Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

November, 2014:

A Drain By Any Other Name

It’s been ages since I wrote. You might have feared that I fell off of the face of the earth. Not exactly – though I have probably traveled as far as if I’d gone all the way around it between a three week trip to Australia and New Zealand followed by a three week trip to South Africa and Portugal. While we were away the last time Hurricane Gonzalo hit. So with Michael gone again a few days later, I was left with the new veterinary business, catching up on mail and bill paying, plus a bunch of little chores in the aftermath of the storm.

As hurricanes tend to do, Gonzalo did a good deal of overdue pruning and cleared a lot of leaves off of the trees. So this week’s rains were a welcome bit of relief for the stressed landscaping. To a point. Friday afternoon another thunderstorm rolled in, and I started to hear water pouring off of the roof. If Michael had been here he would have never let me go up on the roof in a thunderstorm. But he wasn’t here so I went. At least I had the sense not to stand on the roof holding an umbrella. I mean, I’m not a complete idiot. I just threw a beach towel over my head while I cleaned the screens over the drains and got back down.

It rained all night long, and I actually slept in until an unheard of 7AM – what with it being uncharacteristically cool and darker outside. Nice. Then I got the brilliant idea that I should go up and check the roof again. There wasn’t even any lightning, and there was just a light drizzle. So I thought I’d just make a quick check and then relax with my coffee. Hah! At first everything looked good (read: I wasn’t wading through standing water). That is until I found one drain that still wasn’t draining.

Remember all those leaves that were ripped from the trees. Well, while we were away our gardener was good enough to go up on the roof to ‘clear’ the drains. He admitted to us that he pulled all of the plugs and let everything run into the cistern. (Another story.) But apparently not everything made it that far, and this one pipe was obviously plugged with leaves and debris. I needed to feed a snake or a hose or something into the drain to unplug it. Logically I figured I should try to feed it UP the pipe rather than risk further tamping the clog down from the top. Luckily there are outlet plugs in the drains around the house that, when open, allow the water to flow out along the foundation rather than into the cistern. I’d just open the plug and feed a pipe up….or so I thought. (Of course, I’d been wrong once before already that morning and it was still early.)

Unfortunately, this particular diverter plug is right at ground level (which from the get go made little sense given that the water needs to drain out and away). Then over the years matters have only gotten worse as plants sent out roots and not only buried the opening but completely encased the cap like the roots on those ancient buildings from Angkor Wat you saw in Laura Croft, Tomb Raider. Now the stupid thing ends up so deeply buried that if you didn’t know it was there (and really, who would besides me?) you would never know it was there. As it was, I had to crawl in the mud, cut roots, dig out rocks, and create a canal in muck so the water could drain away…well, in anticipation of having the water drain. Here’s my handiwork:


The next hour or so was spent feeding a fairly rigid hose that I found in the garage 11ft up the pipe until I hit whatever I hit. When it wouldn’t dislodge and drain, I’d go up on the roof to feed the hose down about 3 ft until I hit whatever I hit. Climb up to shove the hose down. Climb down to shove the hose up. Repeat. That would have been hard enough if the pipe had been straight. But it isn’t. There are apparently elbows and bends at both ends. Maybe that’s standard maybe it’s not but it’s how it is….who knows maybe it is wise to put a trap in a roof drain…I mean maybe somebody predicted that I might drop my wedding ring down the pipe when I’m up there unplugging it which could make sense except that (1) I can’t wear my wedding ring because I can’t insure it here (which is yet another story) and (2) even if I did wear my uninsured wedding ring and was stupid enough to drop it down the roof drain…what good would the trap do me? After all it’s not like it’s accessible like it is under the sink…it’s encased in a concrete roof with absolutely no way to get to it……but I digress.

Where was I? Ah yes. Up and down and down and up. Getting wetter and muddier and more frustrated every minute. Then at one point I was reaching down into the drain from the roof to see if I could even feel any loose debris when my arm got a wee bit stuck. When I pulled it out the released suction created a bit of a vortex. But just for a second. Then the pipe just filled again. So I stuck my arm in again (not taking any chances, my right arm – the one devoid of even cheap jewelry) and tried to create a stronger suction. It occurred to me at that point that IF I was going to continue jamming my arm into a storm drain in the middle of a storm maybe I should get my cellphone or at least leave a note on the front door so the search party would know where to find my dead body. And that’s when it hit me….what I really needed was a real plunger – something specifically made for this task.

One more trip down to get one. One more trip up to try it. A few unsuccessful attempts and then just when I thought it wouldn’t work after all – whoosh. Bazinga! Relief all around.