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Talia to the rescue!

[Warning! Story below was elements that may make you say, "Ewww, gross!" If you're that type of person read at your own risk.]

One of the joys of life is its unpredictibility; that no matter how much of a rut you might think your life has fallen into, something unique might be just around the corner. I had no idea at all when I woke up yesterday that by 11:00 I would have my arm sunk deep into disgusting brown water feeling hopelessly for whatever was blocking the toilet. Or that I would spend a significant part of the day dealing with this problem. But that's the joys of life for you.

The story begins -- as so many stories do -- at Costco, where I foolishly bought some Charmin' bathroom tissue because it was cheap. I had never bought this brand before and was looking forward to enjoying its many wonderful qualities. Charmin' is absorbent; which may be a good thing in some circumstances but when there are children about that have a tendency to overuse the tissue, it is not a good thing. In fact it is a very bad thing.

Normally, when I have a blocked toilet, a few pumps from the plunger is enough to clear it. But not this time. Soon I was to discover that this block would defy all my regular solutions and require a unique, outside-of-the-box solution. The waste hole on this toilet (which I installed myself a couple of years ago) for some reason had a rectangular shape. This prevented the plunger from getting any good suction. My first thought was to aquire a better plunger, so I phoned a friend that was knowledgable about such matters. He promised me that this plunger he had would clear any plug. One half-hour car trip later, I discovered he was lying. It had the same problem: it couldn't make a seal on the bottom of the bowl. I went to a hardware store to hopefully find a better plunger, but it didn't work either. Time to move to the chemicals.

All the 'drain cleaner' chemicals state that they are for sinks. None of them talk about toilets. I couldn't imagine why; the principle should be the same. But the chemicals (and hot water and an hour of plunging) did nothing. Now what?

I manually searched for the plug, thinking it might be a toy or something that the kids might have decided to get rid of, but nothing was there. Then I got the idea of making a seal for the plunger. Duct tape! That would solve everything. So I bailed filth in the toilet down to a manageable level, and tried to duct tape the plunger over the hole at the bottom. But the duct tape was inadequately sticky. So I tried packing tape. Nope. Electrical tape. Yes! A seal! But... because now I was plunging air, it was impossible to create enough pressure to do anything. Argghh!

Last resort. Take the toilet off and try to clean it from the other end. Ugh. So, I turned off the water to the toilet, emptied the tank, bailed and got rid of the last of the water in the bowl using old towels to soak it up. I took off the tank, unscrewed the bowl and -- with great effort -- pried the bowl from the floor. I took it outside and rested it on a stair with the drain hole over the edge.

I shot pressurized water up both ends and had no luck. A coat hanger? Nothing. I knew the block was in this piece because the water didn't flow through, but I just couldn't reach it. I was at wits end.

My daughter had been watching my last trials with interest. (My son had some kind of illness that made him indifferent, apathetic and surprisingly agreeable. He didn't bug me.) She was asking questions, trying to 'help', and just generally getting in the way. I wasn't in the mood for her. Then she chirped, "Maybe the noodle can help."

Those of you who have pools are no doubt familiar with these 'noodles'. They're six foot long extruded foam tubes used as swimming toys. We have no pool but we have a couple of them anyway. I've been long amazed at all the games Max and Talia have come up with using these things. At $1.50 each, they're probably the most cost-effective toys imaginable. The two noodles we had have been with my kids half their lives.

Instantly I got an idea. I told Talia that if I used her noodle, I would have to throw it out (it was already filthy and pretty messed up -- but it was still pretty dear to her). She agreed. I turned the bowl upside down and stuffed one end of the noodle in the bottom hole. Because of the pliability of the foam, it made a perfect seal. Then I blew in the hole at the other end of the noodle. Bingo! The blockage came right out. The toilet was saved! Papa's sanity was saved! It was all over but the cleaning up. And it only took five hours!

So. How'd your Thanksgiving go?

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