Now, you see…I cannot understand all the whinging from folks who claim to be bored numb at having to hang around the house. What kind of houses do they live in? Around here, there is truly never a dull moment. One high adventure after another! Just yesterday, for example, we had the life-threatening saga of the drainpipe.
The bathtub has been draining slower…and slower…and s.l.o.o.o.o.w.e.r of late. It’s always been a little languid, but since I have hair down to the middle of my back now (being prohibited from visiting Shane the Miracle Stylist has not helped), I figured it was hair balling up in there, and so just plunged it every now and again. Even though I use a hair strainer, those things don’t catch all the hair that drops out or breaks off naturally….and the penicillin I enjoyed with the dental infection caused my hair to fall out in skeins.
So I gave WonderPlumber a call. And to my surprise, he was willing to come over.
With all the covid mania, you may be sure I was not happy to invite a near-stranger into the house and into the bathroom. But it was that or bathe in the backyard hose until the contagion subsides.
He fiddled with it for awhile…didn’t do much good. So, out came the techno-artillery.
He has a camera and a light on the end of a long wire. This gadget, it develops, talks to his cell phone, sending a video of whatever it encounters in the drainpipes.
I’m watching this and thinking, wow! That’s cool!!
Shortly he finds an object, stuck at the place where the drain would turn to head out of the house toward the sewer. “What is THIS?” he wonders.
Me, too: I peer at the image and dunno what it is. It looks like the cross-wise surface of a piece of copper piping.
“Somebody dropped this thing down in here, whatever it is.”
“Not me! I’ve never dropped anything down the drain. If it wasn’t the cleaning lady, then it must have been the previous owner, who was a happy handyman.”
One of the happy things this guy had done was to remove the drain plug — you know, those things on a lever? That device is missing from the drain, so I have to use a regular rubber plug. This is fine, though, because it also allows me to set a hair strainer in the drain after unplugging, which filters out most of the long flowing locks that get shed into the water.
WonderPlumber goes back out to the truck and comes back with a device that consists of a set of little grabber claws on the end of a rod. It also has a light on it.
So he fiddles and fiddles with this gadget, catching the WhateverItIs but dropping it before he can pull it all the way out.
Finally he says, “We’re going to have to cut out the plastic tub surround and also the other side of the wall behind it, in order to get at this thing.”
I say, “Well, I can’t afford to do that. In the first place, what’s on the other side of the wall is a shower, and the previous owner tiled the shower stall with travertine tile! There’s simply NO WAY I could afford to replace the tub surround here and then retile the shower. And in the second place, thanks to the covid panic, my 401(k) has lost $149,000. There’s no money to pull the bathrooms apart and put them back together.”
Backstory here is that Satan, the prior owner, did a pretty good job of applying travertine to a shower stall that previously had hosted another plastic surround. The thing had developed a leak under the plastic floor, so he and his buddies hacked the plastic shower surround apart, pulled it apart, rebuilt the floor in there, and then fancified the bathroom with a DIY travertine job.
On the day before the house transferred to me, Satan and I did the obligatory walk-through. His parting shot to me, as I was testing the faucets and plumbing in that bathroom, was “Oh, by the way… This travertine has to be stripped and resealed every six months.”
Say WHAT, White Man???????”
This fine bathroom is the size of a closet, and it has no ventilation. Well. It has one of those tiny little foggy-glass sliding windows that contractors put into tract houses: it opens about six inches, and it’s maybe a foot high.
Since there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to expose myself to whatever chemicals are in stripper and sealer even once, to say nothing of every six months, I never use that shower.
So I say to WonderPlumber, “But I’ve got to have a bathtub!”
Resigned, he tries again — and this time he does manage to snare the thing. Gets it halfway out, and it drops back down there. And third time’s a charm: this time he succeeds in lifting it out.
What is it? Seems to be the top part of a squirt-bottle assembly: the plastic cylinder with the hole through which the product is dispensed. It’s like nothing I’ve ever used: has a white plastic body and the raggedy remains of some sort of gold paint on the top, which is what must have been reflecting the light to suggest copper.
I figure some former owner must have dropped the thing down in there. Maybe that’s why they took the plug out…so water would flow around the gadget that they couldn’t remove. I figure it’s got to have been Satan and Proserpine, because you can be sure they wouldn’t have wanted to deconstruct their beloved travertine shower.
That’s almost a likely scenario. But on reflection, I recall that I had a friend stay for some weeks, between the time her husband went up to San Francisco to start a new job and establish a beach-head for the family and the time her contract ran out here, so she could go up and join him. It’s not impossible that she could have dropped the part down there and figured, since the tub continued to drain, that it washed down into the sewer. She loved nice cosmetics — so the gilded spray cap would surely fit. Since I’ve been in this house for 16 years now, it seems likely that it would have clogged the drain before this if it had belonged to Proserpine. On the other hand, it’s been several years since my friend’s temporary roommate experience. So…who knows.
This adventure done and Our Hero off to save another day, it occurs to me: Holeee shit! We did NOT maintain any six- or thirteen-foot distance. Far from it! I was hanging at his shoulder watching him do his thing, and he certainly wasn’t cringing away. We were both engrossed, hovering over the drain, in what he was trying to do and in what his iPhone camera was showing.
Uh-oh. I’m done for!
Well, on the hopeful side, he certainly looked and acted plenty healthy.
In his case, he wasn’t likely to catch anything from me, since my son has me trapped in the house. 😉 The kid is doing ALL the shopping, so I don’t have to go out other than to walk the dog and loaf in the garden. But in my case…uhm…wait, what? This is a guy who’s mucking around in bathrooms and kitchens all across the Valley….
Well, so that means once again another two weeks of suspense to see whether the bug develops — assuming a two-week incubation period. This is the third putative “exposure” for which I’ve had to wait two weeks to see whether I was going to come down with the disease. The first was the wee-hours trip to AJ’s, for the special Old Folks Shopping Frenzy. The second was when the pooch and I walked, unwittingly, into a cloud of dust and dirt blasted up by a lawn man’s blower off a public street that everybody and his little brother, sister, and dog walks on every damn day. And this is the third. So it’ll be May 5 before I know whether this one gave me the bug.
Seriously, this panic is getting out of hand. Arizona has 7.29 million residents. As of this morning there have been 5,459 confirmed covid-19 cases. That is .075 percent of the population. The implication, then, is that you have about 7.5 chances in 100 of catching this bug. Quite possibly less than that if you’re white and middle-class or affluent. In our parts, black folks and Native Americans are most vulnerable to this disease…and it’s on the Navajo as we speak, killing off people right and left. The tribe has reported over 1,000 cases. I haven’t heard about the Apache, the Hopi, the Pima, or the Papago, but I would assume the situation is comparable there.
Maricopa County, home of lovely Phoenix and its many exquisite suburbs, has 4.85 million residents, 2,846 confirmed covid cases, and 97 recorded deaths. That would suggest .059% of the population has fallen ill and .002% have died.
Did you know that when the Spaniards began to explore the New World in the 1500s, of course they brought the smallpox virus with them? Smallpox was endemic to Europe at the time. When it hit the native peoples, it spread so fast that it moved ahead of the explorers’ parties, so that by the time the men would reach a village, most of the residents would be corpses and any survivors would have fled. Some scientists believe that 10 million people in the Americas died from smallpox unwittingly imported by the Spaniards and, to a lesser extent, by the English and French.
We creatures of the 21st Century seem, as a population of victims, surprisingly resistant to a virus to which we are imagined to be naïve. Compared, that is, to the peoples of the New World when confronted with the variola virus.