Sewage spilled to our basement for the second time in two weeks. The pipes were backed up. My girls go overboard on the toilet paper, and there are only three of them. Families of five and nine flush far more often then we do.
Of course, the problem is not with what escapes our house, but what is trying to get it. Roots from our maple tree creep and encroach and enter through the sewer line. Sometimes they make it hard for the dirty dishwater to make it downtown. Other times they stall the progress of our biological waste.
Root problems are serious. So I called the plumbers on Friday afternoon. We have them on speed dial. The operator recognized my voice. "Can you come out today? Can you get rid of some roots?"
"Not today," the man replied. "Maybe tomorrow."
"Is there an additional fee for coming on the weekend?" I asked, my last minute Christmas presents in jeopardy.
"I'll call someone else."
"Good luck with that."
Pipes dripped; noxious fumes circulated. I scanned the list of plumbers frantically. Roto-Rooter was next on the list. I called.
"Where you at?"
"I'm just heading out of Warsaw. I'll swing by."
A minute later the Roto-Rooter man knocked on our door. He wore a navy jump suit, brown smears on the shoulders and knees. A crop of silver hair swept over his head, white teeth gleaming from his grizzled face.
"Your pipe over there?" He pointed to the location of the pipes. I nodded.
He strode to his van and grabbed his machine. He sent the wire down the channel, spinning and cutting invasive roots from my backyard to my sidewalk. The wire continue to unravel. The machine continued to rotate. But I could only imagine its progress: root issues remain underground.
Within a quarter hour he packed up his machine and said, "Got her cleaned." Then he showed me a clump of tiny membranes. "Here's your problem. Roots grow most in the winter. Should flush some Crystal Copper Sulfate down your stool once a month. Kills the roots before they grow to big."
Roto-Rooter man handed me a bill. He charged thirty bucks less than the plumbers. He gave me advice to stall future issues. He even wished me "Merry Christmas." And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, down the street he drove.
The moral of the story was all too obvious: Don't send a plumber to do Roto-Rooter's work.