23 April 2013

The Parable of the Clogged Toilet

My office building is actually an old converted house, built in the 1910s or 1920s. As such, some of its systems do not work as well as a building built in this century. The furnace can't hope to keep the draughty place warm in the winter, even with new windows. The plumbing doesn't stand a chance. The downstairs bathroom serves both the downstairs employees and any clients who might need to use the facilities. Unfortunately, the system doesn't seem equipped to handle that kind of traffic. Because of this, it has a pretty steady habit of becoming clogged (usually for no apparent reason) about every two weeks. 

In general, the system acts up at the end of a day. Which means if you are the one closing up the office, you will have to deal with a finicky toilet. I have absolutely no patience for the toilet at work and try my very hardest to not use it at the end of the day. Of course that doesn't always work.

Last week, whilst dealing with yet another inexplicable clog that required twenty minutes of hard plunging and amidst all the name-calling and creative non-cursing running through my head, I had an epiphany.

Some trials and tribulations are exactly like a clogged toilet. They are unpleasant, inexplicable, in no way a result of your actions, and, yet, an issue or problem that you alone have to resolve. The most frustrating part of these clogged toilet-like trials is that there is no time limit that you can see. You know eventually, with enough plunging and flushing the clog will eventually disappear, the toilet will resume normal functioning. You just don't know when. It could be five minutes, it could be an hour. You just don't know. You start out energetically, thinking that if you work hard enough and fast enough, it will be cinch, you'll be out of that situation in a snap. And then it doesn't get fixed. 

As the minutes tick by, you get more and more frustrated. You are doing all you possibly can and still the water doesn't drain. You get frustrated, angry even. You work harder only to give up and walk away from the problem for a little while, hoping it will just resolve itself. You come back to it, full of hope, looking forward to the miracle of a fixed, functioning toilet only to see that nothing has changed, that all that is ahead of you is another long, exhausting slog of plunging with no end in sight. You have to choose between picking up where you left off or simply beating the toilet to death with the plunger. You are a responsible person, so you choose to work harder. Frustration and stress and exhaustion after an already long day kick in, maybe tears are shed as you plead with the toilet or the universe or God to just fix the problem already. You irrationally envision being found in the morning by your co-workers still plunging away at this stupid old toilet. You can't take this interminable, repetitive cycle any longer. You want to be done, to be free, to have a view, an aim, a purpose outside this small, dank space. 

And then suddenly, you hear that tell-tale gurgle, the water starts to drain. You flush, mental fingers crossed, hoping against hope that the clog has worked itself out. Sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes it is a false hope, a respite, a surge of renewed possibility. And so you set to work again, with tears and more pleadings, and maybe another angry walking away. But sometimes, it isn't false hope. Order has been restored. Sometimes the clog is gone as inexplicably as it came. You are free, consoling yourself that you've got a great arm workout, and can go enjoy the fresh air and evening sunshine with an intense satisfaction you might not have had if you hadn't just spent thirty minutes fighting old plumbing. 


Krystal Baker said...

Love it. Perfect metaphor for life. haha

Treat Queen said...

Way to learn from your trials! You go girl

Darryl Iorio said...

While I do find it out that you had this epiphany while unclogging the toilet, I do think it's a great metaphor for life. That being said, you would think that your office building would have smartened up and gotten a plumbing service to check those problems out. I'm sure you guys aren't paid for your part-time plumber duties.

WalkConkies said...

I had a similar epiphany while trying to unplug an often plugged bathroom sink. I'll have to talk to you about it when you visit :). It might not be understandable in a blog comment! I love those moments when understanding comes in doing seemingly mundane things ;)! Can't wait to see you!