Monday, July 14, 2008


In Which We Are Flush with Adventure...

When I was a kid, I used to hope for a life filled with adventure, always went looking for it when I was a young man. I never called my friends up and said, "Hey let's go shoot some pool," or "Let's go have a drink," or "Let's go to a movie." I always used to say, "Hey, let's go on an adventure." Sure, often enough we ended up just shooting pool or getting a beer or seeing a movie, but I always hoped for more. Wanted more.

Now I know better. I don't seek adventure too much these days, not because it tends too often in my case to lead to some horrific moment of self-injury, but just because I don't need it. If you wait, if you live long enough, adventure finds you, whether you want it to or not.

Take Monday, week before last (please!) Your basic Monday, the kind where I awake realizing the weekend is done gone and I need to get over it, an act of will that usually takes about a minute. From there, the day plodded on in its usual fashion, to the point that, by a few minutes after lunch, I found myself sitting at my desk in an uncharacteristic lull, waiting for someone else to finish working on one of my story folders and hand it back to me. And I found myself thinking Man, I'm a little bored. I could use some adventure.

I know why I was thinking this. Over the weekend, Her Lovely Self and I were talking about our summer plans and I realized that I likely wasn't going anywhere special this year. Or possibly even anywhere at all. We had talked briefly about taking a week and going to Colorado, but that got put on hold indefinitely, for a number of reasons. Then I spoke with my Big Brother about coming out to New Hampshire for a few days, and discovered that if I was going to go, it wouldn't be until fall, because BB wouldn't have any days off until then. And even if I did go, I'd be puttering around the house with him, most likely helping him dismantle the barn behind the house, which is just a breath away from falling over. And to top it off, my wife and kids were in the throes of planning and packing for an extended stay with the in-laws, which is shortly coming to an end now. Of course, I wasn't going. We were closing an issue and the rest of my staff was on vacation over the July 4th holiday, so I needed to be on hand to get my department's stories shipped. Don't get me wrong: I was kind of excited about the dog and I having the house to ourselves for a few days, but when the apex of your summer plans hinges on being alone in the house with your dog, well, clearly you've moved on in life, as regards your needs for adventure.

Such were my thoughts that Monday afternoon--I swear to God, the thought balloon over my head that read Man, I'm a little bored. I could use some adventure. had only just faded to nothing--when the phone rang. I'll confess: I let voicemail get it. I've been getting SO many calls lately--and all of them from PR folks shilling their newest product or service--that I just can't get work done.

So I went back to work. But then I saw the red light on my phone wink to life and my spider sense started tingling, so I immediately retrieved my message.

This is what I heard:

(Baby Éclair crying. Screaming, actually)

(Indistinct scrambling sounds)

(More screaming baby noises)

Her Lovely Self (sounding stressed): I guess you're not-- I don't know what--

(Loud scrambly-finger noises as the Éclair grabs at the phone and screams more)

HLS (did I say stressed? Try frazzled): Okay, this is bad. This--

(More screaming from the screaming baby. With screaming.)

HLS (did I say frazzled? Try panicked): Ok, we've got a big problem. I'm-- it's. The kids are fine, but--

(Again with the screaming screaming baby, who is now yelling "Momeeeeeee!")

HLS (high-pitched): I think I need you to--

(Message cuts off)

Well, of course I called right back, but I got the machine (natch). I guess I was hoping the dog might pick up the phone because I left a rambling, increasingly panicked message of my own, before realizing that the only thing I could do was get in the car and go home. I repeated my cell phone number in my phone message, then hung up and ran from my office as though I'd just been on the Hotline with the commissioner and needed to find a Bat-pole.

Tearing through city traffic on my way to the expressway, it was then that I had my first idea about how much I've come to hate adventure as I've gotten older. That's probably because I've had too many nasty surprises over the years that could also fit under the umbrella of adventure, and I'm at the point where I'd just as soon have some tranquility, thanks. How stupid of me to jinx myself and wish for adventure. Now I was getting it.

