Thursday, September 4, 2008


Okay, so in college I worked in the tiny "warehouse" of an upscale kitchen store. During the slow summer months, essentially our only responsibility was just to be there in case the store called and needed us to deliver some sort of expensive kitchen crap. Ordinarily I shared this rigorous duty with my coworker Jim, but for some reason Jim wasn't there one day, and so I was left to wait by the phone and read the Stranger and cut the roll of "laboratory glass" tape into "ass lab" sections on my own.

The warehouse was essentially a basement suite in an old retail building, so everything about it was sort of run-down and sketchy. For example, the flush linkage in the toilet kept breaking, and when we tried to fix it we ended up snapping off a couple links of the chain before we got it reattached, and the resulting extra tension on the float occasionally caused it to not seat properly, and the toilet would just run continuously. We got annoyed having to constantly fix this, so we tied some string to the chain so we could fiddle with it without removing the tank lid.

So during this rare solo-warehouse-operating day, I had to use the bathroom. (YES THIS IS IMPORTANT OR I WOULDN'T BRING IT UP, OK). I was just finishing up when I realized that we were out of toilet paper! I knew we had some more somewhere, but I didn't want to go exploring for it with my pants around my ankles, so I just decided to use some of the really thick industrial paper towels that we had in the pile of cleaning supplies. These worked great, and the thick, cloth-like texture was very pleasant, but these industrial-strength, heavy-duty cleaning towels do not dissolve at all in water! At that point I didn't have much choice, so I just went ahead and flushed and kept my fingers crossed.

Approximately half a second after flushing, two things happened simultaneously: 1.) toilet clogged. 2.) phone started ringing, signaling a call to my sole employee duty.

I was pretty sure as long as I didn't flush it again I was safe from overflow, but then I worried about the float getting stuck and the toilet just continuing to run, so I made the choice to preemptively jiggle the string before running to the phone. In retrospect, this action maybe did not make any mechanical sense, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. However, the pervasive sense of urgency due to the ringing and the rising water and all the caffeine I had consumed caused me to yank on the string a little harder than I should have. I felt it go slack on the first pull, indicating that I had actually pulled the chain off of the linkage, thereby ensuring that toilet would not stop running.

At this point I could either try to fix the linkage and hope that the toilet bowl would contain everything until I could take care of the clog later, or I could try to take care of the clog now and fix the linkage later. I opted for the clog angle because it seemed more rational, so I grabbed the plunger and was about to submerge it into the swelling mess when I noticed that I had dropped the stupid string into the toilet. In hindsight perhaps this was not actually a problem, but at the time it seemed super important to get the string out prior to plunging. I pulled it out but somehow ended up getting toilet water on my hands, so it was really gross in addition to wasting valuable de-clogging time. So I started plunging, but at this point the bowl was already really full and I couldn't get very good strokes in without splashing it everywhere. I worked at it for a few seconds before I had to accept the possibility that I would not solve this thing before overflow, and that maybe I should switch gears to focus on stopping it from filling.

I didn't want to set the tank cover on the ground in case of overflow, so I thought I'd try to balance it on top of the sink. I had no reason to ever notice this before, but the sink was set in a bracket on the wall, but was not actually attached to the bracket. The weight of the tank on the front of the sink caused the sink body to pop off of the bracket and was now supported precariously by only its own drain pipe and my body.

Oh, and in case you are interested, the phone had rung 7 or 8 times, then there was a pause, and then it had started ringing again.

So the toilet water was just about to crest, I hadn't yet figured out why the sink had fallen off into my arms, the phone kept ringing, I noticed that my afternoon reading material was right in front of the toilet, and at that moment I couldn't help but realize how much I missed Jim, and I wondered what he was up to, and if maybe he would want to come hang out sometime.

I shook myself back into action, figured out how to pop the sink back on the bracket, leaned the tank lid against the far wall away from the incoming toilet water, kicked the latest issue of the Stranger out of harm's way, fished for the loose chain in the tank, and miraculously managed to halt the incoming flow about a millimeter from the edge of the bowl. Temporary Victory!! I then heard the phone stop ringing and a long tone heralding an incoming fax, no doubt the next level of desperate persistence for my attention.

The fax was a hastily scrawled note from the store, which I will paraphrase as "GRANT: WHERE ARE YOU??? CALL THE STORE IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!". (In actuality there may have been more "!"s. I'm not kidding). So I called the store. One of the ladies at the store answered, "Oh good, it's finally you! [boss lady] wants to talk to you!" Then she gave the phone to [boss lady]. "GRANT! WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN, WHY DIDN'T YOU PICK UP?!"

I thought for a second about how I would explain why I didn't pick up the phone, but then I decided that it was all too complicated and so I just said "I was in the bathroom".

[boss lady] did not sound satisfied, but she huffily gave me to the other lady again who asked "how many boxes of melon ballers do we have there?" I replied, "um, two, I think," then the store lady replied, "oh good! That is enough," then I asked, "um, do you need any?". The store lady answered, "no, that's ok," then she paused for a second and asked, "so why didn't you answer the phone?" I sighed and replied, "I was in the bathroom." Then the store lady chuckled knowingly and gave the phone equivalent of a knowing wink, and I'm still not exactly sure what she meant by that.

ANYWAY: I bet you are wondering why I told you that story, huh? Well, today I was idly fiddling with a binder clip I had removed from a stack of important work documents, and this inevitably led to me attaching the binder clip to my soul patch hair. When I needed to re-clip my documents, I tried to remove the binder clip from its stylish location but realized that somehow some of my soul patch hair had gotten pinched in the inner workings. I tugged gently at it for a while, but it became clear that I would either need to just yank it off or go look in a mirror to see if I could figure out what was going on. I chose not to walk to the bathroom past my coworkers with a binder clip on my soul patch, so I sucked it up and ripped it of my chin. There must have been several hairs stuck, because MAN DID IT HURT SO BAD! So bad, in fact, that I yelped out loud.

"Are you okay?" My coworker asked.

"Um, yeah," I replied.

"What happened?"

So, much like my riveting tale of bathroom woes, I had a choice to make; do I try to explain the binder clip thing, or do I come up with something simpler? "I stubbed my toe," I replied.

"While sitting at your desk?"

"Um, yeah."

"How did you do that?"

"I, uh, I just, uh, I don't know."

"Suuure," he replied. Then he produced the EXACT same knowing chuckle and wink that the store lady had several years ago.

But seriously, though-- what did he think I was talking about?

No comments: