WARNING – If you have a weak stomach, do not read any further.
You must be brave. I commend you for continuing. Get ready for a gut wrenching tale.
I only ask one thing. If you make it through, you must share this with your friends, and more importantly, your enemies.
Note – We are in the middle of a very cold winter.
The day after Valentines – Saturday, 2/15/14 – 3:00 AM – Central Standard Time
My six year old, The Flower Child, wakes up crying. She complains of having bad dreams, so I reluctantly get up and rub her back to help her calm down.
Lisa, my wife, gets up too, but she doesn’t come into The Flower Child’s room. Instead, Lisa walks into the bathroom and barfs in the toilet. All the commotion wakes up my four year old, Ivan the Terrible. I assume Ivan will ask my wife or myself to tuck him back in, but instead he enters the bathroom and upchucks into the garbage can.
“The toilet isn’t flushing,” Lisa moans from the bathroom. Even though she is still crying, I exit The Flower Child’s room to check on the status of the toilet. My wife and Ivan are both sprawling out on the cool tile floor like dead bodies. “It flushed once, but won’t anymore,” my wife says.
I step over them to fiddle with the lever of the toilet because there are some chortle chunks floating in the toilet bowl, but it doesn’t flush. I take the back of the toilet seat off and notice that the chamber in back is not filling up with water. This is not a good sign. I twist the sink handle to see if water will come out of the sink, but only a few drops sputter out and then nothing. We have no running water. Our pipes must be frozen.
2/15/14 – 3:30 AM – Central Standard Time
I can handle kids and my wife dumping out their guts. I can handle frozen pipes. But together, it might be too much for one man to take. I cast my doubts aside and remember my mantra in times like this. “Cast iron stomach! You have a stomach of steel. You can win this battle. Stomach of steel!”
The Flower Child hasn’t stopped crying, but her sadness must take a back seat for the moment. First up, I find every available bucket or garbage can and double bag each one. Next, I get on the computer, find the emergency number for the local utilities, and call them.
Here is a brief transcript of the conversation.
OPERATOR: How did you find out that the pipes were frozen at 3:30 in the morning?
ME: My wife and my four year old child are throwing up and we can no longer flush the toilet.
OPERATOR: I will send help immediately.
ME: Thank you kindly for your help.
2/15/14 – 3:45 AM – Central Standard Time
We set up a makeshift bed using towels and sleeping bags on the hardwood floor in the family room. My wife and Ivan the Terrible continue to heave out their guts. After every vector spewing episode I take the double bagged garbage can to the garage, tie the bags and dump them into the large garbage can in the garage. It is well below freezing in the garage, so the stomach spittle remains should freeze, effectively eliminating any puke stench.
As I was transporting one load of vomit to the garage, my wife informs me that The Flower Child threw up in her bed. I march into her bedroom and find that she blasted chunks all over her comforter, sheets, and stuffed cheetah. I strip all the sheets and comforter from her bed, throw the stuffed cheetah in the middle of these sheets, roll it up into a large ball, carry it to the garage, and throw it on the garage floor.
I get a call from the workers, and they say that they are on route. They tell me that they will be working from inside my house, in the basement where the main water pipe enters my home. They also tell me to clear away anything near the pipe because they have a large machine they need to put near the pipe entrance, and they are about 15 minutes away from my address.
The Flower Child is transported to the makeshift sick bay on the family room floor. I hustle downstairs to move my weight bench, exercise bike, turn tables, record collection, and paper shredder from the area by the water pipes.
2/15/14 – 4:00 AM – Central Standard Time
Help arrives. Two bearded utility workers enter the home, carrying a large machine and a bunch of hoses that will inject hot water into pipes outside. With all the commotion, my eight year old, Bob the Builder, wakes up and joins me in the living room. He doesn’t feel sick, but I set a double bagged garbage can next to him on the couch. Bob asks who’s making all the noise in the family room. I inform him that Mom, Ivan, and The Flower Child all have the flu, and they are busy sending messages to the wastebasket.
2/15/14 – 5:30 AM – Central Standard Time
The utility workers aren’t making any progress. My son, Ivan the Terrible, tells me that he might have to use the toilet because something wants to come out the other end of his body. I warn him that the toilet Mom spilled the groceries in has already been flushed. He has to use the other one. Also, if he has to go, he shouldn’t flush it. He says he can’t hold it and rushes to the loo. Shortly after he exits, The Flower Child takes a dump in the toilet that is already loaded with fecal matter.
2/15/14 – 6:00 AM – Central Standard Time
The stench from the crap loaded toilet has wafted out into the home and mixes with the already prevalent scent of stomach acid. I resist the urge to flush the toilet by pulling my shirt over my head. God help anyone that has to use that toilet again.
2/15/14 – 7:00 AM – Central Standard Time
The utility workers come up from the bowels of the basement. They couldn’t unfreeze the pipe from inside the house. They leave, but they promise to return soon with reinforcements. I hold my best poker face and say, “Thanks for trying your best. I hope you can fix it when you return.”
On the inside I scream, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
Already prepared for this, I call up a local hotel and immediately book a room over the phone.