I seemed to take forever to get home, certainly long enough to envision some pretty awful scenarios. My wife had said the kids were fine, but I was parsing that statement like crazy. Okay, the kids were fine, but she often uses the word kids to refer to the two older kids, not the baby. And that baby was screaming pretty loud. Could something be wrong with her? Or in saying the kids were okay, was my wife therefore leading up to the but part of the sentence, as in, perhaps, The kids are fine, but I've impaled myself on a tomato stake and need some assistance. Possibly some emergency surgery, too. All I could think was that HLS had started her new drug therapy for Crohn's Disease only a few weeks ago. Was she having some hideous side effect? Was she going into anaphylactic shock even as I sat there in traffic?

At last, I pulled into the driveway, bounded up the steps and through the front door. Already, I could hear the incessant beeping of a smoke alarm from upstairs, and also from elsewhere in the house. My heart rate, already somewhere comfortably in coronary country, began beating at a rib-splintering rate as I charged into the kitchen, every sense on high alert.

In the family room, I saw my kids--all three of them. The Brownie was watching TV while Thomas was playing with the baby.

"Where is your mother?" I asked.

"Down in the basement," Thomas said, giving me a strange look. I didn't wait to query him, but turned and went straight down the steps. And that is where I found my wife.

Now let's turn back the hands of time about 60 minutes. Her Lovely Self has been out in her garden, tending to various things horticultural. The baby is in the shade, sitting on a blanket, absorbed in concentration as she attempts to insert blocks of varying shapes into a containers with corresponding holes. She seems obsessed with the idea that the square block OUGHT to go into the circular hole. Is this a perennial thing with babies, or just mine? No one can say. But it keeps her occupied for hours.

Gradually, Her Lovely Self hears a growing tumult from the house. In the heat of the early afternoon, she has left Thomas and the Brownie indoors to watch a little TV. What she does not know is two neighbor children from down the street--oh, and seven of their closest friends--have let themselves in through the front door. A wild rumpus is underway.

It's when she sees a body hurtling by an upstairs window (but not, thankfully, out of it), that she gathers the baby and heads in.

It is pandemonium inside. The TV is at full volume and two children my wife has never met are alternating between playing a video game and catching snippets of an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. Another child has ever crayon, pen, pencil, and colored marker poured out on the kitchen table and is apparently drawing a mural of hell done all in stick figures. Some of his work actually is on the paper, while the rest is on the tablecloth. The kitchen sink is running at full blast. The downstairs toilet is running (the handle tends to stick). For some reason, the blower over the oven is on (though the oven is, thank you God, off).

Just then, Thomas, the dog, and two of his friends come pounding up from the basement carrying armloads and mouthfuls of dinosaurs and action figures, which are forbidden on the upper floor, since they pose a choking hazard for the baby. In fact, most everything my wife is witnessing is forbidden in some form, most especially in the case of allowing a busload of children in the house without so much as telling her.

It dawns on Her Lovely Self that the Brownie is nowhere in sight. This is because she is upstairs playing dress-up--with Her Lovely Self's clothes (oh, and some of mine)--with two new friends, a couple of neighbor children who just moved in (or so they claim).

My lovely bride blows her stack. She kicks all the children out--including, briefly, her own. Thomas and the Brownie are sent to the front yard to watch the baby while she continues working with the Square-Block-Round-Hole Conundrum and Think About What They've Done. Meanwhile, my long-suffering spouse permits herself the briefest of rest stops in the downstairs bathroom. She stands to flush, and that's when she discovers that one of the invading children flushed...something...down the can, clogging it so that, with the very next flush, there is an instant, immediate, rather Biblical overflow.

We only have 1.6 gallon tank on the downstairs john, but it seems that 10 gallons--a hundred!--is coming back up. Faster than you can "Holy shit!" the downstairs bathroom floor is covered in an inch of water and...more than water. But it is all quickly draining under the toilet and through the floorboards. Right down onto the row of bins where the kids keep all their toys.

