Mary’s neighbor, Brendan Grzywacz, kindly gives her some actual toilet paper so she won’t wind up with another big plumbing bill.

Mary’s neighbor, Brendan Grzywacz, kindly gives her some actual toilet paper so she won’t wind up with another big plumbing bill.

by Mary Gulivindala

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” — Woody Allen

Everyone wants a bargain; right? Money’s tight, and we all love a deal. I thought I found the big daddy of savings. Walking out of the store I was so proud of myself. I felt like I just won “The Price Is Right.” I outsmarted the corporations that overprice products I resent. The products they sell we need; they know it and mercilessly overcharge us.

Using these products is like washing money down the drain, literally. Well, folks, what I won was “The Price Is Wrong.” I was wrong, oh so terribly wrong, and I learned a very expensive lesson. What’s the product I begrudge? Toilet paper!

My son’s school was having a fundraiser. There was a sign-up sheet, and I saw candy. That can’t be too expensive, so I chose the candy option. I have a membership to BJ’s that I never use, but considering the bulk bags of candy I was going to buy, I thought that a monster warehouse store such as BJ’s would be the best bargain. Wrong; it wound up being a disaster. Here’s what happened.

Almost every product costs $10 or more; it’s the bulk thing. Since I was already in BJ’s for the candy, I figured I might as well get some other staples like spring water, laundry soap and toilet paper. I grabbed my ridiculously high priced candy (one bag was $20; hello, that’s not a bargain) and lugged my oversized cart down the oversized aisle to buy the oversized products that are overpriced. As I said, corporations have us by the balls or shall I say, in their pockets.

I swung around to the toilet paper aisle, and wham, I was hit with sticker shock! Charmin, my toilet paper of choice, was $29 for a quantity that could probably wipe the behinds of the entire U.S. Army. Suddenly I spotted across the aisle a shelf of Bounty paper napkins, a zillion for $9. Bingo; my two sons and I will just use napkins instead of toilet paper for the foreseeable future.

So for two weeks a bulk package of napkins sat next to the toilet. They wiped just great. I was onto something; this was a game changer. Look at the money I was saving. I finally outwitted a big corporation.

Then came laundry day. I put an oversized load in the washing machine and went to work. When the cycle ended, I descended my basement steps only to find it flooded with blackish water. Oh sh–! Being the hands-on woman that I’ve become, I tried to problem solve this myself. I walked out to my tiny manhole on the edge of my neighbor’s driveway and saw it was clogged with stones, sticks and leaves.

I took my finger and tried to pull the debris out unsuccessfully. Then I got a screwdriver; it was not much better. The water started receding in the basement, but I knew this was serious. I’ve been through this before. What to do? It must be the leaves clogging the pipes; right? So I called the Streets Department. I was told it was not their problem since the manhole was not in the street. What about the Water Department? They will come out to take a look at it for “inspection,” slap you with a fine, and then you get your own plumber. So I started mopping, running up and down flights of steps, in and out of the house with “sludge” on me. This was too big for me. I had to throw down my plunger and call my plumber, Matt Mazza.

Early the next morning, a Saturday, the plumbers came. My neighbors were having a yard sale while two plumbers and myself proceeded to stand around the manhole deliberating if it even belonged to me. And due to insurance concerns, they didn’t want to touch it.

Instead, they began excavating my lawn with a screwdriver stabbing my grass trying to hit metal, which never happened because my manhole is on the edge of my neighbor’s driveway! By this point I was exhausted from the day before, anxious to get this problem fixed and frustrated with little patience.

Many a flush later, watching the bubbling brew, a decision was made to “snake” it at the basement pipe. I stood there and watched as the snaking began. Once cleared, extracting the snake, we found the problem. It was clogged with slimy, mucky, black wet paper napkins and one piece of dental floss.

I was asked if I had been flushing anything down the toilet other than toilet paper. I wanted to lie (embarrassing) but didn’t. I told them about the napkins. They explained to me that toilet paper has special chemicals that break down the paper, thus making it flushable. Paper napkins, although they seem so similar, do not have those chemicals. Who knew?

I haven’t received the bill yet from the plumber, but I know it will be a lot more than the cost of a ton of toilet paper rolls. The moral of the story: Be careful when you think you have a bargain. You may wind up paying a lot more than you bargained for.

Ed. note: I checked with Mr. Mazza, 77, of Roxborough, who has been a plumber for 57 years. He did not say that flushing paper napkins might clog a drain, but one of his workers did. According to severaI websites I went on, that worker was correct. The websites all said essentially that NOTHING should be flushed down a toilet but toilet paper and human waste. Almost everything else may cause serious problems. Here is a typical comment from “Paper towels, napkins, even facial tissues can clog the toilet. Hope you have a plunger or a toilet snake nearby.”

  • Alexander M Zoltai

    WHOOT!!! :-)

    • 1Real Girl Writer

      Alexander, wise sage, I’m sure you knew that!

      • Alexander M Zoltai

        I was pretty sure :-)

  • Kevin Scott Hall

    I suppose it’s the reason why so many public restrooms have signs that say “Do not flush paper towels or feminine products down the toilet.” Kudos to you for having the courage to share such a story! We won’t forget the lesson!

    • 1Real Girl Writer

      Thanks for posting Kevin! Hope your book is skyrocketing in sales!!