It’s true: There are places that stringy things just don’t belong

#505 in a series of true experiences in real estate
February 2006, Hills Newspapers

We were holding open a new listing a few weeks ago and everything was going just fine. It was a Monday morning, tour day for that area, and the beginning of the year. Lots of happy new year wishes were being exchanged. Agents and a few clients and neighbors walked through the house, then stopped in the kitchen for a stand-up lunch.

Anet and I moved from the kitchen to the dining and living rooms and back again. We popped delicious grilled mushrooms into our mouths and said hello to friends. There was a nice crowd standing around the vegetable and sandwich platters and people were saying the very comments we wanted most to hear.

“What a nice house, and in such good condition.” “The garden is lovely.” “The stager did a wonderful job.” “I’ll be showing the house this afternoon.”

An agent asked if she could use the bathroom and we of course said she could. The party went on. The bathroom goer reappeared, this time uttering uh-ohs and waving her arms in the direction of the bathroom.

Anet is quick witted. When she saw the water on the floor, she didn’t think twice. She went to the toilet tank cover and removed it. She lifted the arm inside up and, carefully placing her feet outside the growing pool of water, she called to me for help.

I’d seen what was happening by then and had gone to the kitchen for paper towels. I brought them back, whisked the throw rug on the floor out into the hall, and started mopping. There seemed to be a lot of water. I remembered then that there was a large bath towel in the trunk of Anet’s car so I called to her that I’d go get it.

Anet was faced away from me, toward the wall, her back end toward the door. She was still holding onto the float arm. She heard me and answered OK, frustration in her voice. She also said she sure could use a chopstick. She knew that I didn’t have a chopstick but was, I guess, hoping I’d come up with a suitable substitute.

Agents were walking by us, looking in the doorway at the situation. Someone offered to get a pencil. Someone else said, “You two are certainly full service.”

Anet was passed the pencil and it worked to hold up the arm so she could let go. She turned off the water to the toilet. We mopped up all of the water.

Tour time ended and we cleaned up lunch dishes and food. We talked about what to do next. This particular toilet had just been reseated because it was a little (very little) wobbly. It had been flushing fine. We didn’t know what could possibly be wrong.

We decided to try plunging it. We plunged a bunch, thought it was fixed and turned the water back on. Water poured out onto the floor again. Turned the water off.

“I’ll bet it’s that string thing,” Anet said. “We need Shaun.”

A year or so before, this same sort of thing had happened to another toilet we were responsible for. Our contractor friend Shaun had snaked that toilet to no avail, then removed it and examined the inner workings of the toilet base. He found that a piece of dental floss had become entangled in such a way that Shaun could not dislodge it. The toilet had to be replaced.

Anet was sure the same thing was true here. But Shaun was not immediately available. It would be a week before he could attend to the toilet. As no one was living in the house and there were two other toilets in the house, we decided we could wait. “Water temporarily off” was the note we left.

When Shaun got there, he tried the usual things: plunging, snaking. Then he took the toilet off the floor and – what do you know – it was the string thing, just as Anet thought. Where this string had come from, we had no idea. Shaun said it might have been there for a long time, floating around until it came to rest. And wasn’t it lucky, he said brightly, that it happened when we were there and could turn the water off before it reached the hardwood floors.

Which, of course, it was. This time, with this toilet, replacement wasn’t necessary. Shaun was able to retrieve the string and reset the toilet. Very fortunate. The moral of the story is, never put any sort of string or stringy thing down a toilet. And just in case someone else does, be sure to be there with a chopstick when the toilet overflows.

This entry was posted in Home Life & Home Maintenance. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

  • Sign up to receive our newspaper columns: