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  • Paula Tiberius

My Own Private Tidy Bowl

At 40, I feel quite confident that I know how things work. Generally speaking.

Sunshine and water make plants grow, parties of six or more will automatically be charged a gratuity, sellers of Viagra can get through any spam detector, and so on. The upside to this vast collection of generalized knowledge is that there are very few daily situations in which I feel uncertain about how things will play out. I can assure Violet with authority that the moon will rise this evening and Jackson will calm down if we give him a treat.

But the other day something happened in my regular world that rattled me to such an extreme that I truly lost my shit.

I was sitting at my computer working away when I heard the kitchen faucet turn on. Richard was at work, so that was weird. I looked over at the sink and the water wasn’t running. Okay. Hmm. The sound stopped, so I went back to work. Then it happened again, this time accompanied by a thumping sound coming from downstairs. What is Jackson up to? I thought. But a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach was gathering, as I calculated the likelihood of Jackson thumping his tail on the wall (likely) while turning on the tub faucet in the bathroom with his teeth (far less likely). But what could account for that running water sound?

I ran over to the kitchen sink just as it began to rumble. It sounded like the food disposal was on, so I reached under the sink and flipped the switch. The disposal gargled to life (so, not on), which is usually a deafening sound, but compared to the rumbling coming from under the sink, it seemed pathetic, like bringing a knife to a gun fight, as Richard would say. How I longed for the uncomfortable piercing sound of my food disposal! What fresh hell was happening here???

I turned the cold water on, then the hot. Everything was business as usual, except for this horrendous sound and vibration that was rattling every pipe under the sink! Earthquake! I thought. I ran out of the kitchen at that point, presumably to secure my position for impending quaking in places other than my kitchen, and that’s when I heard the thumping noise from downstairs again. My heart beat faster as I saw Jackson through the window, sleeping outside. What was downstairs making this noise???

Like all good horror movie protagonists, I ran toward the dangerous sound and entered the downstairs bathroom just in time to see the water get sucked out of my toilet.

I cannot express to you how chilling it is to see water get sucked out of your toilet bowl, and not return. Suddenly the bowl looked like some abandoned appliance in a post-apocalyptic setting where futuristic scavengers use computer monitors for flower pots. I was scared. I ran quickly to the upstairs bathroom. Same deal. My heart was pounding and the rumbling sound was so loud I actually entertained the idea that my toilets and kitchen sink were going to explode. So I ran out of the bathroom and called Richard. But before he could impart what likely would have been calming advice, call waiting beeped in.

It was a 1-800 number that had the word ‘Service’ as its caller ID. Aha! I thought to myself. Here is the City of Los Angeles ‘Service’ department calling to tell me that they’re abducting aliens from my toilet bowl. Answers were a push-button away! Richard let me go so I could talk to the all-knowing city worker.

“Hi, I’m calling from Environment California wondering if you’d be able to increase your monthly donation,” the voice said.

“What? Oh, I thought this was going to be the city. This isn’t a good time. All the water’s been sucked out of my toilet bowls.”

“We’d like to thank you for your monthly donation.”

“Well you guys do good work. But I can’t do any better than twelve dollars a month. And I gotta go.”

“Twelve dollars would be great! Currently you’re at ten.”

At this point I have an epiphany, right there on the phone with Environment California. I hear a loud rumbling sound coming from two yards away and I look over. There’s a service truck with a couple of dudes in haz-mat style suits walking around. They’re carrying big long plastic sticks. Hmm.

“May I put you down for twelve?”

“Hang on a minute, here.”

I go inside and lift off the lid of the toilet tank. Water. Why would the aliens take the toilet bowl water and not the water in the tanks? I start to calm down. The haz-mat guys with the truck had been sucking our sewer pipe with a giant vacuum. It sucked the water out of the toilets and made the sink go crazy with rumbling.

“Sure, put me down for twelve.”

I know how the fucking world works.

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