I was enjoying my late morning leisure. The kids were in school, and Kitty was at her office. This was Tom Time. I was nestled into the sofa, Café Cubano in one hand and TV remote in the other, toggling back and forth between MSNBC and The Food Network.
At first I didn't notice the curious, loud, growling mechanical sound coming from the street, but as it grew louder it caught my ear. "I wonder what they're working on?" I thought as I sipped the rocket-fuel elixir from my tiny demitasse. The sound was more curious than menacing and didn't warrant further investigation that would disturb my bliss, or "harsh my mellow," as my buddy Ben Brown might say.
The next sound, however, caught me off guard—splashing. In a house with four kids, you get used to the sound of splashing. It can even be a comforting sound when accompanied by giggles during "bath time." But splashing when you are alone in the house is a different story.
The sound was coming from the addition on the north side of the house that contained an office, laundry room and what we called "Kitty's bathroom." I casually leaned back and peered over the back of the sofa and through the French doors, and my curiosity turned to sheer horror. Erupting from the washing machine, the toilet, the sink and the shower drain were something out of the movie "Poltergeist" or perhaps "The Exorcist." A solid black column of grainy sludge was spraying up to the ceiling and cascading down the walls, and the smell was enough to choke a goat.
The wheels in my head turned at breakneck speed and put the two sounds together—the splashing was a result of the growling machine. Still in my "Family Guy" pajamas and house shoes, I tore into the street where one city worker was managing to sleep while standing up, resting his chin on the handle of a shovel that was planted in my yard.
"Stop, STOP, STOOOOPPPPPP!" I yelled at the dozing worker and the infernal machine down the street. "STOOOOOOPPPPP! You're pumping $#!+ into my house! STOP!"
The dozing shovel operator jerked awake and made a hand gesture to the machine operator down the street.
"What?" the machine operator replied.
"STOP!" I shouted.
"STOP FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP!"
The machine stopped.
"What?" replied the poop-pumping machine operator.
"You are pumping $#!+ into my house!" I screamed.
"Hmm," he responded calmly. "I'm gonna need to call my supervisor."
"Tell him to bring a mop!"
The drowsy operator looked at me with pity and shook his head. "He's bad about that. He don't smoke the lines. He don't run the low-pressure tests. He just hooks it up and let's the bitch go. Man, I hate it when he does that."
Man, I hated it, too.
I walked back to the house to start the process of sorting out the mess. After I braved the smell long enough to get dressed and get the animals out, I called the insurance company (huzzah to Malcolm Houston and State Farm for being real heroes in this mess), the City of Jackson, my attorney and my wife, Kitty, who was on the Gulf Coast that day.
Within an hour or so, guys in big yellow hazmat suits arrived and removed the toxic sludge. A big fan and a contraption that sprayed a cinnamon mist were left behind for a few days, making my house smell like I would imagine Christmas smells for a Porta-John.
We were lucky ... in more ways than one. First, I was home. Had I not been there, the machine may have run for hours, destroying the entire downstairs, not just part of an addition. And as my optimistic friend, Russell Bennett, put it: "It could have been worse. You could have been in the shower or on the toilet."
We had grand plans for the new bathroom, but after wrestling with the city for over a year, while they "investigated," even claiming at one point that I had "requested the service" (like anyone would request a high pressure poo-delivery service), the bathroom remains in its demolished-to-the-studs stage.
We have most of the materials we need, but as the economy dipped further and further, we just couldn't afford the remaining stuff and the labor. But one day, my brothers and sisters, we will have the dream bathroom. We will have marble floors and maybe even a hot tub. And thanks to some professional plumbing, we'll never have to go through this again.