Renting a Snake

Ray of Light 7/6/2008 

Two months ago, my sewer backed up and flooded the (unfinished) basement. I called a plumber, who brought over an R2D2-sized electric snake and fished out a fist-sized hunk of stringy plant matter with it. It took about 20 minutes plus (un)loading time, net -$150 to me, gg plumberman.

Now, after doing laundry yesterday, I find my basement again decorated in toilet paper scraps and human waste. Rather than call the plumber to discuss his anytime minutes plans, I decided to troubleshoot and fix it myself this time.

The troubleshooting did not take long: last year I found that baby wipes can ease the pain of shitting after a night of drinking, and have been using them for that ever since. The program was a smashing success; I soon expanded coverage to include all regular shits as well. I wasn't cleaning with baby wipes exclusively (do you think I'm made of money?!), but as a key part of a comprehensive anus-care program. A bit of googling showed me that "do baby wipes clog toilets?" is one topic on which the entire internet agrees:

chocolate tea wrote:

Tara S wrote:

Yes they do, they don't break up in water.
her wrote:

Shawna wrote:

Yes, don't do it!!
# 1 MOMMY wrote:

yes please don't flush them lol
RainClou... wrote:

Yes. You should never flush baby wipes as they will stop the toilet up.

yes you should put them in trash can.
girlrace... wrote:

Oh my gosh, yes! Never flush those things!
Classy Granny wrote:

YES..I have had to pay to have drain unplugged because my tenant upstairs kept flushing them. When the plumber comes that is what he finds in the floor drain. After about three times I told them they'd have to pay the next pluming bill
noone wrote:

if you only flush one at a time then they wont clogg the toilet, but more then that and they will
Erika wrote:

yes, really bad and even those ones that are advertised for toddlers plug the toilet too.
morgan wrote:

is this a serious question?
Fuck you, morgan.
momma2mi... wrote:

Yes...DO NOT put baby wipes in the toilet. You will clog it up and it will overflow. Those "flushable wipes" that they make for kids who are toilet training can go in the toilet...but only a couple at a time or they will clog it up too.

The replies go on and on like this. Imagine my shock! I assumed that if whatever you're flushing doesn't get stuck in the bowl and doesn't expand to a larger size over time, you are home free in the larger-than-toilet-bowl-drain-sized pipes below. NOT SO. Anyway, Home Depot rents the "General Wire Mini-Rooter" with 50' of 3/8" cable for $40/4hr, and you can keep it overnight if you rent just before closing. It weighs about 60lbs and looks like this:

In theory, you press on a foot pedal and the drum spins in either direction, causing the cable to spin as well. You feed the cable into the drain and the bit on the end grabs whatever is causing the blockage. Once the block is clear, the standing water in the drain pipe will clear, then you bring the cable back and get to have a look at what all the fuss was about.

In practice, a previous renter will have tried to use it to clean his central vac ducts or something and put a kink in the cable, and when you try to shove this kink down the drain the free cable will bind and spin itself into this shape:

In this diagram, your hand and arm are are represented by a stick with wings on it. You can stop the machine, but lifting your feet in response to a dangerous situation is not at all instinctual and it will take a couple of seconds to figure it out. After you do, you'll find that all the shit and slime on the floor has made the tiny rubber pedal stick to your boot, so the machine will start right back up again no matter where you put your foot back down. This would be a good time to flail around uselessly and perhaps knock your head on an overhead duct.

When you come to, it will be about time to return the snake. Run it in reverse and feed the cable back into the drum with your remaining good arm. The baby wipes will be easy to spot: they're the soggy white things whipping around and showering you with feces as they come out of the drain. Black water will also accumulate inside the drum, but you needn't worry about this, thanks to an elegant draining scheme: incoming cable displaces the water to the edge of the drum, then centripetal force sends it into the operator's eyes where it can dissipate harmlessly via the body's waste-handling organs.

Back at the Home Depot, act cool and friendly toward the rental rep, to reduce the chance he'll point out that the tool you're returning smells like you took a shit on it. This is a standard "ploy" in rental game, used to gouge customers out of a bogus "cleaning" fee. If he tries anything funny, be firm but polite. "We've all got problems," you might say, "why don't you try to imagine what my fucking car smells like?"

I can hear you already, saying "Hey! That's not very polite!" but believe me you will have a new outlook on polite after tangling with a machine that wants to kill you and cover your corpse in poop.

Home Depot's overnight return time is 9am, so after the return you will have all day to locate a plumber. Good luck!

Ray of Light