One fine summer day several Junes ago we were minding our own business when we realized that the basement sink into which our laundry washer drains (Guys: it’s Philly. Everything in the house is kinda…ad-hoc.) was overflowing. No amount of plunging or Draino would fix it, and George, acting all casual like, suggested we call a plumber. I have no idea about anything and thus thought everything was gonna be A-OK and ultimately remedied by a check for $19.99 to my friendly neighborhood plumbing man. (Whose fingernails, incidentally, probably look a lot like mine right now.) Looking back, I realize that George’s faux-calm demeanor was hiding the truth, which was that he knew something was horribly amiss.
Friends, pay attention, cause this is a real giggle; turns out in the 1920s, builder dudes (again, with dirty fingernails not unlike mine) thought it would be a super funtime idea to use terracotta pipes as sewer lines, perhaps not realizing, or caring, that they would disintegrate and collapse over time. Like, say, in 87 years. And then, that when Roto Rooter comes out to pay a visit to the home’s newest owners, the kindly plumber will have to inform said owners that the pipes are utterly kaput, and that they’re going to have to bash through a portion of the retaining wall, dig up the entire patio and garden, create a trench some 10 or so feet into the ground, remove the pipe and put in some new PVC. Oh, and they’ll collect about 7 grand on the way out, thankyouverymuch. (Oh, and forget about having your Homeowner’s Insurance cover a joy like this. As the broken pipe was not under our house but rather under the porch area, it was considered “outside of the dwelling” and thus not protected.)
But, it wasn’t without its lessons, chief among which is that when the Roto Rooter man is attempting to clear the drain outside your house, don’t stand too near his crazy Roto Rooter machine, lest it spew out sewer water all over kingdom come, prompting you to say “It’s raaaaaaining!” and the Roto Rooter man to say “Um, no it isn’t.”
BUT there were also Money Monday lessons to learn, namely:
- Have an Emergency Fund: The general rule of thumb (and by that I mean, what most financial websites will tell you) is to try to have six months of income in the kitty, so that when a financial speedbump hits—say, a layoff or, you know, your sewer exploding—it isn’t the total end of the world.
- Be Flexible: George and I had been planning to go to Germany and Poland for a two-week trek during The Year of the Sewer. That quickly took a backseat and we ended up going on a shorter, way more affordable trek to the Florida Keys (where I promptly fell in love and decided that in addition to an Emergency Fund, we needed a Conch Cottage Fund). We had to cut back on a lot of other expenses to pay the piper (plumber?) during this period, but you kinda have no choice but to slap a smile on your face and roll with it.
- You Have More DIY In You Than You Think: We were left with a serious mountain of dirt and rocks in the wake of Sewer Gate (does it ever get old?) that basically took up our entire “front yard.” It would’ve been much easier to pay someone to level it out, haul excess dirt away, and re-landscape, but there was no chance that was happening in the current financial climate. So George and I tallied about 90 hours raking, leveling, hauling rocks to a junk yard, and beginning to replant the thing. Woof.