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August 2002
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Intimations of disasters past

Part I

I may be the only person you know of who has had his toilet in his pantry and his bathtub in the garden. This may need some explaining.

The house is fifty years old. It has no basement, just a concrete slab with the pipes buried underneath the slab. When it was built they used clay tile pipes for sewer drainage. Over time clay tile pipes are liable to develop cracks. In this they are assisted by tree roots which get into anything that lets out moisture. The house is surrounded by trees. I assume that you can put this particular two and two together.

What has happened over the years is that there has been a recurrning problem with the pipes getting plugged with tree roots. My mother (and then myself) would call in the rotorooter folks who would clean things out as best they could, but over time it has been a losing battle. It finally got to the point where the sink wouldn't drain at all and the rotorooter people couldn't get it to drain.

As part of the settling of the estate we decided that the right thing to do was to GET IT FIXED. This is no small thing. What is involved is breaking up the concrete slab in the bathroom and digging through the soil underneath it to get to the pipes, said soil being about half tree roots. Where the bathtub and toilet stood there is now an eight foot long trench, two feet wide and three feet deep.

Fortunately, when my mother designed the house, she planned on having a half bath near the kitchen, so there is a small room there with the outlets for a toilet and a sink. This plumbing has never been hooked up until now; instead the little room has been used as a pantry. Today it is a pantry with a toilet. It may be odd but its better than a portapotty.

The bathtub had to go somewhere; there is no room for it in the house. It's temporary home is in the back yard on a patch of ground that is nominally garden but is actually a weed patch.

All of this (putting in new pipes, pouring new cement, refurbishing the bathroom) is likely to take a while. Life promises to be grim. Fortunately there is a sink in the utility room where I can wash myself off; likewise it is fortunate that I have friends and relatives who will let me use their shower.

Part II

In the fullness of time even bathrooms get completed. Er, make that "mostly completed." Mind you, it was no small matter arriving at "mostly completed." As expected, the old pipes were nearly solid tree roots. Think of water flowing through the pipes as commerce and of tree roots as lawyers. In every stage of commerce there is a lawyer present taking a little bit off the top in each transaction. So it was with the old pipes; every time a toilet was flushed, or a sink or tub was drained the tree roots were there, each one taking a bit of moisture out of the flow. One doesn't begrudge them the water (after all, one is getting rid of it anyway) but tree roots, like lawyers in commerce, reduce the rate of flow to a crawl.

The old pipes are gone, and with them the tree roots. The holes in the ground have been filled and cemented over. There is a new floor, a new tub, a new toilet, a new vanity, and a new medicine chest. There is not, however, a new urinal. A new urinal? Yes, a new urinal. I decided that I wanted a urinal in the bathroom. If the next owner of the house decides that they don't want a urinal they can remove it or convert it into a flower pot or some such. This is all very well, but apparently urinals for the home in decorator colors (the fixtures are all in sandstone or almond or some such variety of off-white) have to be made by hand in lower Apastan by skilled native craftsmen who take pride in their work, pride being inconsistent with haste. I have fond hopes that it will be installed by 2003.

The bathtub remains in the garden. It's fate is to be filled with dirt and serve as a planter. For the nonce the pantry still has a toilet. The plan is to decommission it when the urinal is installed. It's been a short century so far; there is plenty of time left in this century to get things right.

In case you are wondering whether it was fun having your bathroom torn up for several months, jack hammers in the house, workmen traipsing through the house, and cement dust everywhere, the answer is: Of course it was fun; however I think I prefer root canals.


This page was last updated August 1, 2002.

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August 2002
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