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Circling the drain: a short story about how to plunge a toilet

Today I arrived at a quintessential Hollywood bungalow in Los Feliz, where I participated in a cliche: a table read of a friend’s script. Surrounded by people I deem far cooler than I, I took a moment to turn my insecurities inside out by truly appreciating I wasn’t the smartest person in the room for once. In a game of mental tennis however, I also noted how many friends I lacked in comparison to the one who’d invited me here. Thirty people turning out on a Sunday…to read. I couldn’t even get thirty people to join me for an all expense paid trip to Jamaica. But, perhaps that’s because I just stated that “for once” I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. Don’t worry, I get what’s coming to me.

After the read had concluded, I raced to the bathroom. I’d been holding it since page thirty of the eighty-five page script and couldn’t wait to give my bladder some reprieve. I shut the door behind me, unbuttoned my grey jeans, and realized there wasn’t a lock on the door. As is the standard for this type of situation, I immediately started my Pee Pilates (pee Pilates is essentially where you pee in the most uncomfortable stance which, often also requires the most muscle exertion, to either avoid having your ass touch the toilet seat, or in this case, greeting someone beaver first, should they walk in on you).

One thing I’ll never understand about Los Angeles four-plexes and bungalows is the lack of interior locking mechanisms - especially when you consider how much murdering happened back in the days they were originally being built... Black Dahlia or Charles Manson anyone? I guess there’s enough weirdos and pervs in this town to not worry about getting caught masturbating, either. The other thing I don’t understand is design. From freeways to hallways, things just don’t make sense, spatially. Like, in this bathroom for instance: you could barely fit a table with a chair on either end in the room I’d just come from, but you could have parked a mini coop between the toilet and the door in the bathroom.

Trying to keep contact with any part of the door to ensure no one would walk in on me, I touched my middle finger to the towel rack that had been hanging on the back of the door. Then, I leaned as far forward as I could on the toilet, arched my back for an optimal angle, and like Hulu, started streaming. I knew I was cutting it close. In the very least, I was sure I’d be wiping off the toilet seat when I was done.

As it goes in any type of yoga or Pilates class, I wondered when the hell my time would be up in this position before I could switch to a more comfortable one. I tried to distract myself by recalling which of Jim Carrey’s movies it was where he pees for an absurdly long time. Then, I wondered if I’d actually manage to go longer.

A few moments later, I noticed the cold from the porcelain on my thigh giving way to a warmer temperature comparable to the 98.6 degree liquid escaping me. When I felt my calf yielding to the heat as well, I glanced down in a small panic.

“Am I peeing on myself?!” I actually asked this aloud in a hushed whisper so no one could hear me. You know what no one can hear? My thoughts.

Noticing nothing, I breathed a sigh of relief before calculating how long this record breaking pee might actually last. When I finally finished, I wiped and stood up to flush. When I did, the back of my heel slid off my sandal, indicating the worst.

“Nope. I peed on myself.” I'd always loved those slip ons for keeping my feet so warm.

I grabbed some toilet paper to wipe off my foot when I noticed a small pool of urine that had gathered near the base of the toilet - and by small, I mean large. Large enough to make me wonder how much had ever made it into the bowl in the first place. I watched as it made its way to a random drain located in the center of the room... maybe this was something that happened often?

Knowing there were people waiting to come in after me, I scrambled to clean up the puddle as quickly as I could, wiping it up with wads of Charmin. I discarded the used ply into the toilet bowl, and, when the coast was clear, pushed down on the handle to flush. That's when I noticed the water level rising past a point that would make anyone feel calm.

"No, no, no...." I braced myself for another clean up as the water line treaded dangerously close to the top of the lid. There it hung, suspended, a chard of paper floating around in a circle above another playing peak a boo from the bowels of the bowl.

Fuck. Me.

I reached for a plunger, readily nearby, thank God, and immediately got to work. Just like the first guy I ever slept with, all it took was two quick pumps for me to be out of there. I washed my hands and gracefully exited the bathroom, slipping back into a room where I wasn’t the smartest person. Clearly.


Submerge plunger into the water and place directly over the clogged hole, making sure there is a firm seal around throat of the porcelain.

Mimicking CPR chest compressions, use your body weight to push down and up on the plunger, rapidly, about three times before coming up for air to see if your toilet is breathing on its own.

Repeat this process until it is.

If it doesn't, close the lid of the toilet and exit the bathroom like nothing ever happened. It’s the next person’s problem.

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