers, and plan on flushing that stuff down religiously.

That wasn’t the end of our troubles, however. Today, my wife and I were running some errands. We got our Illinois licenses and plates (the DMV is always an adventure…a three-hour one, in this case. It also involved taking a written driving test, which was fun...), went shopping, went to the bank, and on the way to our last stop our car started making a really loud, ominous clicking sound. Apparently it had made it across the country and was sick and tired of us driving it here and there… It actually sort of sounded like it was trying to pretend like it was a diesel-fueled vehicle, which it most definitely is not.

We pulled over and I popped the hood. My ever-so-patient wife hopped in the driver’s seat and give it some gas while I looked into the innards of the vehicle. It sounded like it was coming from the serpentine belt, possibly one of the pulleys…maybe the tensioner? We got back on the road and I was debating with myself about trying to take the belt off, figure out which pulley it was, replacing it, and putting the belt back on, when the car started smoking at a stop light. I turned it off, figuring I would let it cool for a second and turn it back on when we got a green light…but the green light came and the car wouldn’t turn back on. Darn it. It sounded like the battery had died, which is also a possibility – but now? Maybe it was the alternator...or maybe the car was just saying, “Take this, fools!” Regardless, my aspirations of fiddling with the vehicle quickly dissipated. My wife hopped in the driver’s seat again and I got out and pushed the car into a nearby parking lot. We called a tow truck (thank God for AAA!!) and had it towed to an auto shop near our house, where it will reside until tomorrow (hopefully no longer than that…).

Ah well… I guess it’s better that all of this happens now than right before a big test later. Otherwise, though, things have been going very smoothly – the drive over was great, the moving went smoothly, and we’ve found some great deals on Craigslist for various pieces of furniture. We’re excited to finally be here, and looking forward to finally beginning this next chapter of our lives together.

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