A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008
posted by Jen at 7/02/2008 09:37:00 AM

Generally, when things go wrong around the house, and my hardworking and handy husband isn't around, I have a simple way of dealing:

Step one: ignore the situation, and hope that time will improve it.

Step two: repeat step one.

Sometimes this works out okay. I once had a dead Blackberry resurrect itself overnight when all I did was ignore it.

But sometimes, a situation will emerge that requires immediate and decisive action, such as a phone call to someone who knows how to fix things.

So it was on Sunday afternoon on the Cape, when my mother limped upstairs on her brand-new knee to report that the toilets were flushing very slowly.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch,” I said. "My toilet's flushing too slowly. My new knee hurts. You never let me sell your galleys on eBay."

My mother persisted. “I think we should call someone.”

“Let’s just wait,” I said, handing her a plunger. “This one time, it worked for my Blackberry.”

She limped back downstairs. A few minutes later, she reported that the toilets had ceased flushing, and that, when flushing was attempted, water was leaking from the bathroom floorboards out into the hallway and shooting up from the shower drain.

This, I decided, was not a situation I could ignore overnight.

So I called the caretaker. The caretaker called the plumbers. The plumbers gave me a stern and thorough interrogation about whether anyone in the house had tried to flush anything un-flushable. I protested my innocence. They looked skeptical, but proceeded to dig up the septic tank.

Do you know how much it costs to have your septic tank dug up? It’s surprisingly reasonable!

Do you know how much I would charge to have to dig up a septic tank? Ten thousand dollars.

Seriously, this is my plan for the future in case the writing thing doesn’t pan out. I will show up at a house with non-flushing toilets. I will say, “That’ll be ten thousand dollars, please.” And if they scream or protest or try to bargain, I would hand them the shovel that I will carry around as a prop and say, “Hey, you’re free to do it yourself.”

So the plumbers went to work, looking completely unconvinced that I wasn’t a secret potty abuser who’d spent months flinging fistfuls of paper toweling and feminine protection and crime-scene evidence and pot plants and old love letters down the crapper.

Meanwhile, the caretaker said that he’d called a special clean-up crew to deal with the wet and the mess. “They’re called Disaster,” he said blithely.

For reals? I asked.

“Yep. They drive around in a big van that says Disaster.”

Just then, the phone rang. “Hello,” said a friendly voice. “This is Curtis from Disaster.” (You have to imagine this in the broadest Massachusetts accent possible, where “disaster” sounds like “disastah.”) “I hear you’re having a crappy day.”

Then he started laughing. Then I started laughing. “Sorry,” he said. “I couldn’t resist.”

Resist? I thought. Why would you? You have the greatest job ever! You get to drive around in a big van that says Disaster, and call people up and tell them they’re having a crappy day! Okay, maybe the mopping up after suicides and meth lab explosions isn’t so great, but working the phones and driving the van has got to be fantastic.

Anyhow. The plumbers found roots growing into the septic tank, and reluctantly absolved me of illicit flushing.

The Disaster guys took up some floorboards in the halls, and left an industrial-strength dehumidifier running in the hallway and a jukebox-sized dryer in the offending bathroom, and the insurance appraiser said that our homeowner’s policy would cover the clean-up and the repairs.

So now I get to pick out pretty new tiles for the hallway, and we all live to flush another day.

In other non-toilet news, editor Jonathan Karp reports that Clay Aiken gave him more trouble than Manuel Noriega, which somehow isn’t surprising.

There is a book, and a website, called Slow Fat Triathlete, which means I’m not the first.

And the New York Times Book Review doesn’t think there have been any recent novels written about work except for Personal Days and Then We Came to the End.

This is great news, because it means that I hallucinated In the Drink and Piece of Work and The Second Assistant and The Devil Wears Prada and Chambermaid and Sammy’s Hill, and I Don’t Know How She Does It, and Citizen Girl, and I can now write them all myself! (Surely the reviewer and his editors didn’t just ignore them because they’re, you know, women’s work. Maybe it's just that they failed to employ the magical first-person plural. We will have to give that some serious thought).
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