Of Square Toilets and Round Plungers


“Oh Phil! Did you know that you can’t plunge a square toilet with a round plunger?”

And so began the letter to Phil, who was in Greece, in which I wrote to tell him about my parents’ 50th anniversary party.

My parents had their 50th anniversary party in August of 2001, and the tale of the party that I spun in my ten-page letter to him should have been warning about the Arduengo plumbing curse, which, as it turns out, is transferable by marriage.

My brother hosted anniversary party for my parents at his home in Alabama, a spacious two-story house with two kitchens and plenty of room for family. His house is normally occupied only by him and his two dogs, but for this weekend it was full of family. All was going well when a good friend of my mom emerged from the downstairs bathroom looking a little sheepish. She called my mom quietly into the bathroom, pointed to its square-shaped toilet and explained that the toilet wouldn’t flush and was beginning to overflow.

After much tinkering my mom and her friend were not able to flush the toilet, and they were beginning to giggle like schoolgirls as we locked the bathroom doors and directed people upstairs. Mom was adamant that we repair this problem without my brother’s knowledge, because she didn’t want to cause him any stress beyond that of hosting the party. Since I had flown in and didn’t have a car, Mom asked me to get my sister and go on a covert mission to buy a plunger.

I couldn’t find my sister, who had gone on a very long walk to burn off steam at an extremely inconsiderate remark that a relative had made. So, I found my cousin Myrla and roped her into plunger detail.

But, we didn’t know the short cut into town, and the trip to get the plunger took nearly an hour. Meanwhile, Mom and her friend guarded the bathroom from within, and my aunt (my mom’s sister) steered all bathroom seekers upstairs. My cousin Myrla and I were supposed to retrieve the plunger and sneak it in with out my brother seeing it, but by the time we got back, the entire family had gathered for cake and my brother opened the downstairs door to let us in. Fortunately the plunger was still in the bag, and he asked no questions.

So I delivered the plunger to the current guardians of the bathroom who happened to be my other cousin and my dad. They began plunging.

About this time an elderly uncle decided that he needed to go to the bathroom, and he kept walking down the hall only to be barred by my aunt who smiled pleasantly and kept saying “Occupied”.

“Well, I’ll just wait. I’m not going upstairs!” he huffed.

I caught my cousin Myrla’s eyes, and we almost lost it in laughter.

About five minutes later, Myrla beckoned me away from a crowd and said “Michele, Uncle Tony (my dad) says that you can’t plunge a square hole with a round plunger.”

I howled with laughter at this point.

We kept everything under control, managing to station a guard at the bathroom while family pictures were made, with no one the wiser. Finally all of the guests returned to their hotel rooms, and late that evening my brother and my dad worked in earnest at the toilet and managed to resolve the problem.

So on my parents’ 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad bonded over a covert mission to unplug a square toilet with a round plunger, which, my mom told me later, was entirely apropos.

© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “Of Square Toilets and Round Plungers

    1. Hi Alice,

      Actually, the ruckus appeared to have been started by somebody before her who didn’t ever come forward.

      Michele

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