The Tale of The Overflowing Toilet

Don’t Pay Through the Nose Because You Can’t Handle a Snake

by Brandi Savitt, January 21, 2010


None of us like to think of ourselves as a “helpless” woman – especially me!  However, when it comes to being miss-fix-it around the house, I have definitely fallen into the ‘girlie’ category more than I’d like to admit.  Having dealt with the humiliation of being ripped off…MORE THAN ONCE, I’ve learned the expensive way that if you can’t fix basic household mishaps, you’ll likely end up paying an OUTRAGEOUS price!  Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go out and buy power tools, but learning some handywoman skills is not only useful, it’s totally Fab & Fru!

The Single Girl’s Saturday Night Special

One Saturday evening, in the not so distant past, I walked into the bathroom of my Brooklyn apartment to give myself one last look before rushing out the door to go on the first official date with the potential love of my life.  I applied a little more lipstick and blotted my lips with a tissue. Good to go! Little did I know, that when I innocently threw that tissue into the toilet and flushed, I would be changing the course of my entire evening and foreshadowing the fate of my nascent relationship.

As expected, I heard the swoosh of the water and walked down the hall to grab my jacket. But something was wrong. When I walked back into the hallway, water was creeping out from under the bathroom door!  How could that be? As I pushed the door open, water (luckily it was clear..) was pouring over the sides of the toilet so rapidly that there was already three inches covering the floor. Naturally, I did what any single and unhandy woman would do – I TOTALLY PANICKED! Grabbing the phone with one hand and gathering every towel in the apartment with the other, I dialed the only plumber’s number that I had as I simultaneously threw every towel onto the bathroom floor.

snaking a toiletWhile I waited for the plumber, the dispatcher instructed me how to turn off the water valve on the toilet (umm, after owning a home for 5 years, how did I not know this?). Remarkably, in less than 15 minutes, my buzzer rang.  The burly Brooklyn plumber huffed & puffed his way up the steps to the top floor of the 19th century brownstone, opened the bathroom door and walked across the mounds of wet white towels with his filthy boots.   He immediately took out a long bending pole (a plumbing snake) and maneuvered the entire length of the thing into the hole of the toilet bowl.  A tinker here, a wiggle there and – NO JOKE – in less than five minutes Mr. Plumber came out and said- “sumpin’ must of gotten stuck way up in there, but I think I pushed it through”.  And with that, he took out his clipboard, called in a mumbled message to the office and said me, “that’ll be $400 sweetie”.

Sweetie, seriously!?? I’m sure you can imagine my reaction… Beside the nausea and rage that began to bubble within, I stood there frozen in shock!  The guy must of thought I was going to cry because a look of terror came over his face, and he immediately said “look lady, how about I knock off $50 bucks.  I just won’t tell ‘em that I had to snake the toilet, okay?”  “Okay, thanks”, I managed to reply.  “But what else did you do? I mean, you’ve been here 4 ½ minutes, how can it possible cost $400?”.   He glanced down shamefully and said “It’s Saturday night- double time…Most of the calls we get on weekends are from women like you. (Women like me!?) I mean, I know your bathroom was flooding n’ all, but all you needed to do was shut off the water to the toilet, plunge, and snake the thing.  My advice to you- get yourself a snake and a plunger and learn how to use ‘em.  You’ll save yourself a ton of dough”.

And with that I paid him, and he was gone as fast as he came…

Knowledge Equals Savings!

It was an expensive lesson, but invaluable none-the-less.  It’s been 3 years, and I am proud to say (knock on wood), that I have diverted several calls to the plumber just by having learned these 4 VERY simple rules:

woman plumber

  1. Know where the water shut off valve is on your toilet! (it’s also a good idea to know where the main water shut off valve is for your house or apartment)
  2. Buy & don’t be afraid to use a plunger!
  3. Buy & learn how to use a snake! (it’s ridiculously easy)
  4. Avoid calling a plumber on the weekends or in the evenings- they’ll charge you at least double!

By the way, I did make it to meet my date!  And although the relationship didn’t last very long, he did buy me my first plumbing snake. To this day, I think of him whenever the toilet is clogged..

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