I’ve spent too much time in my basement these past couple of days. Basements are dark, scary places that flood and are inhabited by all manner of crawly creatures such as mice, rats, spiders that appear to be wearing Tasmanian Devil pelts, centipedes so large that when one scurries across the floor it sounds like a tribe of Zaporozhian Cossacks, and other miscellaneous alien life forms. Generally, I don’t spend my time there. If some object needs to be moved to the basement, I usually open the door and shove whatever it is down the stairs, as I did with our clothes washer and dryer, cat litter box, a dwarf, our phony Christmas tree, and assorted political canvassers. I believe that if God had wanted humans to have basements, He would have put them on the second floor where they wouldn’t flood.
But the other day, my wife said she had to tell me something that I wouldn’t be happy to hear, and she was correct. Once, again, the basement floor drain had backed up and spread its delectable contents all over the place. Now if the basement itself is nasty, the evil, foul-smelling stuff that comes up out of the sewer is about as welcome an addition as Rush Limbaugh at an Equal Rights for Women rally. Mostly it’s stuff that’s been flushed away, if you get my drift, plus other things such as random dirt, pieces of unidentifiable protoplasm and Jimmy Hoffa.
Because he’s made so many visits to our home, the sewer man is on our telephone’s speed dial. My wife called him, but he was currently indisposed since he was dressed as an artichoke in a local theater company’s production of War and Peace. Before going into full panic mode and calling another sewer man for an expensive rodding job, I thought I’d attempt to clear the blockage myself. After much plunging and performing an enema on the drain by shoving a hose down the pipe to try and flush it out, the drain cleared, just in time for my daughter to scream out from the upstairs shower that there was no hot water. With my extensive, specialized knowledge of plumbing, I figured the unclogged sewer had nothing to do with the hot water in the shower, so I wiped of my hands and checked out my hi-tech NASA-designed water heater and sure enough, the warning light was flashing away. I checked the error code in the troubleshooting section of the Owner’s Manual, more commonly known as the Answer-to Everything-Except-Your-Current-Problem Manual, and saw that the number of flashes indicated I didn’t have enough life insurance. I called a repairman and went back to cleaning up the sewer muck before it slithered away and applied for a green card.
I now have a new a new water heater, which only cost a zillion dollars because the replacement part to fix the old one would have cost me $3.00 less than a zillion, plus installation. The new water heater is gray and not as fancy as my old one, resembling a major component of a WWII German U-boat, but it’s made in America and built to last—at least until the day after the warranty expires.