The Plumbing Trap
A plumbing trap is a 'P' bend in a pipe (so called because it looks like a 'P' lying on its face). Water trapped in the upper part of the 'P' prevents gasses from leaking back into the house through the drains. A trap is placed at every fixture in the system.
'P' traps are useful, yet the amateur plumber is faced with a far more treacherous trap. It comes in the form of a small, unventilated space, and a metal can filled with epoxy cement.
Pipes, in an addition or remodel, are frequently crammed into tight places. A crawl space under the house comes to mind. You must venture into this space to complete the plumbing for your new bathroom. (How do you get yourself into these situations?)
Under the old floors, the world is dark and musty. It is a forbidding place where the monsters of our childhood run rampant and there lurks the real possibility of a mouse, snake or wolf spider waiting for an opportunity to run up your pant leg.
You are not afraid, but you go armed into that netherworld with a can of Raid, a measuring tape and a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. Your wife refuses to go farther than the door. However, she consents to hold the flashlight.
It is a short scramble over the layer of plastic to where the pipes are meant to run. As you move, you keep your shotgun trained on a big shadow in the corner with beady eyes. At your destination, the tape measure flashes and you relay the measurements to your wife. She briefly illuminates the thing in the corner as she writes. You are not sure, but you think that it might be a dead body. You do not say anything to your wife, you don't want to alarm her, or worse, have her think you are scared.
A few more measurements, and you get out of there. "Whew." You wipe your brow and set to work cutting pipes and arranging corners. The time of your labor is all too brief; for when all is arranged, you must make another foray into the darkness. You place your precut pipe and your pot of glue in a bag, and call your wife back to the scene.
It's back to the hole. You get to the corner and fit the pipes together. Amazingly, in spite of your hasty measurements, they fit.
It is now that the plumbing trap is sprung. You open the glue can and are confronted with a smell reminiscent of model airplanes. It is pungent, but not unpleasant. You spread the glue on the first joint. Push the pipe into the hub. Don't forget that half twist so the glue sets properly.
Everything seems to be going fine as you glue one joint after another. Wait, did you get that last one? Better check it. How did you miss that? Must be getting lightheaded. Or maybe you got a little rushed because of the dead body in the corner. Maybe it's not a dead body. Maybe it's a live one.
You giggle. Your wife wants to know what is so funny.
Boy, that glue smell is really coming on strong all of a sudden. You shake your head. For some strange reason, your brains seem to jiggle.
You fumble with a pipe. It drops from your hand and rolls down a little slope to lie at the feet of the strange man in the corner.
"Pssshh," you say in disgust.
Now you must crawl across the floor to get it.
"Shine the light on the dead guy," you mumble to your wife.
"What are you talking about?" your wife queries.
"Shine it on the dead guy!" you insist incoherently.
Your wife wants to know what is going on, but she doesn't have the guts to come see for herself. You scoff at her lack of daring. You grip your shot gun and advance.
You get to the pipe. You could just grab it, but you are more interested in poking the man with your shot gun. The thing moves, you are not sure if it's just bunched up plastic or if it is one of your old friends from high school.
"Jimmy! What are you doing under here?" you ask.
"Same thing you are, just trying to find a place to rest and maybe do a little plumbing."
It sounds reasonable.
"Maybe you can give me a hand."
"Sure," Jimmy smiles, "but did you bring any beer with you?"
You hear a voice in the recesses of your mind. It is your wife calling you back to the light in the corner. "Honey, I think you've breathed in a little too much of that glue. Why don't you come out of there and take a break?"
She may be right. You say good-bye to Jimmy and crawl back to the door of the crawl space. It seems like a trip to eternity. Suddenly your heart is pounding in your head, and nausea sweeps over your chest.
Your wife helps you to the open air. "Jimmy's under there," you tell her.
"Definitely too much glue," she says. "Did you finish installing the pipes?"
You think about this question. It is a tough one. If you answer this correctly they might let you on "Jeopardy". "Yeah, it's done."
"We'll let you and the pipes dry out, and then we'll test out the system."
That night you have the biggest headache of your life. You think you recover your sanity at about one in the morning. Thank God the job is done. You do not relish the idea of again opening that glue pot while you are under the house. Still, to test the system you must crawl back with the flashlight and observe while your wife fills the pipes with water. You must test for leaks.
Under the house, the smell of model glue has dissipated. Water gurgles in the pipes as they fill. "Stop! Stop!" you shout to your wife. Water spurts from three unions, and a pipe leading to nowhere splashes water on a heat duct. You crawl out of the hole to inform your wife of the bad news.
You will need to open the glue can in that confined space again. Only this time you are going to rent an air breather, or better yet, bring down a six-pack of beer for Jimmy. Maybe he can help you straighten out that mess.