Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, Monday, Can't Stand That Day

This morning I was treated to the sight of the bloke sitting across from me on my train flossing his teeth. Up until that point I had thought I had seen so much in New York my gag reflex was well and truly under voluntary control. Not any more. No doubt acts of personal hygene will become standard performance art pieces on the LIRR now that people think they can get their pictures in the New York Daily News.

Spent Sunday closing down the swimming pool, sorta. The residual chlorine levels are still so monumentally high that I have to forego adding the Egg of Stasis1 and dismantling the filtering system. This year I plan not to drain the pool down to the outlets, but to install blanking plugs over the skimmer and return jet. We'll see how successful this plan is in the next few days as and when I actually get round to that bit.

I scrubbed, washed and deflated all out inflatable airbeds, "river-rat" tubes and so forth using the patent mini inflator/deflator I bought to defeat the safety nozzles these damned floaties are fitted with last year. Granted the idea that prevents the float from deflating if the plugs get kicked out by boisterous kids is a good one, it makes deflating them without a special tool very difficult and time-consuming. Luckily, my deflator really sucks, which in this case is a good thing.

Saturday I spent feeling ill. Some sort of residual problem has my ears still whistling albeit not deafeningly so, and my blood pressure seems to be spiking every now and then and making my face burn as though I had taken some B12 and boy am I sweating. Mrs Stevie offered some comforting words along the lines of "Could be worse, could be me" and departed Manhattanwards to meet with visiting Australians clutching the Stevieling in one hand and a jumbo mug of Hi-Test Espresso con Espresso in the other. So, she would rather spend the day with visiting Australians than her husband, eh? I would show her! I went back to bed.

Around midday I decided to get my finger out and perform the commodectomy I promised I would. Gathering Mr Socket set, Messers Self-Adjusting Pliers and Son, Mr Really Long Cabinet Screwdriver, a pair of polyethylene gloves and a fistful of contractor's garbage "steel sacks" I performed a rapid tankectomy, loaded the tank into a garbage bag and moved it out of theater. Only about a pint of water fell onto the towels I put down to catch fallout, but it was nasty blue-gunge infested water2 so that was all right. I had drained the tank as far as I could, but didn't want to wrastle my wet-vac up two flights of stairs for the eggcupful of water I knew was trapped by the tank geometry. Once the first bolt was undone the gunk and water drained out onto the towels without further ado. Now came the unpleasant part. One flange bolt came off with no problem. The other didn't. I eventually fitted a cut-off wheel to Mr Dremel and started trying to cut either the nut or the bolt itself. After about three minutes of this, the rubber gasket in the commode base melted and the flange-bolt simply fell through the hole that left. I quickly yelled "Exactly as I planned" in case there was anyone watching and steeled myself for the next bit.

I dunno if anyone reading this has ever thought much about how a toilet works, or how the stuff you put in there goes away when you flush it. I will try and explain as delicately as I can. The wastepipe ends in a flange about 6-8 inches across with an internal ridge. The two bolts that anchor your toilet to the floor (usually hidden by two little domes of coloured plastic) are actually fitted into a keyhole slot in this flange and tightened to mate the pipe with the ceramic shaped fitting on the underside of the commode. Naturally, it is of primary importance that this mating of pipe and ceramic commode be tight. As in watertight. We don't want each flush to result in leakage of, well the technical term is greywater, under any circumstances. This would be worse than bad. It would be positively medieval. "But how can the required tolerances be achieved?" I hear you ask, and that is very perceptive of you. Even though commodes are made by a moulding process these days, it isn't practical to engineer them to exact tolerances when it comes to pipes and flanges. For a start, the commodes may be metric these days if you buy a fancy French one, and your fifty-year old pipes are probably measured in units derived from the distance between the elbow and tip of the middle finger of Canute. Uncertainty ensues, which we have already ascertained is not a good thing in this instance.

The answer is that wond'rous invention of modern plumbing, The Wax Ring. Basically this is a large washer made of wax. It goes inside the flange fitting and squelches up around the commode as the flange bolts are tightened, forming a watertight Gasket of Greywater Containment. Elegant and simple to install. What's not to like?

I'l bloody well tell you what's not to like. What's not to like is what confronts you when you finally get the flange-bolts removed, lift off the commode and see what it looks like after 20+ years, that's what. The wax ring had deformed as it should which meant it was going to be a bastard to scrape out so I could install a new one. It had also become home to a colony of mildew that was having a very nice time. Luckily, any residual "greywater solids" had washed down the pipe before the flood (this had been a something of a worry at the back of what passes for my mind) and the pipe environs were dry and if not exactly sweet, not reeking cess-pits worthy of Satan hisself. I moved the commode into another steel sack (great products these by the way: 5 Steviestars) and got it outside before tackling the job of wax removal. Which I'm still doing because the wax is a bugger to shift. I'm tempted to use a torch to melt it but I don't want to send molten wax into the wastepipe. I got the vast majority of it but of course it's the last five percent that will take forever, like in any clean-up.

My original plan was to replace the entire flange fitting but the way the pipe is shaped I won't be able to do that. The fitting is soldered in place and without dismantling the entire sub-floor I really can't get at the joints with a torch. The shape of the pipe also means that Mr Sawzall won't be able to step in and mediate either. It's all very irritating.

I decided to stop work and wound down by pulling up some of the original tiles. Interestingly, I found that those I call The Builders3 followed standard historical practice from time immemorial and built the current edifice over existing ruined structures. My sense of wonder was kindled as my eager hands excavated further into the dig, but soon I realised I was losing the light and so reluctantly had to close down operations for the night. My discoveries were placed lovingly in a steel sack for transfer to a suitable evaluation facility and I was laft as dusk fell contemplating the eerily beautiful sight4 of what I'm calling Bog II, which I've tentatively assigned to the Kennedy period. What lies beneath that? Only time and further excavations will tell. I can reveal that Bog II had a plywood floor that was already damaged by a previous inundation. The repairs, made by spreading mortar over the broken surface to level it prior to installing ceramic tile, were crude even by the standards of Kennedy-period artisans. Could Bog II be even older? I think not; it is always a trap to assign more primitive dates to Genaro-fashion installations as the basic naffness of the artisans must always be factored in. Though this is a subjective process, the keen eye of experience is rarely fooled. I believe Bog II, the precursor to the current ruined Bog, to be itself built on the ruins of a far older Bog III. If true, this could rock the establishment to its very core.

1: A copper sulphate dispenser from what I can make out. It's supposed to help fight witer algae build up. Works, more or less, judging by previous years.
2: Was the blue gunge some sort of thread sealant on the tank securing bolts? Was it leftover bowl disinfectant, distilled down to blue toffee after a month in the tank base? No man can say for sure without licking it. Not it!
3: Genaro (ibid)
4: Relatively speaking

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