“Mom, Max needs your help!” Shrieks my daughter perched at the top of the stairs, staring at the closed bathroom door. What could my sixteen-year-old son possibly need help with that we didn’t cover when he was three, and we practiced aiming with Cheerios. I yell to him to confirm he needs assistance and assess the situation.

In a rather calm voice he replies “Mom, I think I need your help.” Shit! No really, it’s shit. The bottomless pit finally took out my toilet. I gear up in my hazmat outfit. Black industrial garbage can liner with two armhole cutouts and three holes for the face (nothing more embarrassing than suffocating and passing out in a clogged bowl), Sunday plastic newspaper sleeves for foot protection, Vick’s under the nose, hair up and under a plastic shower cap, and the look is complete with yellow dish gloves.

I can tell by a brief whiff and visual survey that he has been attempting to fix this issue alone, and by the looks of it, I would say… bowels were taking the lead by a head. I briefly thought about just burning the house down, but no, I’m still basking in the glory of getting the last strand of Christmas tinsel out of my carpet. I swear a liquid diet is going to be on the menu for the next month for this kid if I survive this.

Plunging is not effective; the situation now escalates, and I have 13 minutes to get to Home Depot before they close. It’s ok to peel into the parking lot because the only people out at 9:45 PM in 12-degree weather probably also have an emergency. It’s kind of like the food store the night before a snowstorm, and you need that loaf of bread that’s going to turn green in a week anyway.

A Turbo plunger in my left hand, and a plan B in my right, a contraption that looks like a plunger that mated with a bicycle pump and comes with five silver looking bullets filled with compressed air. I walk out all cocky mumbling “ I got this” which based on history means… this is going to be a shit show, literally. The contents of the toilet bowl have morphed into a living monster in the time I was gone. It laughed at turbo plunger, and I think I heard it heckle me, and spit at me. Plan B is primed, locked and loaded, plastic splash guard in place and on the count of three… release! Well, I’m guessing I hit an air pocket, or the monster threw up on me.

What’s worse than being covered in raw sewage? That tiny little cold spot you feel, and despite the denial, you know its seepage through the hazmat protective gear. I am defeated and ask one of the people outside of the contamination area to call a 24-hour plumber. My daughter, feverishly typing on her phone tells me to try hot water and dish liquid. My judgment hazy, I agree to try this one last effort. We pour hot water and dish soap into the toilet, close the lid and wait 15 minutes. I sneak outside to call the plumber myself and claim failure. The one thing I have learned raising four children is to be able to diagnose toilet clog issues. You know the different sound from plunging if it’s organic matter from eating that 7th taco, versus a lego or plastic soldier. They are tricky bastards because they usually are standing with their arms and legs apart which masks the sound a bit and can be easily be confused with, well, poop.

The plumber is a nice guy and tells me if I have another bathroom, he’ll come out first thing in the morning and it will save me about $150.  Done, see you in the morning I’ll put the coffee on. I go upstairs to at least clean the bathroom because that’s what we do because heaven forbid someone should see a dirty bathroom amidst an emergency. I lift the lid to now find my bowl full of bubbles about to overflow. As I’m scooping out suds, I notice half the water is gone. Excitement rushes me, and I quickly pour another pot of hot water in and begin to hear gurgling sounds. Energized, I grab my turbo plunger and go at it like it was the CPR test for Girl Scouts. Within seconds I hear a burping sound and woosh the monster retreats and the bowl emptied. A few more tests to make sure, and it worked! Tears welled up in my eyes,  probably condensation from the garbage bag shirt but it was emotional anyway. Small accomplishments and a new-found respect for those professionals who do this on a daily basis, 24 hours a day.


Allison Stewart lives in a very small suburban town with her four children and her inappropriate, politically incorrect, incorrigible father. She works as a Patient Advocate at a Trauma Center by day and spends most evenings juggling sports, family events, fundraisers, broken down vehicles and meltdowns. Allison also makes an attempt at attending the gym several times a month……….usually on 20% off smoothie days. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her guy who still gives her butterflies every time he winks at her.


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