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Plumbing

Monday, August 30 2004

I’ve been quite artful lately with my campaigning. My constituency (Carrie) has been a patient voter, and has accepted my stump speeches with equal portions skepticism and acceptance. At some point last week, I decided that plumbing the aquarium in our living to the garage would be a great idea (and it is, truly). I kept coming up with good reasons for it, all based on completely sound logic which you can read about on a site I’ve been keeping dedicated entirely to our living room aquarium.

But, despite all my best campaigning, I still had to convince myself that I could do the project, the first step of which meant that I’d need to get under the house and survey the situation.

The crawl space under our house is nasty, in fact, I might have reason to be concerned. The depths range from one foot to four or five feet, and the entire lumpiness of concrete footings and earth are covered in what appears to be a single sheet of plastic. Under that plastic you can hear water moving. In some places, water puddles on top of it. Surely this isn’t good, but I’m a trooper, and I survey the situation.

Running some pipe looks easy, except there’s the part where the pipe goes into the garage that looks tricky. I get out of the crawl space, and determine where in the garage the pipe can come in, and all is well. The next step is getting back down there and locating the aquarium to make sure there are no obstacles there. Right before going in, Carrie and I are standing in the kitchen and we realize that the floor where I’m standing is not only very warm, but bows up, and with every step I take, rises and falls. I agree to go look in that direction on my next trip into the underworld.

With my skateboarding knee pads on to avoid the absolute certainty of granite shards carrying all my weight exactly on my knee caps, I slither over a waste pipe, and under a soft (itchy) and fluffy (flesh rendering) thrust of insulation. As I shift into position, the flashlight I’m holding momentarily lights the area I’m heading, where it burns two disturbing images into my head.

1. Surprisingly, billowing clouds of steam under your house brings to mind Dante’s Inferno, both literally and figuratively. Instantaneously, you know that things aren’t looking good in that general direction, as descriptions of Hell don’t look so good. But also, you’re struck with the wooden plank of realization that your funds and a plumber are about to become well acquainted.

2. Water pouring out of a pipe underneath your house can never be good, unless your house is situated on the edge of a waterfall, and that kind of thing is normal. It can only be worse if that water appears to be melting the very ground it’s pouring onto, and collecting in a sub-abysmal lake beneath your family room where it stews and boils like the lake of fire and brimstone that it is.

In a panic, I pull myself out of the ground and call four plumbers in a row. I literally pace the entire floor of our house, puzzling over what to do next. I realize that the very costly water bill we had last month isn’t from turning on the sprinklers more often, and that it’s from the slowly forming sink pit under the house. I realize why it has been so difficult to cool the house lately, and why my electricity and gas bills have been up. I begin finding solace in the fact that at the very least, once the problem is fixed I’ll spend less money on utilities. Opening a portal to Hell, apparently, isn’t easy on the monthly bottom line.

Eventually, a plumber, and says he can come fix the problem on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, depending on how the scheduled job he has is finished during the day on Monday. I turn of the water mains, inform the Carrie that we have three total flushes available to us, and that we better use them well, and we begin living like desert dwellers.

I’ve tried turning on a faucet eighteen times already.

I think while the plumber is down there, I may have him run the plumbing for my aquarium as well. In addition to all the scientific benefits and wonderful qualities that I’ve been expounding upon to Carrie, there’s the added benefit that if not for the idea of doing it, we’d probably be walking around the house in asbestos waders in a week.