review of the plunger in my office bathroom

April 22, 2007

I work[ed] in a pretty small office, there are about 25 of us here, though we have 4 bathrooms. That’s more bathrooms than we had at Novell, an 8 story building, hundreds of people on each floor, one bathroom (per sex) for each floor. One bathroom for each floor! Did I say that already? Those bathrooms were in the center of each floor, and I sat in the far corner, about 150 steps (yes, yes I counted, so what?) from the bathroom. By my calculations, that’s roughly the same distance as from my office to Uzbekistan.

However, we did no bathroom cleanup or maintenance at Novell. We had people that did that for us. Bathroom people. Facilities people. You could pee your name on the walls and not worry. You could drop a dozen French Dip sandwiches in each toilet and know that by the next morning the facilities elves would have magically made it all shiny and new again.

Those days are gone (but not forgotten).

In my little office here in downtown Salt Lake City, we have 25 people and 4 bathrooms (an excellent ratio), and one plunger (so far, more than sufficient, we rarely, if ever, require simultaneous plunging). Some of the bathrooms are recognized with a specific purpose. For example, one of the middle bathrooms (by the way, all the bathrooms are one-holes with locking doors), has a home-made “Women’s Restroom” sign on it. We’re all good people, and we all try to respect that. The bathroom in the back is generally regarded as where you go when you are either a) a man, or b) someone other than a man, but you’re about to drop a 1,000 kiloton bomb.

We’re not entirely uncivilized.


I think I mentioned, one plunger, no “facilities people.” Well, we do have a guy who comes in at night and generally cleans up. But I’m pretty sure it’s not on his list of job responsibilities to plunge. Actually, it’s almost certainly on his list of duties, but the difference between his to-do list and his “do” list is pretty vast. As in, Captain Kirk, the-vastness-of-space vast. And I must say, if I ever found out someone was leaving a bomb un-plunged overnight, that would reflect badly on the perpetrator in his or her next review. Or sooner.

Little aside here (as if there is any “here” here. We all know Derrida said there is no center. I know that, you know that, let’s just accept that and move on.): I am the designated plunger in my home. If I were to go to Vegas for the weekend, and in the five minutes after I left, my wife or one of my kids were to somehow make it so any household toilet wouldn’t flush (and even an 8 year old or a dainty 12 year old girl can drop a 1,000 kiloton bomb), believe me, rather than wield the plunger themselves, they would put Police Line Do Not Cross tape across the bathroom door, a towel across the bottom of the door, and wait for me to return. Why they do this, I do not know. Plunging is not so much an art as an activity. Anybody can do it. But not many do. Am I enabling here? I probably am.

So at work, where I’ve only worked for about 9 months, I am the designated plunger. You might think this task too menial for the General Manager, but no, I checked, and it’s on my list of duties (ha). People will actually come to my door, politely interrupt me, and demurely say “the women’s restroom is backed up again. But it wasn’t me.” The first part of that report varies, but the last part, the “but it wasn’t me” part, never varies. You could be 8, or you could be 78 years old, “but it wasn’t you.”

My first question is automatic, and also never varies: “Just paper, or is there debris?” Wouldn’t you want to know? That hasn’t happened here yet. Well, actually it happened yesterday, but that was the first time. It was clearly woman debris. Don’t ask me how I know. And of course I also want to know if the toilet is overflowing.

At home, there is always debris, somehow my kids can guarantee there will be debris, and not just small debris, more like zoo-cleanup type debris, and not from the marsupial area, but here at work, so far, knock on wood, it’s almost always just paper. Imagine my relief. Because, you can handle family debris. It’s not pretty, it’s not your first choice, but at least it’s family. It washes off. Stranger debris, no, stranger debris is indelible.

Out damn spot.

Actual Plunging

So I find the plunger, which almost always ends up back in the back room bathroom (I suspect stealth plunging is going on, but I can’t be certain, and besides, who would do that?), and tell everybody to Stand Back! Then I go into the abused bathroom and close the door.

The thing is, plunging is mostly grunt work. Debris or no debris, overflowing or no overflowing, you just stick the plunger once more into the breach dear friends, and work it like you just don’t care. Plunging works better if the head of the plunger is covered with water, so if the water level is low, you should flush it to get some water around the head, taking care not to create too much turbulence, cuz who needs that on your brand new Bruno Maglis? You keep working it in and out and flushing until the water and debris disappears.

Eh Bien Voila!

Of course, plunger-wise, you aren’t really done until no evidence of the incident remains on the plunger, no “clingies” allowed. So you keep flushing and rotating the plunger in the running water to remove the signs of debris or paper. You then stand the plunger in the corner (my wife usually spirits the plunger off to some discrete location, but I like it when I enter a bathroom and see a plunger, it gives me a sense of confidence, a “come-what-may” feeling), and go about your way, the good citizens of the home or office in your debt yet again.

The Actual Plunger

Let’s talk about the plunger for a minute. You could Google plungers, but you might get confused, as I did, when I started reading about an all-girl band in New York City. But forget that. Plungers have only changed in one significant way in my short lifetime: instead of a stick with a rubber half sphere at the end, the half sphere now usually has a flange that narrows the opening a bit, and seems to be designed to fit down into the trap of the toilet.

My plunger at work has this flange. My plunger at home also has this flange. I’m not even sure you can buy plungers without this new flange anymore. I agree that the flange appears to serve a useful purpose, which is to create some kind of pressure differential between the trap and the rest of the bowl. I also think, based on very scientific research consisting of asking someone, that the plunger flange keeps the plunger from doing the dreaded “sudden-inversion” during plunging (the fixing of which involves touching the plunger en medias rex, a fate akin to diving into an outhouse toilet). But since all plungers appear to have the flange, well, it’s like the difference between a Kalashnikov and an M-16: you might have preferences, but really, in the end, someone gets shit-canned. So whatever.

Anyway, I get the plunger head down in there, I work it like I just don’t care, and flush. Rinse and repeat until water and/or debris disappears. On the rubber head of my plunger at work, it says, in raised rubber letters, “Helping Hand” with a little raised rubber hand logo. Very friendly, I like it. On the other side it says Force Out. Which sounds very, well, forceful. I wonder what the plungers in the military look like. Maybe on those plungers it could say “Force 10 From Navarone!”

My plunger has a smooth wooden handle, with no splinters (not as useful for NYC cops, but I don’t live in NYC). I have yet to fail using this plunger. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever failed using any plunger. Maybe I should be reviewing myself here.

In short, my plunger is a 10 out of 11. Because really, nothing but the big amplifier goes to 11.


One Response to “review of the plunger in my office bathroom”

  1. Ed Reyes Says:

    Do you know if there is a legally acceptable ratio of bathrooms to people in an office building?

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