A New Toilet

Story time.

About a year after moving into my house, I began having issues with the plumbing in my downstairs bathroom. Upon flushing, the toilet would clog and water would backup from the shower drain.

I called a local drain service to come take a look. A wiry, talkative fellow showed up at my doorstep. He quickly assessed the problem by running some kind of auger down through the toilet: roots that were clogging the sewer line.

To clear things up, he ran his machine through the toilet a few more times, spewing brown sewage water all over my bathroom in the process. He then closed the door, took a whiz in my toilet, flushed, and declared the job complete.

After paying for his services, he recommended I put copper sulfate down the toilet drain every six months to help prevent the roots from growing back (which I did).

About a year later, I had the same problem again.

I called the same drain service. They came out and did the same dance: ran an auger of sorts down the toilet, pulled out some roots to clear it up, and then recommend root killer.

Six months later, I have the same issue again. However, this time the toilet was clogged but nothing would backup from the shower drain.

Try what I may (a plunger, a snake from the local hardware store) nothing would unclog the toilet.

So I called a plumber. After a phone consult, he recommended a new toilet. I agreed. So he came over to install a new toilet and, upon removing the old one, said “it looks like you have roots down there. You’ll need someone from a drain service to come pull those out.”

So I called the drain service — again.

This time, since the plumber had already removed the toilet, the drain service rep began by clearing the blockage by hand directly through the drain in the floor (rather than with an auger through the toilet itself, like previous service reps).

After a short time, he pulled out a giant, gnarled mess of roots and sewage. It was the biggest clog of roots he said he had seen in his career—about as thick and long as the lower half of my leg.

Upon reflection, we concluded that previous service reps had likely only tunneled through the gnarled mess of roots, clearing a tube through the blockage enough to keep the toilet functioning but not enough to solve the underlying problem.

Once the rep set about a “proper” fix by getting direct access to the sewer line under the toilet and manually removing the blockage, the problem was resolved.

This is a story about getting to the root of a shitty problem.

It feels like there’s a corollary in here to making software.

They who have ears to hear, let them hear.