And just to put a bow on the whole magical package, a heavy dose of water (and more than water) slops right into the electrical outlets that are mounted to the ceiling joists in the basement. The house's electrical system doesn't short out, but the water (and more than water) DOES set off the fire alarm system.

(And in case it occurred to the astute among you to wonder whether we own a plunger, the answer is yes. I bought a brand-new one when we moved into the Magazine Mansion and placed it in the downstairs bathroom, but was ordered to relocate it to the upstairs bathroom because it looked "gross." Thus it was nowhere close to hand when the flood could have been averted.)

Thus it was that my wife, in her moment of extremity, and unable to find a plunger, did the next best thing, and called me.

So I arrived and found her in the basement, which at this point smelled like a men's room at a sports arena. My poor bride was bedecked in junk clothing she normally reserves for painting and hauling compost. She was all but wearing a HAZMAT mask and rubber gloves. After her distress call, I was so relieved to find her alive and upright, I just about laughed with relief. But then she fixed me with a look that promised instant death if I so much as smiled, so I simply went and changed clothes, grabbed the bucket and the Pine-Sol and joined her for an afternoon's labor. After shutting off the power so I could pull the outlets and the smoke alarm out of their junction boxes and let the water (and more than water) run out.

Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing as bad as I had envisioned, but it still wasn't great. Nobody likes to spend an afternoon mopping up in the wake of what the Brownie would come to call "The Poo Water Flood." But you have to look on the bright side. I got to spend the afternoon with my wife. We managed to throw out about five boxes worth of toys that my kids no longer play with (but which they could never have been convinced to part with under any other circumstance).

Finally, with the basement mostly aired and sanitized, and with all the surviving toys soaking in the utility sinks in a solution of hot water and Clorox, I went upstairs, found my plunger and proceeded to get to the, er, bottom of our bathroom clog.

Now I was taught to use a plunger by my father, who could bring such suction to bear when plunging that he swore he once pulled a neighbor's child down into his own toilet and up through our pipes. So I know how to operate a plunger. But whatever the kids have flushed down there, it wasn't coming back. I was ready to go find my plumber's snake, but decided to give it one last try, heaving my whole body on the plunger and pounding away for all I was worth.

All at once, there was a mighty BLOOOMP and a six-inch solid block of toilet paper exploded up out of our basin. The toilet let out a huge, almost human gurgle of relief. And all was right with the world.

But at least now I know the Éclair isn't the only child interested in jamming square blocks in round holes.

Thankfully, the rest of my time since then has been quiet--almost too quiet, what with the wife and kids gone. Why, just the other night, I found myself sitting alone and bored, and felt that thought balloon--the one that read "Man, I'm a little bored. I could use some adventure."--about to pop over my head.

And then I picked up the phone and called a friend and said, "Hey, let’s go shoot some pool." At my age, baby, that's adventure enough.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Glad all's okay. I'm too old for adventure, too. What comes my way is plenty, indeed.
is this somehow related to your crap giveaways?
Adventure, even in it's strangest forms, keeps you young and flexible. Important stuff, that.
Wow, no self injury involved this time! I was worried when I was reading the end piece about the plunger there for a moment.

I think that, always having been single and very rarely having had roomates, I've missed out on some adventures. All the same though, I can't say as I'm too bummed about it.
So I put a new tub into the knob and tube palace but it isn't on a proper foundation yet. Standing in it to tile the surround loosens the drain. Thumper unknowingly runs the hell out of the water in the sink which is higher than the tub drain. Result is that sink water takes a detour down the road of least resistance past the kitchen ceiling and out the kitchen track lights highway.

Gosh but plumbing's fun.
My mother is visiting, and she and I were sitting and talking last night. I glanced at my monitor and saw the tab where I had left this story open to read later, and I felt compelled to share my brilliant deduction:

"It's called 'In Which We Are Flush with Adventure', which means there is going to be a toilet."

I love your story titles :>
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