Last Sunday I awoke to a nightmare. Our son Noah, home for a quick weekend visit, went into the basement and noticed that a pipe was leaking. After hearing this, I went to investigate and discovered the awful truth: it was the main sewage pipe taking effluent (a fancy word for wastewater) from the upper floor to the sewer pipe below our house. This three-inch, heavy-duty pipe had broken at a joint (I haven’t a clue as to why), and the effluent was sputtering out and over anything that was stored nearby.
Which, sadly, included some boxes containing Christmas stuff, three guitars in their cases, and several floor and desk fans. I kid you not—the poop had literally hit the fans.
What was I to do? After laying down the law: “No one can use any sink, drain, or toilet upstairs at all until this is fixed,” I proceeded to assess the damage. Fortunately, it looked like Noah noticed the problem early (thank God!), since the boxes and cases were only slightly wet and there was very little “ugh” stuff on them. Most of the nasty stuff was on the fans.
So after donning rubber gloves donated by my wife, Noah and I carried the damaged items outside the house. There I gave them a quick powerwash and decided to deal with the whole problem later, since we had an important event to attend. I could get away, get some perspective, and devise a solution.
My big conundrum was this: should I fix it myself or call a plumber? I’m an okay handyman and I knew the pipe would be easy to fix. But dealing with the foul contents of the pipe would not be pleasant. So what was I to do? To fix or not to fix, that was the question.
I decided to man up and fix it myself the next morning (deep down I feel a person should be willing to clean up his own messes, or at least try). Fortunately, by this time the pipe was dry inside, so I cut out the broken sections (usually I would call them clean cuts, but the phrase doesn’t seem applicable in this case) and spliced in the repair. I then filled our trash canister with most of the damaged stuff, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the barely-affected guitars, which were easy to clean anyway.
The fans were another story. Most readers of this blog probably think I’m crazy for not immediately trashing them too, but I’m just too frugal to not even try. So I disassembled the fans, powerwashed each part, and got off 99% of the disgusting stuff. Then, each part needed to be thoroughly sanitized.
I set up a little cleaning area to attack each piece, one by one, and my neighbor Steve volunteered to help (now that’s what you call a true neighbor!). The final cleaning went pretty fast and was more tolerable since I had a friend to talk and work with. So the good news is that the pipe is now fixed and the fans and guitars are cleaner than they have been in years.
Plus, I relearned some good lessons about how to respond when the poop hits the fan—metaphorically. All of us have times in life when things go terribly wrong, often through no fault of our own. So the next time when the you-know-what hits the fan in your life, don’t run away or ignore the problem—it will only smell worse and pile higher. Instead, face the situation, assess what is broken, and come up with a repair plan. Then man up, deal with each part one-at-a-time, and don’t be too proud to accept help from a friend.
In short, all of us have stuff that will need to be cleaned from time to time, which is why the Israelites had an exit from Jerusalem called the “Dung Gate” (Nehemiah 3:14). I wonder whose job it was to clean that gate and path? Whoever he was, I sure hope he didn’t have to do it alone.