“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”
Robert Browning Hamilton
I don’t want to give the impression that something dire has happened–this quote can be applied, I believe, to life’s great misfortunes as well as the minor ones. Experience is a great teacher, and a smooth road holds few lessons.
If you have never experienced the soul sucking, gut churning feeling of having the drain lines freeze in your home you are indeed lucky. I have learned, thru experience, to deal with frozen water lines–living as I do in a mobile home, which is only a house in the broadest sense; it is a container in which I live. An over size RV. It was only meant to be temporary but as these things often do, has turned out to be not so temporary. I mean, it’s perfectly ok. The layout is actually very nice. Situated as it is on the crest of a south facing hill, the views are beautiful. But it is not a house. And the flimsy, thin vinyl skirting is not much of a barrier against the winter wind or temperatures. The water lines, exposed as they are, are vulnerable to the wind, particularly the south-east wind. The water line is insulated as it come into the trailer, but it freezes right at the floor level, INSIDE the trailer in the porch. A few moments with my trusty blow dryer soon thaws the line.
Sometimes it freezes in the pump house. The pumphouse is also my potato storage facility so I have a small ceramic heater cycling every three hours to keep the temperature just above freezing. Depending on the cycle and the windchill, the water will sometimes freeze overnight. When I get up, before I hop into the shower, I turn the water on and let it run. Several times I have hopped in and lathered up only to have the water peter out as the pressure tank empties, necessitating a frigid run out to the pumphouse to turn the heater up. I learned that particular lesson many years ago. If the water is frozen in the porch there will be absolutely nothing coming from the tap and I have only to prop up the blow dryer and wait for a few moments.
But yesterday, as I filled my coffee pot, I noticed the water wasn’t draining out of the sink. I don’t know what prompted me to open the cupboard but I did and sure enough, water was pouring out of the drain underneath. It looked worse than it was, as these things do, being only a two towel flood, but the drain was frozen under the trailer. This hasn’t happened for five or six years as I have been very careful not to leave water sitting in the sink over night. But I changed my sink last fall and the bottom is almost flat. Therefore a pot sitting in the sink will pretty well seal off the drain, allowing only the tiniest dribble of water to leak out, which, due to the small volume, freezes on it’s way out to the septic tank. The last time I went underneath to thaw this particular line I used a propane torch and almost set the trailer on fire. So what to do?!? I suited up and grabbed a flashlight, my trusty blow dryer, and an extension cord. I slithered on my belly, thru the cat shit, bits of fiberglass insulation, and cob webs. What a mess. Every tradesman I’ve had out here has just left all their detritus where they dropped it–out of site, out of mind… And the cats, well, like everyone else, they like a quiet, warm place to do their business. (Back in high school, I remember our social studies teacher telling us the astonishing factoid, that the Canadian Government had given a poet a $40,000 grant for his chef d’oeuvre, a poem, repeating 45 times the line, “A warm place to shit“, as this summarized the Canadian experience.)
I tapped on the black plastic pipe–it sounded hollow. But it had to be frozen somewhere there, so on with the blow dryer. I could hear the ice crackling in the pipe and I concentrated the flow on the elbow. It began to drip underneath as well but not much and soon enough all the wet evaporated, the pipe dried and the crackling stopped. I was all alone so there was no one to shout down that the water was draining. I kept heating the line for 15 minutes or so, then slithered back out to see if there were any results. SUCCESS!!
I’m only thankful I wasn’t doing a load of wash when this line was frozen. That would have been a real mess. So anyway, this wasn’t the disaster it could have been, but I’ve been complacent and not paying attention. So I will now be more vigilent, but as Elizabeth Bennet’s father said about his guilty feelings when his youngest daughter eloped with George Wickham, that these feelings will pass, no doubt sooner than they should.