One day while I was living in China, my roommate woke me up at 7h on a Saturday morning. This was not his usual custom, nor was it mine to wake up so early on a weekend.
He woke me up because he heard a sound coming from the bathroom. The big drain in the middle of the floor was backing up. By this, I mean that whereas usually the drain is the final receptacle of the unwanted fluids coming from our apartment, in this case, it was the burbling and gushing provider.
At first, the flow was manageable. We waited for a little bit, to see if it would stop. The floor of the bathroom of our apartment was lower than the floor of the rest of our apartment, so for the moment, the liquid was contained. We tried the plunger. No effect. When it burst over the threshold into our dining room, we knew something had to be done.
So I called the landlord, who speaks no English, and in my broken Chinese, I told him, “你好。我租你房子。我的厕所有几个问题，” which means, roughly, “Hi, I rent your apartment. My bathroom has some problems.”
Fortunately, the guy got the picture and came over more-or-less right away.
In the meantime, me and my roommate were unplugging everything electric, and using a broom to try to redirect the flow of sewage from the overflowing bathroom drain to the kitchen drain (which was working fine, thankfully). We pulled the tablecloth up on the table, and picked up the kitchen stool and put it, inverted on the kitchen table.
When the landlord showed up, he was startled to see what was happening. In a way, it was both comforting and unsettling to see him shocked by it. On the one hand, it was comforting because if he was shocked, it meant that it didn’t happen very often. On the other hand, it was unsettling because if he didn’t know what to do, then I had no idea who would.
I saw him pull out his 手机 and I thought he was gonna call a plumber, but after a few minutes, to my disappointment, his 太太 showed up, carrying some big rubber boots for him. He tried using the plunger on it, to no effect. He stood back and looked like he was thinking for a while, and eventually called his 朋友 who had some sort of a machine with a long metal extension that could be inserted into the drain.
Upon turning a crank on the one end of the machine, it did whatever it was designed to do and eventually pulled out a grey bundle of what looked like a sweater that someone in the apartment above us must have flushed.
That day was supposed to be a day of alone-time for me, and the first one I had been able to have for a few months, so as soon as the crisis was averted, my roommate graciously offered to mop the floor. I should have taken the time to shower after all that, but I was stressed and I just wanted to get out of that foul-smelling place. It was really 特别麻烦.
When I returned, I was feeling sick (that’s what happens when you fail to shower after spending your morning wading through human waste) but the apartment was in good order, thanks to my roommate.
I walked into the kitchen and looked around—the only thing that remained was just a few pieces of furniture that were inverted and left on the top of the kitchen table. I wanted to make sure they were clean before I put them away, so I asked my roommate, “Did you wipe the stool off?”