2/15/14 – 8:00 AM – Central Standard Time
After haphazardly packing several outfits for my sick family, I load the clothes into the van. Right before throwing the casualties into the van, I make my way to the bathroom to flush the brown down. I cover my mouth and nose when entering, but I probably should be wearing goggles too. The putrid smell of hell’s candy burns my eyes. Tears well up as I approach the toilet. Whatever happened in here was beyond awful. I don’t know if the first blast or the second caused it, but supersonic sewer sewage is spattered all over inside and outside of the toilet bowl. I flush the toilet and dive out of the bathroom.
Once everyone manages to get a jacket on their sickly frames, we get in the van and roll to the hotel. Thankfully, no one has a wet burp in the car, but after we get out, Ivan the Terrible calls Uncle Ralph and his Cousin Hurl in the parking lot, and The Flower Child brings some fluorescent cheer to a snowbank next to entrance of the hotel. I feel so powerless in this moment. The only thing I can do to help The Flower Child is hold her hair back so she doesn’t get any on herself.
2/15/14 – 9:00 AM – Central Standard Time
Bob the Builder and I pick up some wet wipes and bottles of water from the store. We return to the hotel and drop off the goods. Ivan the Terrible looks much better, but The Flower Child and my wife are still pleading their case to the porcelain judge.
2/15/14 – 9:30 AM – Central Standard Time
We might as well get what we are paying for, so Bob the Builder and I enjoy continental breakfast at the hotel. I put myself on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) to hopefully avoid the same fate as my family and eat one banana and a piece of toast. I warn Bob that he could get sick too, but he throws caution to the wind and eats a bowl of Fruit Loops and chases it with a frosted donut.
2/15/14 – 9:45 AM – Central Standard Time
Bob the Builder and I return to our home. Reinforcements arrive and begin working outside. The utility workers attach jumper cables to a pipe next to our driveway and run an ungodly amount of voltage through the pipe. The electrified pipe will heat up and melt the ice block.
2/15/14 – 11:00 AM – Central Standard Time
Water starts running in the house. I thank the utility workers for their hard work. They inform me that pretty much all of Hartford is freezing up and they quickly leave to help the next home on their list.
2/15/14 – 4:30 PM – Central Standard Time
After scouring the house for hours, I know what must be done. I have to clean the toilet that is covered with colon cannonballs. Armed with a toilet wand, a scrub brush, bleach, Lysol and Scrubbing Bubble disinfectant spray, I enter the battle zone. Step one. I douse the whole area with chemicals. Step two. I exit the bathroom and hope that magical scrubbing bubbles are cleaning the toilet on their own, just like in the commercial. Step three. I re-enter the bathroom and find that that commercial is totally false. Step four. I scrub all the keester cakes and Mississippi mud off the toilet until it is sparkling clean. Step five. I close the lid so the cat doesn’t try to drink the toilet water.
Sunday – 2/16/14 – 2:30 AM – Central Standard Time
Bob the Builder wakes up with a bad stomach ache. We guide him to the toilet and he immediately hits the eject button on his belly. With running water, it isn’t very difficult to clean up after Bob the Builder. I just flush the toilet. Thank you utility workers! Thank you from the bottom of my stomach.
2/16/14 – 8:30 AM – Central Standard Time
The final battle. I think for a moment I cleaned the entire house and eradicated any sign of abdominal chum or Montezuma’s revenge, but I am wrong. Piled in a ball in the garage, The Flower Child’s pink and white striped sheets and Butterfly comforter taunt me. I snatch the cold boulder from the garage floor and heave it into the laundry room. “Stomach of steel,” I chant to myself. I unroll the ball and pull out the first of three blankets. Only a few chunks are on this one. I take it to the utility sink and run water over the clam chowder surprise. It doesn’t come off.
That’s when it hits me. The chunderspew that covers these sheets and blankets are frozen. I have to use scalding hot water to dislodge it. My hand trembles as I turn the knob to the hot water on full blast. Slowly the half digested stomach purge heats up enough to peel off of the sheet. Unfortunately, the putrid, acidic, noxious odor of Hurl and Ralph return. The smell assails my nostrils, and I gag. Between dry heaves, I manage to get the first sheet clean. The comforter doesn’t have much on it, so I just chuck it directly into the washing machine. However, the third blanket is loaded with frozen leftover lunch. I repeat the cleaning process, but because these pieces of rainbow retch are larger, they don’t immediately slide down the drain. Some larger pieces sink and clog the drain, while lighter fare float about in the clogged utility sink.
I turn my head upward and ask for divine intervention. Please, don’t make me reach into the sink! For the love of all things sacred, don’t make me do it!
My prayers are answered. The hot water works its magic and the chunky puddle begins to drain away. I watch the remaining stomach discharge melt, break apart, and slide down the drain, never to be seen again. I toss the last blanket into the washing machine.
All that remains is the stuffed cheetah. I contemplate burning it, or throwing it away, but The Flower Child loves the cheetah. With my bare hands, I scrub the oral diarrhea out of its fur, and whip the stuffed cat into the washing machine. I win.