Home life

The plumber and The Machine

If there’s one thing you want to be working in your house, it’s the drains. At their worst, if there’s a complete blockage, you’ll end up with nasty smells and even nastier effluent in the house.

Thankfully things weren’t that bad, but there was that suspicious level of water in the toilets, and some stuff wouldn’t flush down properly (eugh).

The benefit of owning the house is you can get any plumber you like, at a time of your liking, so you can choose not to hire the cheap-but-unreliable type. The disadvantage is you end up paying for it.

Having got the name of a good plumber from my sister (since I’ve never had to ring one before), he arrived and took a look around to work out where the drain actually goes. If it went under (and was shared with) the neighbour’s house, it could get complicated. It wasn’t actually clear exactly where it went, but he did find what he needed to have a go at unblocking, and went to get The Machine.

The Machine is an ancient looking beast. Probably the oldest bit of kit he has, it looks like it could easily be sixty years old. All utilitarian metal, it reminded me of the prehistoric hat-stretching device at Hattams.

The actual bits that go down the drain, though, reminded me more of the metal tentacles from the final battle scenes in the third Matrix movie, if a little more benign. 15 feet long, the plumber fed them down one-by-one, bit by bit. “15 feet… 30 feet… 45 feet… much longer and we might be in trouble. Ah! Here we go.”

The machine spluttered, and then kept pushing. Somewhere down in the depths of the local drainage system, the blockage — probably tree roots — had been cleared. A few test flushes later and all was well.

Except for the bill of course. $180. Ka-ching!

Still, worth it to avoid getting poo all over the floor.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “The plumber and The Machine”

The machine is called an electric eel. I actually hired one once and cleared a blocked drain (storm water, not sewerage).
PS I like your euphemism “some stuff”!!

So you’ve just witnessed the operation of a snake. How did you get this far in life without knowing those things existed? Have you never had a blocked drain before? That’s remarkable.

And yes they charge per length of snake. The good part is that if the length is long enough for the blockage to be in the public drain and not your own pipes, the water authority will pay for it.

The water authority doesn’t usually pay for such things – bit of an urban myth that leads to some nasty surprises, that.

(If a plumber finds a problem in the public drain, they’re meant to notify the water authority, not fix it and send a bill)

A clogged drain is no fun but at least in your own single family home you won’t have sewage from the neighbors ustairs backing up into the bathtub because the main drain to an entire apartment building is completly clogged. I had this experience once and I now choose not to live in any more ground floor apartments or condos. The cheap landlord didn’t have a plumber come to the building until two days later probably to avoid an extra charge for weekend service. The clog turned out to be a plastic bag that had been flushed down a toilet.
While in Australia I noticed that in some places I stayed the water from the bathroom sink and shower seemed to empty into a floor drain in the bathroom. If the main drain were to become clogged wouldn’t this flood the bathrom? (In the USA I have never seen a floor drain in a private home’s bathroom other than the one in the shower).

Isn’t the machine you are decribing also referred to by the charming moniker of ‘roto-rooter’? At least that seems to be the North American name for it – it may not have the same connotations there as in Australia.

In the USA Roto Rooter is the name of a nationwide plumbing company specializing in clearing clogged drains with a motorized plumbing snake. This machine is also generically referred to as a roto rooter such as Kleenex refers to facial tissue.

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