As I watched the contents of my neighbors’ bowels spread across my kitchen Wednesday night, I thought about what had been, until that point, the worst thing I could say about the people who lived above me.
For the last year and change I've lived in a basement apartment in the bottom of a four-story apartment building in Washington, D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Until last night, the only downside to living here had been the girls upstairs. They partied on weeknights, wore their heels inside, and liked to hang out on the balcony. They recently moved out and a young artist moved in.
Having my kitchen sink turn into a fountain of partially dissolved human excreta, toilet paper, and shower water made me wish they'd never left.
The story goes like this: I came home from work Wednesday night to find a wet kitchen counter and traces of what I thought to be food in the sink. I assumed there was a small clog and went to the store to buy some Liquid-Plumr. When I got back, I poured the Plumr down the drain.
A few minutes later I heard the toilet upstairs flush. Slowly, the Plumr began to reverse its course. Then my new upstairs neighbor turned on his shower and the slow green gurgle turned into a lively and upward-thrusting plume of human waste and yellow water. As another man’s digested breakfast gushed into my and my girlfriend’s favorite coffee mugs, ran along the counter, and began to cover the floor, I grabbed the stopper and thrust my bare arm into the putrid geyser, searching for the drain. I hollered while doing so, begging my girlfriend to run upstairs and interrupt our neighbor’s shower. A minute later, the water stopped, and in that moment I felt so very grateful that a reasonable person had taken over for the party girls. (It did not occur to me that floors two, three, and four, could, and would, flush their filth into our kitchen until about 10 p.m., when Andrew, our building’s maintenance dude, finally arrived and did his best to save what was left of the evening.)
Shortly before 11 p.m., Andrew, who’d been celebrating his 71st birthday when he was called to fix our poo-coated kitchen, found the problem: a wad of latex paint was blocking the drain exiting the building. Ours was the last unit to meet up with the building’s sewer line, and so our kitchen sink was the logical place for the water to go after being denied access to the outside world. And where had the paint come from? Andrew motioned upstairs. The artist! I was shocked, and then nostalgic for the party girls, who never painted anything but their nails.
If I have noisy upstairs neighbors for the rest of my life, but none of them dumps latex paint down the drain, I'll consider myself lucky. But then, with all the apartment dwellers out there, I'm guessing there are worse stories. We'd love to hear yours. Tell them in the comments and we'll collect the best ones in a subsequent post.
Top image: The author's sad, sorrowful sink refilled with poo water again on Friday. (Mike Riggs)