|Notice: This tool will look this clean and shiny until it has been used for fifteen minutes. Then it will look like the inside of King Kong’s adult diaper forevermore.|
No, “getting an electric eel” is not a euphemism, although it has the makings of a great one. What I’m referring to is a tool that is known by many different names. Some call it a drain cleaner, others call it a drain auger. Some refer to it by the manufacturer’s name, the way Kleenex or Google or iPad is used to refer to any version of a thing, not just one brand. Electric Eel makes good sewer augers. I wanted one.
It doesn’t make any sense to own a real drain cleaner unless you’re a plumber. The number of times the problem comes up is so small that buying one outright will never pay off. If you have a snake and a plunger, you can take care of the occasional Chipotle overload in your toilet, or a tub drain that’s got a Trump in it. If your sewer needs help, you need a great, big, powered thing to get anywhere. I needed a great big thing.
Where to get one was the question. I live in to-hell-and-gone Maine. The nearest Home Despot is over an hour from here, and I don’t even consider Home Despot a good hardware store. It’s more like a bad department store. I guess it’s kind of snobby of me. If you ignore the Levelor blinds, the New-Jersey-mobster-patterned area rugs, and all the clerks, you can find what you need to fix most anything among the weirdness. Home Despot even rents sewer drills, or says they do. Unfortunately, the one closest to me still isn’t close enough to actual civilization to bother renting them. I’d have to drive two hours, one way, to get one. They rent it by the half-a-day, so I’d be forced to turn around and return the tool as soon as I got it home. I’m not too bright, but I assumed I’d have to turn it on for a few minutes to get any benefits from it. I looked for another solution to the problem.
I checked the Intertunnel. Maine’s funny. Almost no one has a functioning website. If they do have one, it looks like a MySpace page from 1995. It’s got glitter fonts and a beckoning finger and the little stick figure with the shovel that says COMING SOON. A lot of businesses are simply a phone number on one of those dot biz websites that Google defaults to if you’re searching for someone in the witness protection program and there’s nothing else to show you.
I found a rental house not too far from the nearest Home Despot that had large-scale sewer augers. They also had a medieval-looking tool that you can use to break off vitrified clay sewer pipe cleanly. It’s a massive chain on a steel bar that you wrap around the pipe and then tighten until the pressure shears the pipe. It works on cast iron, too. I sat down and pictured everything pipe-ish we might need to finish the job, and made a list for the Home Despot. We’d get everything in one trip, or die trying. That turned out to be less of an exaggeration than I’d prefer.
I know I’ve been writing about this sewer clog so long that the first few installments have turned yellow and fallen out of copyright, but I fixed the whole thing, soup to nuts, in two days. Day one was figuring out what was going on and planning for day two, when all the work would be completed, or else. Planning is important.
If you are required to drive for hours in a car to get what you need, and you can’t afford to buy anything extra, it focuses your mind, or it should, anyway. Having things handy breeds laziness. I have next to no money and no time available, and I absolutely cannot fail or we’d be homeless in the winter. I had to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
I was a construction project manager at one time. I’ve managed many more of that type of critter as well. The job teaches you to form a mental picture of the entire process for any assigned task in order to list the money, time, material, and labor that will be required to complete a job. That’s why experience is so important in a job like that. The world has to be fundamentally, physically, measurably different at the end of the day if you’re in the construction biz. How many jobs in today’s economy require that?
My current construction jobs are very easy to project manage. I have no time and no money and no help available except my son. That cuts down on paperwork. All I need to figure out is how to pinch what few pennies I can scrape together (by begging) until they scream. My Gantt chart has one bar: Fix sewer. The bar is one day long.
With the cleanout pipe discovered, it was time for my son and I to head off in my truck, directly into a blizzard.
[to be continued]