It started with a loud gurgling sound. When I wandered into the kitchen to investigate, I stepped in water — a lot of water. I splashed past the kitchen table into the bathroom. Water was spouting out of the toilet bowl and cascading onto the floor — it looked like a possessed bidet. I’d love to say I stayed calm, reacted swiftly and handled the situation well. But instead of dwelling on what I didn’t do, here’s what I learned that fateful day:
1. Think before you plunge. The first thing I did was shut off the water supply to the toilet. The fountain continued. I attacked the toilet with a plunger. The fountain continued. It continued until the source — our upstairs bathtub — was completely empty. Despite the fact that the kid who was helping me had wet hair and a freshly-scrubbed face, I never thought to ask if there was water draining anywhere in the house. Yay me.
2. Soaker tubs are big. Too big. Our soaker tub holds about 60 gallons of water. That’s 59–1/2 gallons more than can be comfortably spread over a kitchen floor without causing heart palpitations and permanent water damage. I will be installing an electric fence around the tub to keep my kids away until I recover from this trauma.
3. Plumbers are like unicorns. I told my kids to not use the toilets, sinks or the tub until this problem was fixed. Then I frantically called every plumbing company in the area. The only one that returned my call told me they were booked for the next four days (a long time to pee outdoors).
4. Guys who “root” should be knighted. I’d like to give a shout-out to Reasonable Rooter. They arrived 40 minutes after I called, and the man — who looked more like a professional model than a plumber — had the problem fixed in one hour. I highly recommend this company (ask for the male model).
5. Trees can be jerks. The problem turned out to be a tree that had decided to punch a hole in the main sewer line leading from my house to the road. It’s now missing the chunk of roots that it had stuffed into my sewer line. I have no sympathy.
6. E. coli are invisible — so you never know when they’re really gone. There was toilet water on the bathroom walls, on the legs of the kitchen table and chairs, under the radiators and in the basement. It had bubbled up in the laundry room sink. It had even blown up through a weird vent pipe in one of the kitchen cupboards. It was on our shoes, on the outside of buckets, and on every towel and mop we’d used to clean up the mess. I’ve scrubbed for hours, yet still feel like I should be wearing a hazmat suit. If your grocery store is out of bleach, I apologize.