Plumbers share tales of holiday nightmares. Plus, six tips on how to avoid plumbing problems.
You aren’t the only one stressed and overworked during the holidays.
With extra people in the house and the cleanup after large meals, our home’s plumbing gets a workout, too.
“Black Friday means one thing for the retail community, but it means something entirely different for our service technicians and plumbers,” said Kelly-Sue Mider, call center administrator for Roto-Rooter Services Drain Cleaning and Plumbing in Kansas City, Mo.
“It’s 18 hours of nonstop trying to rescue people. Anytime you’ve got family at the house, you need to have your plumbing working to perfection. We’ve got to have the shower for Uncle Bob working, the guest bathroom has to work for Aunt Susie and the cousins, and grandma has to do something with that leftover fruitcake.”
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Plumbing problems are hard enough on a normal day. But when troubles happen around major holidays, they can quickly turn into crazy stories and cautionary tales of harried homeowners that plumbers will tell for generations.
As you and your plumbing try to make it through your holidays this year, we rounded up a few stories we thought you’d like.
Turkey in the trap
“About 10 to 15 years ago in midtown the day after Thanksgiving, an elderly lady called,” Mider said. “Her stool was backed up. We got a service technician on site, and much to his surprise when he pulled the stool he found an entire turkey shoved into the trap. She had a full-blown turkey carcass in there! She tried to flush it. When she was asked why she decided to flush the bird, she answered, “I don’t have a garbage disposal.”
Greased is the word
Don’t you just hate it when some drunk guy drops a hot holiday bird on your belly?
Roger the Plumber’s father sure did.
It was the late ’60s, and Roger Peugeot, aka Roger the Plumber, was in his mid-20s and still working with his father.
But let Roger tell it.
“This woman’s husband was trying to replace a kitchen faucet on — of all things — Thanksgiving morning. She called and said the water was turned off, and the guy couldn’t turn it back on. She wanted it turned back on because she had guests coming at noon!
“Well, when we got there, the man had gone to Ranch Mart Hardware to get some parts. As we were finishing the job, he came home. He had not only started the plumbing job early, he had started celebrating the holiday early, too. Yeah, he was intoxicated.
“So now we’ve got an upset wife, an inebriated husband, and we’re right in the middle of this fiasco. He’s saying he could have gotten the job done by the time everybody got there. He couldn’t. So he decided if he wasn’t going to be helpful with the plumbing, he’d help his wife with dinner. She asks him to get the turkey out of the oven.
“Well, he drops it, and, of course, the hot juices and everything land on floor. My dad is lying under the kitchen sink at the time with his arms up in the faucet. So this scalding-hot turkey lands smack on my dad’s belly and bounces off, right? So now we’ve got hot grease all over the floor, and this thing goes shooting across the room, and suddenly it’s a scene out of ‘I Love Lucy.’
“The drunk guy goes to grab it, and it slips out of his hand like a greased football. The woman sees what’s happening, and she goes after it, and I go after it at the same time. The next thing I know, my dad raises up under the cabinet to see what was going on and cracks his head on the garbage disposal.
“By this time we’ve all slipped on the hot grease and fallen on the floor. Meanwhile, this turkey has shot a good eight feet into the breakfast room. Now we have this huge greasy mess to clean up, and, let me tell you, the drunk guy was no help at all. So this woman and I cleaned up the floor as Dad finished hooking up the faucet.
“When we were done we could hear someone snoring back in the bedroom. We left just as the guests were arriving.”
Eve of construction
Memo to all you men out there: If you must give your wife a new bathroom faucet for Christmas, don’t try to install it on Christmas Eve after she’s gone to bed. Let Paul Smith, a master plumber with Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating & AC, tell you why.
“I got a call at 1:30 a.m.,” said Smith, who was on call that day in 2005. “This guy was frantic. Unfortunately he broke a water line in the wall behind the cabinet.”
The man got the water turned off in his home, but not before flooding parts of the second floor.
Smith was called in the save the day — Christmas Day.
“He left instructions with our dispatcher to be very quiet because he didn’t want to wake up his wife.”
So, like Santa himself, Smith slipped quietly into the home in the cover of darkness a couple of hours after midnight. He finished the near-two-hour job before 4 a.m. without waking the man’s wife.
“You made me look good,” the relieved man said.
“He gave me a little Christmas cheer before I left as a gratuity,” Smith said.
Down the drain
Micky Oxler, counter salesman at the Plumber’s Friend in Mission, Kan., gets busy around the holidays.
All of a sudden, customers decide their faucets look funky and need updating. Then, of course, they need advice when they get in over their heads trying to install new ones.
Then, right around Christmas time, the focus is on the shower.
“We sell a ton of shower heads around that time,” he said. “The sons and daughters come in (for a visit), take a shower, decide the shower is inadequate, and then they want to upgrade Mom and Dad’s shower.”
But the biggest surge in holiday plumbing sales, Oxler said, comes in drain cleaning products.
“We have a big surge in drain cleaning products after the holidays where the grandkids are around and throw something in the toilet that’s not supposed to go down there, like action figures or somebody’s cellphone,” he said. “I think we’ve heard it all.”