Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Clearing of the Drains

A couple nights ago, I spent my meager handful of weekday evening hours not helping kids with homework, or cleaning up after dinner, or walking my beautiful dog, or even playing my computer game. I spent it in the basement clearing out the floor drain.

As it happened, this drain is emptied into by the washer tub, and had apparently clogged with lint or something. That's what it looked like--whatever. Said lint had, over time, conducted much or the rotting mess of sewage in the street sewer into my sub-floor pipes, which not-so-delightfully appeared on my basement floor one night after the washer emptied. Because I'm cheap, I vetoed calling the plumber at 10:30 pm and simply plugged the drain, believing whole-heartedly in my ability to clear out a little (or a lot of) pocket lint in a pipe tomorrow as opposed to spending three digits for someone else to do it right now.

(I should point out here that I do not, in fact, have veto power on anything in my house. My lovely wife simply allows me to believe that I do in some cases [bless her], and despite her insistence that it wasn't worth the trouble, gave me a chance to prove that I could fix this problem.)

I don't recommend this. Ever. I understand the intricacies of the trap under the sink, and I can install new faucets and change gaskets and o-rings, but I am not a plumber. I don't have plumber's tools, unless a hacksaw counts. I don't know what goes on under the house, and I sure don't know what happens after the stuff leaves my property.

Needless to say, I spent many of my precious evening hours in frustration just trying to find the problem, getting myself pretty gross in the process. Finally, I gave up and told the Wife to call somebody--anybody, I didn't care--but I was done. Then she turned the tables on me, and said that I'd have to call, seeing as how I already knew what I'd tried, etc. (This is one of her tactics to get me to not be so stubborn next time.) Faced with exposure and having to explain my failure to another man, I sucked it in and gave it another shot. This time, I knew I would have to invest a little and get the right tool for the job. As luck would have it, $30 at Home Depot and fifteen minutes did the trick. Go figure.

I know this is a spectacularly boring story. Fortunately, the story isn't the point. Looking back on the ridiculousness of it all, the cause of the clog, the potential prevention, the nasty chronic effect, the trouble it caused, the frustration in trying to deal with it, and the eventual resolution, makes for a pretty fair representation of much of what goes wrong in Life. It doesn't take a close examination to realize that I have a great many drains I need to mind, a fair few that have been clogged a good long time, and some that are creating quite the smelly mess.

Though I'm no stranger to emotional struggle, for a majority of my life I've wondered why it has to be so hard, and what, if anything, I can do to short-circuit the tough parts. More importantly, I am desperate for any scraps of wisdom that may teach my children to be less affected by their own issues later. In our culture, in our world, a certain amount of BS is inevitable, it's true, but most of it probably isn't necessary to get along on a daily basis. I've come to understand that my life will be defined by how I meet these challenges, and the tools I can pass along to help other people do the same.

The current state of my life is a good indicator that I'm not doing a very good job.

I've tried lots of things to handle my stuff, including sucking it up and pretending it's not there. Fortunately, I've been blessed with the stubbornness to keep trying, and the resourcefulness to try different things, with varying results. What I've found is, it's not a bad thing to be a hack, trying new stuff just because it might work (because sometimes it does), but being resourceful is only of use when you understand the limits of your resources, and when you know when to trade some inventive investigation for reasonably-priced peace of mind.

I wonder, if with my basement drain, how many times I will give up. I wonder which of those times I'll be able to toughen up and get back on the horse, and keep fighting. I wonder what simple changes I can make now to prevent trouble later, and I wonder what tool I'm lacking that, if it were simply in my possession, would make life as easy as $30 and fifteen minutes. I wonder if I'm the only one who struggles with these questions.

Mostly, I worry that I will not be able to figure it out in time to teach my children, and that they will be caught in the same vicious circle.

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