Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Pushing Product

When exchanging the small-talk when meeting someone for the first time it is often the "what do you do?" question that can move a conversation on quite zestfully. For over 20 years I had said always said Advertising knowing that this wasn't a very stimulating answer and I could then ask the same question in hope that they said something less boring.

It's a strange thing habit, my answer, Advertising, was meant to sound glamorous once in the hope that I could impress but as the years went by I dreaded the question but never got around to changing my script. Presented the same question at a film premier last week I found myself saying "I unblock toilets", for this is true, I packed in my stressful world last year and became a Handyman for Silver Saints, a unique handyman company employing the talents of like minded men in pursuit of a better life.

I thought was a good answer but no one seemed to believe me. I have to explain that through a family connection I had found myself rubbing shoulders with more than one film star and the elite of Hollywood's movie men. I quickly gauged that they thought I was comedian and I was about to seriously impress. I added that I had an agent, again this is true, but it only seemed to add substance to my new career in Hollywood. I was on a roll... But then I ruined it, I explained that I don't always unblock toilets, I sometimes unblock sinks! They started to believe me. As my audience dwindled to just one I found myself missing the best part of the evening talking to an art gallery owner who's urinals were periodically overflowing and wondered if I could offer any advice.

Following my impressive strike record of clearing blockages I seem to have become the specialist amongst the Silver Saints crew. Apart from the obvious unpleasantness, there really is something very rewarding in hearing the obstruction release itself followed by the gushing sound of water. For the client, yes I'm pleased, I've sorted their problem but more interestingly, I truly regard an unblocking like an instinctive pleasure. My Grandmother was obsessed with her drains and I sometimes wonder if one can inherit feelings like these genetically.

Without actually seeing what's causing the blockage or where it is along pipe's route, it is normally case of narrowing down just how bad the situation is. I should add that this isn't part of the pleasure especially when you have to climb inside an inspection chamber full of floaters. On the other hand this could bring high rewards later. Did you know, a backed up blockage from where your waste leaves your property can sometimes show the same symptoms as a mere clump of hair in u-bend under your bathroom sink?

I found this out on a job earlier this year... It was my first job of the day and booked in as just a blocked bathroom sink. After removing the wad of hair from the u-bend, I turned on the taps and all was well again. I started packing up and then noticed that the bath was filling from its plug hole. My cup of tea then arrived with the customer and I asked her when she last had a bath? I wasn't questioning a lack of hygiene, I was just trying to establish how much water could be standing in the pipes below the bathroom. Anyway, after laughing a little at my unfortunate remark she said "this morning"! I knew then that we were dealing with a major backed-up blockage and I could explain why. I suggested that the 'blocked sink' was only locally and probably not completely blocked and what I had done by running more water than usual down it on top of the emptied bath was not a typical morning for the bathrooms use. Furthermore, the waste trapped in pipes and the inspection chamber would very slowly drain away during the day making enough room for tomorrows bath water again. Bingo!

As it turned out this is exactly what was going on and by the appalling state of the inspection chamber at the front of the house, it had been for quite a while. What's needed at this stage is courage, a call to the office for moral support and an all-in-one suit. After emptying thirty five buckets of vile brown liquid from the chamber I revealed a rodding point and got going with the auger. The auger is basically a long flexible rod designed to dislodge blocked material. It gets round tight bends in the pipe with the assistance of being rotated.

On this particular occasion it glided in and its end proudly poked up at the base of the chamber, as I would expect it to. My problem was that it seemed to have made no difference to releasing the remaining waste in the chamber. After several attempts at withdrawing the auger and reinserting it, I started to push and pull the auger in a flossing action and then suddenly I had done it! A long stream of waste sitting on the pipe from the house was on its way and started to disappear down the hole.

The obstruction turned out to be a solidified cake of limescale and debris sitting in the base of the chamber's U-bend. I had obviously disturbed it with my flossing action and after bravely reaching down the hole, I pulled out two huge chunks to complete my job. Advertising was all about pushing product. I realise now that clearing drains is no different.

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