Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Little Plumbing Buddy

Oh, I have so much to tell you. Deep, meaningful things. Shallow, silly things. Scary things. Little joys, small disappointments, major victories. If I had time, I would share them all. But I don't, and I've been missing you. So tonight I will share just one story. (Or maybe two.) 

One of my biggest joys of late has been working with Allyson in the kitchen. She's taken a few cooking lessons over the last couple of years and even attended a week-long cooking camp this past summer. At first, cooking with her was something I permitted for the greater good even though she slowed me down considerably. I'm not sure when the transition occurred, but in recent months I've realized that she is now a huge help to me. It actually goes beyond mere help. She can cook entire recipes on her own, with very little supervision.

Recently she made something I'd never dreamed of attempting: homemade sopapillas (from freshly ground sprouted wheat, of course). One weeknight evening she made up her mind she wanted them, and I didn't have the energy to talk her out of it. To her delight, we had all the ingredients. The dough was surprisingly easy for her to make, all on her own. Frying them in a skillet, however, took a bit of trial and error.



Here's how the first one turned out:


Not even CiCi would have eaten that one... probably. We didn't test that theory.

Undaunted, Allyson tried again. We turned down the stove and waited a few minutes. Sweet success!

It wasn't quite so sweet for me, though, since I couldn't even taste one. You may recall that I'm on the LEAP diet now, a very restrictive elimination diet that is supposed to heal my leaky gut syndrome.

Allyson took all of those warm, soft, pillows of goodness, along with some butter and honey, across the street to my friend Ana's house, where she shared them with Ellie and her family. I must confess that, had they been my sopapillas, I might have stockpiled them away and eaten them for days all by myself until they were half stale. But that's not Allyson's nature. She is naturally generous, like her father.

So what does all this have to do with plumbing? I'm getting to that.

In addition to helping cook, Allyson also helps me clean the kitchen, though she usually complains most of the way through the dishes. Either that, or she gets to talking about something, anything, and she just stands over the dishwasher gesticulating to illustrate her points. In the end, she gets the work done, and I have a chance to practice patience and firmness.

But there are times when Allyson is really a huge help. Last week was one of those times. While Allyson unloaded the dishwasher, I rinsed and stacked the plates on the counter for her to load later. We'd made mashed potatoes that night, so there was a big pile of skins on the cutting board. Just as I shoved them all into the garbage disposal, I remembered Bill's stern warning against putting potato skins down the drain. A few years back, before we separated, I'd clogged the garbage disposal so badly that he had to take it apart to get it clear. "Don't ever do that again, woman!" he'd grumped.

In the ensuing years, I've run lots of potato skins down the drain without any consequences. Usually I put just a few in at a time, with plenty of water to wash them down. And every time, I get a little thrill, a mixture of vindication and harmless rebellion.

On this night, distracted by Allyson's animated chatter, I shoved the whole pile down at once. Realizing my mistake, I grimaced and crossed my fingers. Oh, please! I turned up the water full force.

The disposal made a labored sound, but it seemed to grind the peels up successfully. Or so I thought. Soon I realized that dirty water was backing up into the clean side of the sink, right up over my strainer of freshly hand-washed dishes. Noo!!

I turned the disposal off and waited, but the water did not recede. I turned it back on, and three streams of water spurted through the holes in the clean side's drain. Argh!

I trudged into the garage and brought back the plunger, which thankfully I hadn't had cause to use for probably a year. I plunged the clean side, and all the water bubbled up on the disposal side. I plunged the disposal side, and all the water moved back to the clean side. Having forgotten the definition of insanity, I tried this routine several more times, getting the same result each time.

All this time, Allyson stood watching me, one hand on her hip, dishwasher conveniently forgotten. "What are you gonna do, Mama?" she asked at last.

I sighed. "I hope I don't have to call the plumber again." I'd already paid a small fortune to fix a major problem in my front yard, where a pipe had separated from the main sewer line. As much as I enjoy my plumber's company--truly, he talks almost as much as I do--I didn't want to part with any more money.

"I'm going to Google it," I said, smiling as I thought of all the solutions I've found online over the years.

Sure enough, a quick search on "sink clogged with potato peels" brought up a detailed YouTube video with step-by-step instructions for unclogging a garbage disposal foolishly stuffed with potato peels.

In case this ever happens to you--though you've been duly warned--here are the steps:


  1. Wait for the water to seep down the drain.
  2. Fill a coffee cup with baking soda and dump it down the disposal. 
  3. Pour about 2 cups of vinegar down after it and watch it bubble furiously. 
  4. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes while you boil water in your biggest pot. 
  5. Pour the boiling water down the disposal and stand back while the grungy water belches out into the sink. 
  6. Turn on the disposal and verify that the water now goes right down. 


There now, isn't that easy?

Not necessarily. The video didn't cover what to do if the water just won't go down. I suppose I could've waited until the next day and it might have gone down overnight, but that's not how I do things.

"Let's scoop it out," I said.

So my little plumbing buddy and I got two soup ladles and filled a large mixing bowl with grungy water.

"That wasn't so bad," Allyson said.

"Oh, we're not done," I replied. "I think we need to try to get as much water out of the drain as we can. Otherwise the baking soda and vinegar will be diluted. But how can we get the water out?"

"How about one of these?" Allyson asked, holding up an oral medicine syringe.

"No, that's too small. It would take forever. Let's just use spoons," I suggested.

So my little plumbing buddy and I got two large spoons out of the silverware drawer and scooped up a tablespoon of grungy water at a time. As we worked, Allyson voiced my own thought. "Wouldn't it be awful if we got confused and dumped the mixing bowl back into the sink?"

I shuddered. "That would be terrible. Let's not do that."

Ten minutes later, when the water had receded below both drains, Allyson repeated, "Well, that wasn't so bad."

"We're still not done," I said apologetically. "There's quite a bit of water still down there. I know! I'll plunge the disposal side to push the water up, and you scoop it with your spoon."

"Okay," she said cheerfully.

It took some coordination, but we got the rhythm down. Plunge, hold, scoop-scoop, release. Plunge, hold, scoop-scoop, release.

When the spoon no longer returned enough water to justify the effort, Allyson repeated her suggestion about the syringe. She said I'd have to do it because she was afraid to put her hands down the disposal.

I tried it, but my hands were too big to get the syringe below the surface of the water.

So my little plumbing buddy stepped up to the sink. She gingerly put her hand through that black rubber stopper and sucked up one milliliter at a time. I used the plunger to make the water on her side deeper. Plunge, hold, suck, squirt. Plunge, hold, suck, squirt.

Twenty minutes later, my perfectionist side was satisfied that the cross pipe was at last empty enough. (I stopped short of cramming a towel down there to dry up the puddles.)

"See, I told you a syringe would work," Allyson exulted.

I was happy to agree with her. "I love the way you can think up solutions," I said. "You have a lot of common sense like your daddy."

Now came the fun part. I wish you could've seen Allyson's eyes when the baking soda and vinegar frothed up into the sink. And I wish you could've seen my own eyes when the boiling water made a volcano erupt out of the drain.

The very best part was turning on the disposal with great trepidation and listening to the hum of the water flowing freely--and then high-fiving my little plumbing buddy.

We don't need no stinkin' plumber! As long as we have YouTube.

1 comment:

Lovella Cushman said...

Unclogging a drain can be quite cumbersome. I believe you were quite frightened when the dirty water was backing right up into the clean side of the sink. All in all, I am glad to hear that you sorted out the issue procedurally!

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