In our home, we observe a semi-annual ritual that roughly corresponds to the summer and winter solstice. No, we’re not Wiccans, and we don’t dance by the light of the moon.
At that time of year, we inevitably make an emergency call to the plumber because the bathroom sink is clogged, usually on New Year’s Eve. However, we make that desperate call only after two weeks of arguing about who was to blame in a spectacle worse than the Kardashian divorce proceedings. And while I brush my teeth over the toilet bowl, I often wonder why one of my sons-in-law couldn’t have been a plumber, or even better, a family therapist.
Weeks before disaster strikes, I can see it coming because the sink starts draining more slowly and then I hear an ominous gurgling down in the pipes like a Stephen King creature clawing its way out or some strange brew bubbling up from the septic tank.
“THE DRAIN IS CLOGGED AGAIN!!!” someone screams and everyone runs for cover as the accusations start to fly.
“If you didn’t blow-dry your hair in the sink, the drain wouldn’t be clogged!”
“Nooo, it’s your shaving cream that caused the problem!”
“OK, I’ll stop shaving if you stop blow-drying your hair!”
“Maybe the dog dropped a bone down there. Dogs do strange things.”
There are many theories, but the consequences are always the same. Our lives are disrupted as we scramble to find a new place to shave, brush our teeth and wash our faces. At that point, the historically unsuccessful rescue mission begins as I traipse off to Home Depot at 9 p.m. to buy drain cleaner.
When I return, my wife informs me I bought the wrong kind. She’s an expert, you see, in the art of unclogging drains and comes equipped with a plunger, rubber gloves and goggles because there’s no telling what will squirt in your eyes once that plunger starts sucking up scum.
Over a period of days, we try about three different brands of drain cleaner, but nothing works. We even let it sit overnight and then plunge again until scum comes up that my wife — with the talents of a CSI investigator — identifies as “shaving cream.” I scoff. It’s just not possible. Besides, a guy needs to shave. Finally, we call the plumber and vow not to eat out for several weeks so we can pay the bill.
He comes and works his magic, and when I get home, everyone is eager to tell me the results. First of all, there was hair, so we start to debate whose hair ball was in the drain. I have no hair, so don’t blame me. I insist it’s my daughter’s long black hair. There was no blonde hair, so it can’t be my wife’s.
However, the plumber, speaking ex cathedra — or ex toileta — says shaving cream caused the problem.
“That’s insane,” I yell. “Don’t pay him. Shaving cream is nothing more than soap with air pumped into it. It can’t possibly clog a drain. He talks like a wimp who uses an electric razor.”
I then proceed to do a demonstration and squirt some shaving cream in the sink and turn on the water,
“Stop, you’re going to clog the drain again!” they scream.
“Impossible! Shaving cream breaks down!”
Hmmm, it used to break down. What the heck is wrong? This must be high-density, synthetic shaving cream manufactured in China from chicken parts. No more scientific experiments for me.
And no more shaving either. I’ll grow a beard. I’ll look like Oscar nominee Abraham Lincoln or ZZ Top. I’ll even change my career and “reinvent” myself. Yes, I’m going to take plumbing lessons.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.