The Poop Diaries – “I always liked helping people, which is one reason I became a plumber,” writes Andy, a plumber whose stories of the ups and downs of his trade are chronicled in Abby Ross’ book The Poop Diaries. “I also like taking on jobs other people cannot do. When I figure out the solution, I love seeing people’s reaction. Many times, they cannot believe I solved the problem.”
That was the case with Ross, who called a plumber late one evening to come to her Chicago home and unclog her toilet. The plumber who answered the call not only fixed the problem within 30 minutes, but also shared with her many of the interesting and unusual stories he experienced fixing all sorts of indoor and outdoor plumbing, which gave Ross the inspiration to compile this book.
At first glance the book’s title could be somewhat misleading, believing it’s about a first-time mother’s experiences with her firstborn child and all the diapers she had to change, or about the wonders of bowel movements in general. However, Ross gives the rationale behind why she chose this title in particular for her book: “You may assume this book is all about poop, and rightfully, so. When most people think about plumbers, including me, they envision poop. This book, however, is about poop and so much more. Dildos, snakes, rats, fake vaginas, hauntings, weapons, boobs, cheaters, shower obsessions, and drugs are only some the examples of what these plumbers have encountered.”
Ross interviewed 10 plumbers for her book, in which each individual chapter focusses on a certain plumber and the many stories of their encounters with showers, baths, faucets, pipes and toilets and all the types of contents they extracted from them, which are bookended with why and how they chose to become a plumber in the first place, and reflections on their job and how meaningful it really is to their customers and their community.
The common denominator you discover from reading these stories is this: these hardworking plumbers enjoy what they are doing and are glad they got into this profession, no matter what they have stuck their hands into and pulled out, or the type of bizarre and difficult clients they have encountered.
…And there is no shortage of the above mentioned in The Poop Diaries. For example, when Todd does a job to unclog a home’s sewer and finds it is jammed with over 200 baby wipe sheets, he tells the wife not to flush baby wipes down the toilet. She replies that she does not have any kids, but that her husband “had an asshole problem”; then there is the heartwarming story told by Dean about the time he unclogged the sewer at a house that was being used as a free daycare facility for the neighbourhood children, in which its owner gave him a home-baked sweet potato pie that she made while he was busy unclogging her sewer as a token of appreciation; then there’s Jac, a female plumber who has to deal with a bull-headed, stubborn male client who asks her to clear a kitchen sink in which its pipes are filled with greasy sludge. Jac strategically places three buckets so that when she unclogs the pipes, all the sludge drains into them; however, the customer decides to repeatedly move those buckets. One place that he moves one of the buckets – the garage – is covered in sludge because of the absence of the bucket. When Jac asks him – through clenched teeth – why he moved that bucket when she told him not to, he mumbles to her “I did not believe you.”
The Poop Diaries is an entertaining book that will give you a much deeper understanding and appreciation of plumbers and the literal dirty work that entails their job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It shows that no matter how simple, difficult or stomach-turning the repair job in question is, plumbers have the knowledge and skill that make them an essential, vital service, and thankfully, helps to shatter the long held stereotype of the slovenly plumber. So if your apartment, house or condo constantly has clean water running through the pipes and drains of your home in question trouble-free, you should hail your local plumber for always ensuring that your pipes and drains are always being maintained. They are the unsung heroes of home repair. (Black Rose Writing, $18.95)