March 7, 2018, late winter, Deer Lodge, Montana. We didn’t know we had a bidet, but it turns out the Great and Powerful Oz has nothing on us. We have a Great and Powerful Bidet, certainly more impressive than the little man working the levers in the classic book, The Wizard of Oz.
Pam was sound asleep in her bedroom, dead to the world. I was at my office desk (aka cheap but durable folding table), replying to a comment from our friend, Manny, on one of our other posts. A sudden noise broke my concentration, loud, growly, like a truck rumbling across a cattle guard, but not outside. Shocked, I realize the noise was coming from the south end of the mobile home containing our bedrooms and bathrooms. What the? Water heater getting ready to explode just for the fun of it? Alien (like Diamond Paws of the Treemin Jackson saga) digging up through the floor? It’s only a few steps from my desk to my hallway bathroom. The rumble-grumble sound was still going strong, but now I realized there was a gurgle-burble harmonic in there, too.
Water was fountaining up from the toilet bowl, some of it splashing merrily on the floor. Sewer gas bubbles, methane bits of joy, threw aside trap and bowl water alike, freeing themselves in the less pressurized air of the home, and of course in my nostrils.
I yelled to Pam, waking her out of that deep sleep. She hadn’t even heard the rumble but had heard me when I showed up in her dream and told her we had sewer gas backing up into the house. Her bathroom got it worse than mine, due to her toilet being smaller and the rim closer to the floor. By now the sound was gone, but there were still delighted bubbles surfacing in both toilets, bursting in air, singing, “I am free! I am free!”
So what on Earth caused this?
Well, first of all, get some windows open. It was 13 degrees above zero outside; the air exchange should be quick. Pam whizzed around the house like a little rocket, raising blinds out of the way and shoving windows up out of the way, leaving for me only the one over the kitchen sink, which she cannot reach.
But now what? Okay, call Pete the plumber, see if he’s run into this before somewhere. I sure haven’t. Pete doesn’t answer his phone. Not unusual during business hours, but once again, now what?
I decide to get my wraps on and check out the roof. Could those vents up there be so blocked with snow that…no, it didn’t make sense, but what else? As I stepped out the back door, however, the answer became instantly clear. Two city workers were “doing stuff” at the manhole in the alley. Aha! I walked out to the back fence, called out, “Can I talk to y’all for a minute?” They were amenable and only one really occupied at the moment, so the other walked right over. We talked over the fence gate. “I’m guessing you’re working on the sewer?”
“Figured that explained it. Both toilets fountained water right up out of the bowls and on the floor. I’m just happy to see there’s a reason I can understand.”
He explained the whole deal. Major clog somewhere farther down the line, blocks from us. “We have to do this every winter.” (Now we find out!) “We push low pressure forward, then high pressure back. That breaks up the particles and clears the clog.”
“Makes sense to me,” I nodded, and it did. “Glad I wasn’t on the toilet at the time. That would have been one icy surprise bidet!”
“No, that wouldn’t have been fun. We’ll be doing this for a while. It might happen again.”
When I got back inside and told Pam what the man had said, she was not thrilled that they’d do this procedure without warning the homeowners…until I said, “They don’t have the manpower to go knocking on every door before they go to work, and besides, a lot of people aren’t home anyway.” Nor would I care to have to wait for everybody in a multi block radius to be notified before they could fix the problem. She got it.
As it turned out, we did get one more back blast when they pressurized at the next manhole down the line. Happily, the surge was not enough to get any water above the bowl rims. After that, nothing; everything settled down just fine. I went to work cleaning up the mess with paper towels and a plastic trash bag, observing, “It’s a good thing I was home when this happened. If you’d gotten up and gone to the bathroom automatically (which she always does upon awaking), and stepped in that lake, or sat on that drenched seat, you’d have been one unhappy camper. I’d have gotten a phone call from a redhead in full panic attack mode.” She agreed fervently, dumping the cats’ bowls of food and water, scrubbing them out, refilling them with uncontaminated nutrients.
Once the floors were clean and dry, it was time to go to work on the toilets themselves. Silver lining: Pam’s toilet, which I’d not cleaned for a while due to lack of energy and motivation during a bout with the flu, was now mostly clean. Only the lime-problem little ring around the water line showed any filth at all. Okay, toilets done, Lysol everything–twice–and we’re good to go.
Wow. Pam’s toilet really does go now. Flushes right down, bam! It was never that enthusiastic before.
Truthfully, having been around a toilet here and there over the years that was equipped with a warm water French bidet, I wouldn’t mind having one in our next house–not this aging mobile home, but maybe in the dream home we plan to build “someday, out in the country.” But those bidets supply a nice, narrow flow of nice, comfy warm water to cleanse one’s backside. Our great and powerful Montana winter bidet, consisting of the entire cold bowl of water barraging one’s bottom and passing gas into the house at the same time…yeah, no, that’s probably not on the list.