THE DOWN side of standing in a puddle as you take a shower is that the puddle is proof that the drain is becoming clogged. The up side is that the puddle is an indication that family members are showering frequently and practicing good personal hygiene.
That is what I told myself this week as I stood in a shower and felt water splashing against my ankles. The shower drain was still working, but it was going about its business at a reduced pace. I took the sluggish shower drain as evidence of increased shower use, a signal that the "early summer re-adjustment period " had begun.
The early summer re-adjustment period is that stretch of tension-filled time that follows the end of the school year. Rather than being shipped off to educational institutions where they spent their daylight hours learning things and breaking school furniture, your kids are now lounging around your house, putting stress on you and your domestic infrastructure.
One of the first household systems to feel the effect of the summertime return of the offspring is the plumbing, especially the shower. I used to complain about the high cost of sending kids to school. But lately I have begun to think if the city water rates keep climbing, and if I can convince the kids to shower at school, education might be a bargain.
In the summer the showers in our house roar like Niagara Falls. The sound of a shower running is the surest sign a teen-ager is on the premises. The sound can be heard at any hour of day or night, and it is often a first-warning sign that someone has plans to step out for a little socializing. Rarely do our two kids get washed up if they plan to spend an evening at home with their parents.(Another indicator that some socializing is afoot, and another part of re-adjustment week, is keeping track of cars and car keys. With four drivers and two cars, our household has been in "constant dialogue" this week about who gets a car. Yesterday I felt giddy when my wife gave me "permission" to drive my car to work and keep it there all day.)
In the shower, all the shampoo and suds lead to clogged drains. It happens every summer. So recently, I engaged in my own seasonal cleansing ritual. Namely I cleaned the shower drain.
I have never been a big fan of using chemical drain cleaners. They are pretty potent and in one experience, a chemical cleaner not only got rid of the clog in my bathroom sink, it also dissolved an ancient piece of drainpipe.
I have read that a dutiful drain cleaner avoids store-bought cleaners and keeps things flowing by pouring one-half cup of baking soda followed by one-half cup of vinegar into a drain, waiting 10 minutes for the solution to work, then pouring a kettle of boiling water into the drain. This ritual is supposed to be performed every week on frequently used drains. I don't do dutiful well. Somehow a week can slip by without me devoting a single thought to drain maintenance.
That means taking the plunger route, an approach I used this week to fix one slow-moving drain. This was a pop-up drain in a bathtub with a shower. First I pulled the drain lever up, and pulled the stopper out of the drain. Then I removed the screws from the overflow cover plate and pulled the parts out of the overflow hole. I cleaned the "grunge" - the stuff that goes down the drain after you scrub and shampoo - off the assembly.
Then I blocked the overflow hole with a wet cloth, poured water in the drain, placed my plunger over the drain, and started pumping.
From somewhere down deep, I heard the satisfying sound of water gurgling. It was proof that the blockade had ended and the drain had been liberated. Gingerly, I fed the drain assembly back through the overflow hole and replaced the cover plate. I flipped the drain lever and inserted the stopper.
The shower drain was now ready to cope with having the kids in the house for the summer. I wish I could say the same.