I think most of us have been in this situation at some point in life: You were at a friend’s house, and suddenly you really had to go to the bathroom. Or maybe you didn’t really have to go to the bathroom; you just casually had to go to the bathroom, and got a little carried away with the toilet paper. I can totally relate because I have this “thing” that when I wipe I like my hands not to get wet, you know, so I’m definitely in the use-all-the-toilet-paper-you-need camp. My husband’s family somehow imagined this “thing” as me wrapping layer after layer of toilet paper on my hand until it’s completely covered and protected enough to remove a casserole out of the oven, so they call it the “oven mitt.” That’s not quite what I do, but it doesn’t really matter exactly how I use the toilet paper. The point is I’m pretty handy with a plunger.
I’ve had this experience more than once at friends’ houses. One time was when I was dating Joel, at his parents’ house, with a mess no teenage boy ever needs to see – and I didn’t let him – but I had to ask him for a plunger, so he knew about it. He married me anyway – it must have been for the illusion I gave of superior calm in the face of adversity, because I told you I can handle myself with a plunger.
Anyway, if you’re ever in this situation, it’s good to know exactly how to handle it and come out with probably not even a shred of dignity left. It’s also really good to know how to use a plunger – just in general, you know. So you don’t have to call the maintenance man for help when you plug your toilet.
So here goes –
What to do When the Toilet is About to Overflow
You’ve just flushed and it doesn’t look like the toilet is up to the task of digesting the three-tiered wedding cake you just made out of soggy toilet paper on top of whatever mess you made in there in the first place. The situation is looking grim. Here’s what to do. There are a lot of steps, but every step is crucial, so don’t skip any:
Step One – Stare at the rising water in the toilet to see if it’s actually going to overflow.
Step Two – Keep staring at the water in the toilet, and start praying that the suction force of the flush combined with the weight of the three-quarters-full water level will miraculously break the clog that you know is at least three times the size of the hole at the bottom of the toilet.
Step Three – Keep staring and praying until the water reaches the “lip” at the top of the bowl. Sometimes it will stop filling at this point. Watch carefully to make sure the water is still rising, and not just slowly swirling around the bowl. You might catch a break here.
You’re not catching a break.
Step Four – Panic.
Step Five – Bend elbows to ninety degrees and begin making small, rapid, up-and-down motions with your clenched fists. Make a real quick constipated face and whisper “crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap”.
Step Six – You need to find something to break the clog. Standing directly in front of the toilet, make three quick circles to look around without actually looking at anything.
Step Seven – Search for a plunger. Become disproportionately outraged at the number of people who don’t feel a need to keep a plunger in the bathroom.
Step Eight – Half-cry a little bit, then take a deep breath.
Step Nine – Panic.
Step Ten – Decide to be proactive, and look for something to sop up the water which has reached one-eighth of an inch below the brim of the toilet bowl. Grab the hand towel and all the towels you can find under the sink. Start imagining how you will ever be able to look your friend in the eye when you show her what you did to her bathroom. Worst case scenario is happening in T minus 4, 3, 2…
Step Eleven – Hold your breath and watch as the poop water and toilet paper cake stop rising one-sixteenth of an inch from the loss of every last shred of your dignity.
Step Twelve – Gasp in giddy disbelief, and steady yourself to keep from passing out.
Step Thirteen – Swallow your pride, find someone who lives here, and ask where they’re hiding the plunger. If you’re feeling embarrassed about having to ask for the plunger, remember they brought this upon themselves.
Step Fourteen – CAREFULLY plunge the toilet, and for the love – don’t let anyone see it!
P.S. There’s always a plunger next to my toilet.