High Pressure Situations

A relatively small number of people deal with intense situations on a regular basis.  Overseas military, first responders and ER doctors are part of a select group that deal with high stress on a daily basis.  The rest of us can probably count on one hand the number of traumatic experiences that we have encountered in our modern, sheltered lives.  Personally, I can count this number on two fingers.

The first intense situation that I recall occurred when I was eighteen and living at home.  I started the backyard barbecue, and then went back inside the house while it warmed up.  When I looked back at the barbecue a few minutes later, it was a massive fireball.  I jumped to my feet, and ran towards the fire extinguisher.  As I approached the fire, I was fearful, realizing that the propane tank could have blown up at any moment.  Nevertheless, I sprayed out the blazing flames.

My one and only firefighting experience ended well.    Thinking back now, my actions that evening were instinctive; they involved no thought.  Intense situations do not leave one with much time to think.

Intense situation number two made yesterday a day I would like to forget.

There was a clogged toilet in my home, and I set out to clear it up.  I have probably plunged a toilet on fifty separate occasions in my life - I mean, it's not the sort of thing you keep track of, but fifty seems like a reasonable estimate.  Based on prior experience, I know that after a few plunges, the water level is supposed to go down.  But, yesterday played out differently.  The water began coming up.  

Now, I consider myself a logical person - someone that would not normally talk to water.  But when my toilet began to overflow, my natural instinct was to plead with it, "Please! Oh, please no.  Don't do this..."  This is exactly what Jerry Seinfeld predicted would happen to a person who is attacked by his toilet in one of his famous comedy bits; I recalled this bit, and smirked ever so briefly during my state of panic.

It quickly became apparent to me that the amount of fluid rising in the toilet bowl was greater than the amount that it stores for a flush.  Also, the colour of the fluid was black.  Indeed, the fluid that by now was pooling onto my bathroom floor was an endless reservoir of sewage.

Much like the fire described earlier, I reacted without thinking.  I ran to the main water inlet to the home.  By this point, the wretched fluid was leaking through the bathroom floor into the basement.  As luck would have it, the shut off valve was located exactly where the sewage was dripping down.  I took a deep breath, stood under the stream, and twisted the valve closed - at least I had not showered yet.

Thankfully, this seemed to stop the upwards flow of the sewage from the toilet.  Sadly, with the water closed to the house, I could not take that shower that I now desperately needed.  What a day!

The rest of yesterday and most of today involved phone calls with an insurance company, an adjuster, a contractor, a cleaning company, and a plumber.  As I go through this draining process, I am trying to stay positive, reminding myself that it could have been a lot worse.  Had my efforts not stopped the flow of sewage, my home would have been overwhelmed by it.  As it stands now, the total damage appears low, and the total costs appear manageable.

As I write this, I am thinking back to the moment when I was yelling at the fluid to stop rising - as if the fluid has a choice in the matter.  The fluid must follow the laws of the universe that govern it (in this case, that of Bernoulli), without exceptions.  On this occasion, for some reason, there was a higher pressure below the water than above it.  Yes, in retrospect, this truly was a high pressure situation, and one that I would like to never experience again.


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