My light bulb is acting up. I may have to move.
One frigid, snowy day in January, when my brain had reached frostbite level during the harsh winter, my garage light wouldn’t shut off. I tried everything, eventually deciding I’d have to let the blasted thing burn itself out, which was preferable to the alternative of ingesting copious amounts of vodka followed by the use of a very long snow shovel.
Later, I passed a colorful sign advertising that nearby, a huge historic convent was being made into “senior” apartments. I called to inquire and, even though the opening is a year off, I got on their list. I mean, as a “mature” adult (and I use that term extremely loosely) I know I can’t keep up with my big ol’ farmhouse. It’s always on my mind—a mind constantly fighting with itself.
The very next morning? I find myself standing ankle-deep in shower water.
Between this clogged drain and the garage light, it may be a sign from above to downsize to “easier,” although this kind of potential disaster definitely pushes my repair/make-do buttons.
I consult the internet, the hardware store and my handyman. Being frugal (sometimes called “cheap” by less inventive types and those with bigger bank accounts), I consider this a DIY project—boiling water/salt/baking soda/vinegar.
First, I try the gross toilet plunger, unsuccessfully, unless you call splattering unnamed bacteria all over myself and undoing months of physical therapy for my back a success.
I go to boil the water. The flames on the stove are orange instead of blue. I hunt all over the house for the name of my gas company before finally calling my lovely neighbor Sue to ask her if she remembers.
“Sure,” she says. “And do you know your garage light is on?”
I dial the gas company.
“What does the gauge read?” asks a nice lady named Brenda.
“There’s no snow on the tank, is there?” she asks, as I gaze at the deep winter wonderland out back. Oops.
At this point, an alien being takes over and I say something unwise that might include the phrase “crisis line,” prompting me to explain that as a humor writer, I have no filter.
“Well, your gas tank does, but the equipment won’t work well if it’s frozen under snow,” she says.
After that, I decide that the shower drain can wait. I’ll clean out my refrigerator instead, because it smells like a sewer. Not that I routinely go around smelling sewers.
I dump out unrecognizable leftovers into the garbage disposal. The grinding noise is all wrong—an unpleasant hum. Now I am elbow deep in garbage-y, murky water highlighted by red spaghetti sauce. Back to the Almighty Internet. Supposedly, I should have a special metal thing that unsticks the gears. I end up using the long end of a wooden spoon and copious amounts of profanity. It works.
Back to the shower drain. After more consulting, trips to stores and glaring at the overhead light-that-won’t-quit with each trip to the car, I try the plunger again. This time I get a splinter from the stick part. I spend the next half hour sterilizing my injury. Then, back to salt, baking soda…you know the drill. Still, nothing drains, other than my spirits.
I sit on the edge of the tub. I pray. My Facebook friends say “call a plumber.” I’ve turned down a dinner offer, missed the new Hallmark movie and have completely undone my homemade manicure. But now? It’s a matter of pride. I boil more hot water. This time, miraculously, the stove flames are back to blue.
Still, no results.
I sit on the tub ledge again, emitting a new, rather creative line of cursing. Then I sit in silence, thinking. What could I be doing if I weren’t doing this stuff? A college class? Dating? Rescuing something?
Then—a gurgle. And the blessed sound of water draining.
And the brief tease of competence.
A week later, my son stops by.
“Mom,” he says. “Did you know your garage light was on?”
Oh, dear God.
“But don’t worry,” he says. “It’s off now.”
“The switch, inside the door, marked ‘garage light’.”
OK. That’s it. I’m losing it. I pick up the phone and pointedly punch in the number of the new senior apartment building being renovated. As I wait on hold, I consider what it’d be like if all this stuff was taken care of for me.
Pffft. No way.
I am not missing out on all this fun.
Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.