Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Kitchen Sink


On Monday, the kitchen sink clogged. That awful man worked on it while I carried water out in buckets and poured them out in the yard. By nightfall, tools and rags were all over the floor, the countertops, and the kitchen and dining room tables.

On Tuesday that awful man moved the refrigerator to the left, took out a section of the cabinetry and moved it to the right, and scattered the four drawers and their contents all over the room. The eight-year-old and I carried water out in buckets, and I bought plastic forks and spoons.

On Wednesday that awful man borrowed a 60-ft. motorized drain snake from a plumber. I taught the four-year-old to carry water out, and I bought paper plates and plastic bowls.

On Thursday that awful man dragged in the garden hose, stuffed it down the drain, and tried to push the blockage free with water pressure. The eight-year-old came in from hauling water and announced that it was raining off our roof. That awful man got the ladder, climbed up on the roof, stuffed the four-year-old's Nerf ball into the opening of the pipe the water was spewing out of, and wrapped the pipe opening with thirty feet of duct tape. He then pumped up and down on the Nerf ball like a plunger, and felt the moment the clog gave way.

On Friday I discovered that the dirty dishwater we'd been pouring onto the yard had been flowing downhill into a giant anthill, and sometime during the night the ants had packed up and moved-- into our kitchen. They’d found, unnoticed and forgotten by us, behind the tools, dirty rags, stray drawers, and bailing pots, the children's rock candy experiment.

I dragged the garden hose out of the house, put everything away, set the rock candy experiment next to the ant hill as a combination peace offering and incentive for the ants to return home, and scrubbed the kitchen down.

Over the following days and weeks, the ants and the humans struggled for dominance in my kitchen. When the ants found their way into the cupboards and drawers, I cleaned everything out of the kitchen and replaced all the shelf-paper. The ants seemed to appreciate this re-decorating project on their behalf, and they invited their friends and neighbors over to come see.

When they invaded the laundry room, I took everything out and scrubbed that room down wall-to-wall and shelf-by-shelf, to the ants' gleeful satisfaction. They started forays into the bedrooms and across my sleeping face, which started shouting, and when I started jerking awake several times a night because I may or may not have felt ants on my face or my toes or crawling up and down all over my body, I started asking around for suggestions and doing research into ant-lives and ways.

One person told me to put out bay leaves, another suggested salt, and I read that garlic would do it, or talcum powder or cream of tartar or chili powder or borax or paprika or damp coffee grounds. One by one I tried them all, without noticeable effect. Next I set out a mixture of molasses and yeast because I'd read that after an eats it, the growing yeast causes him or her to explode. I hated myself for that one, but when even that didn't faze them, I decided to use the information that a dead ant's body secretes an alarm scent that warns other ants away, so I killed about fifty of them-- I’d already crossed that ethical line with the yeast-- and I laid out the corpses in a pan under the kitchen sink because that seemed to be a popular gathering place, perhaps because it was nicely airy yet private, large enough for their conventions, and had good acoustics.

The next morning I saw that they'd carried off the fifty-- I don't know, for burial maybe-- so I killed and laid out thirty more. Those corpses were still there the next morning, so I replaced them with fresh-kills, which became an easier and easier daily routine, a clear example of a sheared conscience. Next I tried placing the dead on the various ant-paths across the countertops and floors. That meant we had to be careful to keep up with where the bodies were so we would remember to step over them and to clean around them. When I asked a friend to try not to step on my dead ants, she told me to march myself to the store for poison and be done with this nonsense.

So I went out and bought a set of those little ant houses. ("Ants go in; they don't come out.") Only these ants wouldn't go in. Day after day the little houses stayed empty even though I tried location, location, location. Ants would walk up to the door, peer in, turn up their noses and walk the long way around the little house rather than taking the short cut through it. In desperation I tried pushing a couple of them into the ant house, but they lowered their heads, locked their knees, and refused to be budged.

By this time I was starting to gibber in public places, so I broke down and bought a can of ant spray, but, like department store shoppers at the perfume counter, they just walked right through it and then went on their way. I started to wonder if the dirty dishwater in their anthill had somehow empowered them, a sort of ninja-turtles-in-the-sewers effect. And now that their little feet were tracking toxic spray all over my house, the children and I would probably die off, and the ants would take our place in the scheme of things, soon evolving enough to open the refrigerator door and to operate the faucet at the kitchen sink.

Then Mother said to try a product called Terro; ants track through it, carry it home to their wives and children, and then everyone dies a lingering death. This was horrible, but unethical behavior is a slippery slope, and I had long since lost my grip. So I bought some and put it out. That finally did it, except for a few daily stragglers, but I understand from the late-night movies that after any chemical disaster there will inevitably be a few survivors, mostly death-carrying mutants.

The ordeal of the clogged kitchen sink had lasted seven really difficult weeks, but it did not end there. Because what that awful man had felt that night through the Nerf ball on the roof was not the clog giving way, but the pipes giving way. So unknown to us, the dirty dishwater was now pooling under the house, sinking into the ground when warm, dry weather permitted, forming a cesspool when it didn't, and quietly sustaining colonies of a variety of molds, mildew, and what-have-you. For the next 3 1/2 years.

Then one very cold day, when the ground was frozen hard, I ran the dishwasher three times, and with nowhere else to go, the cesspool, molds, mildew, and what-have-you rose up and moved across my kitchen floor in a stinking, rolling, foaming gray wave.

The reason I'd run the dishwasher three times that day was that we were holding both children's birthday parties at the time. So the house was full of people who did not stay long.

It took two plumbing businesses, a bulldozer, and the better part of that winter to correct the Nerf-ball-induced damage, and then for some reason the bulldozer stayed on for weeks after all the plumbers had finally packed up and left. So later that spring I called its owners to inquire about this new yard ornament of mine and was told, "So that's where it is. We were wondering."

And that's the story of our kitchen sink getting clogged. So I recommend calling a plumber right off to avoid a dismantled kitchen, forgotten sugar-water projects, disturbed ninja ants, cesspools, disrupted parties, and fleeing guests.

Total time to fix it: 3 ½ months spread over 4 years. Total cost: $1436, countless lives, and my sanity.


  1. Ewwwwwwwwwww. Can't even imagine. How patient you were with that awful man. Can't believe someone forgot their tractor. Reminds me of someone who forgot to homeschool her son one year. LOL :)

  2. That same plumber left two box fans at my house in January last year. I called twice to remind him to come get them, but he hasn't. So I loaned them to my son when his fireplace backfired a few weeks ago. As for the ludicrous notion that someone could actually forget to homeschool her child for a year

    Wait. What was I saying?


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