This story starts a few years ago, when I was visiting home from college. The bathroom light beamed at the end of the hallway in our house and I went towards it to turn it off, only to realize my mother was sitting in the shower, water not running of course, hunched over the drain with a hanger in her hand. "Come here, look at this," she said, almost challenging me. "Look at what's in the drain."
"Nope," I said, shaking my head and moving to turn away. But I was too slow.
She waved a pile of dark brown, hairy slop at me. "Look at what's in the drain!"
My eyebrow raised and mouth curled in disgust. "Ew."
"Come here, you're learning how to do this," she said, beckoning me with her hangerful of slop. She had been using the hook to lift out the drain-clogging mess. "One day you'll have to do this, you know!"
I shivered. "But that day's not today!" And I walked out.
Twelve hours ago, my roommate J found the drain was clogged and asked if we should call the super. Having encountered this problem before, I declined and instead prescribed Drano or Liquid Plumr, or what have you. I would get some when I came home from the gym.
Hours later, I poured a half-bottle magic unclogger down the drain, waited 15 minutes and ran hot water as directed. But the water didn't move. I poured the other half-bottle down the drain and repeated the steps again, but to no avail.
I poked at the drain with a bobby pin, but suddenly I knew what I had to do. Noticing the center of the drain required a screwdriver, I retrieved said object as well as a hanger and set to work. What follows is perhaps one of the most disgusting hours I have ever spent in my life.
At first I leaned over the drain to try and unscrew the top, but soon realized I would be sitting in it, hunched over, just as my mother had. Payback, as they say, is nothing short of a bitch.
I pried the screw loose and my stomach churned at the sight of the brown goo encircling the drain below. Slowly but surely, I pried loose what were probably masses of hair and skin cells and water and sand and whatever the hell else from the drain first with the hanger, then the screwdriver. The masses slopped around the drain and stared back at me. Welcome to life, sister.
I almost threw up more than one time, but ultimately I did it. I cleaned out my drain, I cleaned out the shower, I disinfected and threw everything away, I screwed everything back in. And you know what? I felt like a rockstar.
Requiring a shower after this incredibly dirty experience, there was no greater sound than the drain happily, thirstily glugging down water like a runner after a marathon. And I did that! I fixed the drain! Couldn't have done it without mom, for sure.
But here are a few things I not so much learned as had reaffirmed along the sloppy, nearly-vomit-inducing way:
- Sometimes you simply can't rely on anyone else and you have to do it yourself. As a person who functions as my own boss, I know the value of being independent. I do it on a daily basis, and have zero problem doing so. In fact, I quite enjoy it. But when it comes to fixing things in my own house, I am, shall we say, not the most handy. But why not? If I spent my workday waiting for other people to fix problems, I would never get anything done. Though, sure, it's important to trust and be able to rely on other people, you should always, always be able to rely on yourself. You don't know how to do something? Learn it. If you don't know, it's nobody's fault but your own. And when you do learn, it might be messy, but you won't make the same mistake again.
- I am woman, hear me roar. I don't know who said that men are more mechanical than women, but they can bite me. My mother was always fixing things and teaching us how to use different appliances. She has a toolkit and she knows how to use it because when she was single, she had to. There wasn't just going to be some knight with shining plunger to make it all better. I don't know when I got the idea that I was some high-femme-you're-expecting-me-to-do-what-with-a-screwdriver person, but it was clearly a figment of my imagination. Sometimes all you have to do is tell yourself you can do something, then you can.
- Seeing the fruits of your labor is powerful stuff. Knock on wood, I've had a pretty good few weeks, career-wise. I've seen my hard work pay off, and the feeling is enough to keep me wanting it more. But the occasion is rare when I will be doing something with my bare hands like getting them all up in a drain. I spent too much time on that drain to let it get like that again. There's an investment now. I know the hard work it takes to fix it and I'm going to work hard not to get it like that in the first place. It's too often that people don't learn the value of hard work and take far too much for granted. I feel bad for them. You can't be afraid to get your hands dirty because you never know what the rewards will be!
- Listen to your mom. Because if you don't you'll have to write a blog post telling her how wrong you are about not paying attention when she was cleaning out the drain the first time. Moms (and dads!) have been there, they've done it, and they know a few things. You also have to have the presence of mind, though, to know when not to listen--sometimes this will result in a mistake that you'll learn from, but sometimes it will be the right choice. Sometimes there will just be brown goo and you'll have to be resourceful and get rid of it in your own way. But be open to suggestions from people who've seen it before.
I know what the haters will say--oh, poor little girl cleaning out a drain! Your life is so difficult! Shut up. You know the first time you cleaned out a drain it was nasty as all hell, too. What I'm saying is that it's empowering, it's important to be able to do these kinds of things yourself. You can throw money at someone else to do it, but what are you really learning? Make mistakes, see the results of your actions, work hard not to make them again; or if you do, make sure you learn from them.
But if you're really too squeamish to clean out the drain, I can help you. And I promise not to vomit.