Walking with Crisco and Canada Dry

–or, “How I used a Defective Internet Connection to Fix the Kitchen Sink and Earn my Wife’s Undying Affection

Stefan cursed under his breath yet again and poked  ‘F5’ to refresh the recalcitrant connection on the Inspiron.  The cat on his lap sensed his angst and shifted to a position from which he could make a quick break to the floor and beyond.

Since having bundled his land line and internet with his current cable television provider, he had found to his shock and dismay that, not only was he not getting a faster browsing experience, but rather was plodding through a surfing existence punctuated at frequent and regular intervals by lost connections and frozen screens.  After 12 years of dial-up, then DSL, with his previous (and only) ISP vendor, he had relished the prospect of  the promised quantum leaps in surfing speed a cable modem was supposed to provide, and had welcomed the installation tech as though he were Santa, bearing gifts of  gaming and streaming video powers he had only dreamed about. He was giddy as his new home page filled the flat screen of his new computer, and felt truly and , at last, in the 21st century.

But it was not to be.  Santa had brought him a lump of coal which made his dial-up experience of a decade prior seem like a fond memory of  a dear but departed grandmother.

At this poke of ‘F5’, however, the search results came up.  Scrolling through the results, he quickly sorted out those he had viewed the last time his happy home had experienced a clogged drain.  Oh, that this could be solved again by the ‘baking soda and vinegar’ procedure.  It had worked two years ago with the bathroom sink and his wife had been ecstatic, proud of his doing a job which Liquid Plumber could not.  This time, the problem was acute.  It was the kitchen sink, and disassembling the PVC links below had revealed that the clog was deeper than a vinegar treatment or a coat hanger would be able to address.

His wife, his love, loved not only him but also her cats, her crafts, her art……..and her fish.  A full-time professional and dutiful homemaker, she prided herself on the pristine condition of  her home.  If vacuum cleaners came with turbochargers she would the first on the block to have one.  The fish tank, 77 gallons of  an artistic clarity which even Jacques Cousteau  would envy, was in her mind just another room in the house.  The “fishies'” room.  And for that reason the cats were treated at regular intervals to , not only being able to view the fish, (big 8-inch piscine heavyweights of splendid color and form) in a huge basin on the floor,  but also to chasing the colorful clumps of algae and waste which made their serpentine way from the suction end of a 30-foot clear plastic hose from the tank, through the hallway and into the kitchen sink.  A ‘vacuum’ for the ‘fishies” room…a two-way suction device which scooped up algae, waste, sludge and gunk and dispatched it all in clumps to the waiting drain in the kitchen.

Recently,though, the sink had begun to clog to such a degree that the vacuuming of the tank had become impossible.  The drain had morphed in capacity from a large sieve to a thimble.  Even washing dishes caused water to rise in the adjacent basin of this tandem kitchen fixture.  The ‘fishies” room was becoming green, cloudy and much more like the Mississippi than the Caribbean.  There was no room in the budget for a plumber.  His wife was not happy.

And that was not good.

This time, he had entered “unclog DEEP drain clogs” into the Google box.  To his disappointment, the first two pages discussed the use of snakes.  He did not relish the idea of renting one.  After all, as a man of 56, his garage already held any tool, apparatus or lawn appliance that he could ever need.  A snake was not among these.  On the third page he was able to open, he read the text and condensed it in his mind to several components:

1)  Get the plunger.  What was news to Stefan here was that one should use Vaseline around the edge to attain a more secure seal around the drain than could be gotten with the edge untreated.  Cool beans.

2) As there were two sinks and two drains, the one not being addressed with the plunger should be securely stopped with a wet rag and held in place by something heavy so the pressure built up by plunging the adjacent drain could be applied against the clog.  He relished the idea of applying Newtonian physics to his task.

The plunger was in its place beneath the bathroom sink upstairs.  Holding it under his arm, he opened the vast cabinet of toiletries, towels, notions, lotions, and other sundries his wife meticulously kept  and perused the contents to locate the jar of Vaseline he thought every household had.  No dice.  Among the plethora of hair conditioners; skin creams: bath oils; shampoos; hair conditioners; makeup;  and lotions for every component for the female anatomy, he found no Vaseline.

His mind inventoried the contents of the garage.  He could not think of any plausible substitute for Vaseline other than, perhaps, a tube of axle grease he used to treat the chain on the impellers of the snow-blower each year.  He shuddered at the prospect of using such a substance on her stainless sink.  Down to the kitchen. Opening every cupboard door along two walls, he opted at last to use Crisco.  Applying some around the rim of the plunger’s cup, he placed it on the counter to look for a rag.

Alas. There was not a piece of fabric in the house which was not a neatly folded wash-cloth, towel; place-mat; napkin or embroidered cloth for which he could even divine a purpose.  Sighing, he collected two paper napkins from the kitchen table.  Though of particular printed design, he gambled they would not be missed due to their sheer number.  He moistened them, wadded them up and pressed them into the drain of the adjacent sink.  Now for the weight.  He glanced down to the place they usually kept the marble brick they used to keep the kitchen door open with.

Nuts.  Silly Stefan.  Winter was here, and  this door did not need to be secured in an open position.  She had stored it somewhere until it was needed again.  The flapping open and closing of the cupboards began anew.  Nothing of a mass or shape which seemed up to the task until he opened the refrigerator.  He grabbed the two-liter Canada Dry ginger ale bottle, yet unsealed.  He jammed the drain stopper down on the napkins until its edges were flush with the surface of the basin and placed the bottle over it.  It’s circumference matched perfectly the edge of the stopper.


Now, to work. He filled the offending sink with a few inches of water and worked the plunger at intervals.  Vigorously.  With gusto.  After six or seven bouts with the plunger, he poured boiling water from a large pot into the drain, holding the pot as high over his head as possible.  Pleased with his aim and the lack of major splashing, he thus, at least in his mind, adhered to Newtonian principles by maximizing the gravity and the pressure of the boiling deluge as it hit its focused target.

More plunging.  More boiling and pouring.

At length, he began to notice the sound of actual draining.  He turned on the tap, and to his joy observed bubbles coming out of the drain.  He opened the tap to a stronger stream, and at last beheld a vortex at the center of the drain, which grew with the volume of the water and danced like a crazy tornado in a corral.  Its shape as it danced and wriggled around the base of the drain was more hypnotic to him than that of any exotic dancer.

Eureka!  He spent the next hour running the tap at various volumes until he was satisfied the vortex was with him to stay.  Jen would be pleased when she got home.  He smiled as he anticipated that her first order of business would be to break out the hose and free the ‘fishies’ of their dingy confinement.  But after several weeks, maybe the fish could wait another few hours.  He went upstairs, showered, and came back downstairs.  He placed a rose stem-first into the drain.  Then he went upstairs, took a Cialis and shaved.

Yeah…the fish can wait.  The computer can wait, too. He powered it down.   He’d attack that issue tomorrow.



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