Friday, September 26, 2008

On Drainage (Only in China)

Don't ever take drainage for granted, my friends. Not ever. Otherwise your plumbing karma will have you banished to some far-off land where drainage is at best an afterthought, if thought of at all.

For example, you know that saying "It never rains but it pours"? It's never really made all that much sense to me, but sense or nonsense, the Chinese version is "It never rains, but it floods." Drainage is so poorly thought out that often what seems like a light rain will collect on the ground and in the streets.

We've tolerated this for a few months now, but this morning, the drainage problem struck a little closer to home. Our bathroom is what one lady at BICF affectionately called a showlet. It's really quite common, a shower head installed next to a toilet, with only a shower curtain separating the two. Two drains on either side of the toilet let the water slowly drain (which runs all over the bathroom since there's no standalone shower). The drains have been working decently, but they're nothing to write home about (ironic, since that's exactly what I'm doing write now). Every once in a while we notice the odd smell coming up from them, usually garlic or smoke from our neighbors next door. And of course the usual foul smells associated with bathroom duties. But for China, not so bad. Liveable at least.

However, the past few days they'd been burping a little. I'd noticed they were draining really slowly and would hiccup if the toilet was flushed. I guess I should have seen it coming...

This morning Marilyn left bright and early for the arts festival that's hosted by the studio she's been interning at. I took my time getting up, groggily checked my email, then hopped in the shower. On my way out, I shot an icy glare at our semifunctional hiccupy drains.

A couple hours later, I walked past the bathroom on the way to the kitchen and beheld a most terrifying sight. (At this point, I would usually post a picture. I took pictures...but the image is so scarring, so terrible, that I'm actually going to spare you. Which, as most of you should know, is saying a lot.) The drains had finally had it. In what I can only describe as an explosion of sorts, the drain by the shower had uncapped and spewed forth all manner of sewage onto our bathroom floor. I shrieked. I called Marilyn, who was in the middle of the screening, and told her what had happened. Since she was busy, I would have to call our housing association myself. So, in broken Chinese, I tried to explain to them what happened. At one point I picked up a dictionary to try and look words up. It was then that I learned that my dictionary does not have the word "poo" or "poop" in it. Utterly useless! Unable to explain what happened, I just kept repeating in Chinese "There's a problem in the bathroom." To which they finally agreed to come have a look. When they got here, they told Marilyn that the drains probably hadn't been cleared for some time and it would cost 30RMB to have it cleared. One of the workers left to go get some machine, and the other poked around the drains a bit. We cleaned some of the crap off the floor, and then the inquisitive worker designed to to try flushing the toilet. *Whoosh!* *Blurp!* Even more sewage came bubbling up from the now uncapped drains. I was able to restrain myself from having a pseudo-OCD/germophobic panic attack, but it was a close one. The other worker returned with some kind of soviet-era drain snake of a device and commenced clearing the drains. As the understatement of the month, it was messy. Finally the drains cleared, and the workers left, leaving me with a floor full of poop and sewage to mop up.

You know what the irony of all this is? One of the common toilet brands I've seen in China, of which ours is one, is "American Standard." American standard, my (literal) butt! I've even seen American Standard branded squattie potties. That's just blatant false advertising (almost as bad as California Beef Noodle King)! Trust me, choice few American standards would put up with some of the "crap that goes down" here.

So there it is: a cautionary tale for those of you who take this stuff for granted. Enjoy your spotless bathrooms, your freedom from unknown mal-odors and semi-functional drainage.

I'm still a bit shaken up. But we both know it could have been A LOT worse. So, for now, I'll count my blessings and cut my losses.

7 comments:

Jirat said...

oh my gosh...I almost puked reading this. I don't know how you did it, Josh, but wow. You are a trooper. That is probably the most disgusting thing I've ever read about. I wish you would post a picture of it though. Omg...and something about Chinese poo just stinks more b/c of the food. I noticed that about mine and others in E.Asia. Oh the ahdfjkhASJKDHAK!

Bae0wolf said...

Holy Crap! literally! wow, I have a deeper respect for you for this ordeal. The funny thing is, our toilet that was leaking upstairs was an American Standard too! I replaced it with a much superior Kohler variety. and I agree with Jirat, I almost want to see a picture of this disaster. Oh Chiner....

Florence said...

lol. I busted out laughing at the thought/image of Josh repeating the phrase "there is a problem with our bathroom"...unable to communicate anything further. You'll have to do a re-enactment of the scene when I come visit!

Shellcomber said...

Yeah, I've had several drainage problems too, though not as severe as yours (no burbing...). My shower drain wasn't draining and they came in with the steel snake too. It took em two visits to fix the problem, and then the toilet started leaking dirty water. Oh, China...I've started keeping potted plants in the bathroom to clear the air.

Abnormality said...

this sure would have scared the crap outta me!

Amy said...

haha...you "shrieked"? nice. i probably would've cried.

heylainey said...

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW