Drain Nightmare

One of my favorite stories happened when I was a sacker a Minyards in Lewisville, Texas, while I was in high school.  It was a good job for me that taught me some responsibility and provided me with spending money that came in handy for a kid in high school at the time.

For the most part, I liked the job, and the people that I worked with.  Also, my managers liked me, and knew that they could count on me to do a good job.  As a result, I was consulted to do a lot of things besides just the daily bagging requirements that were my normal job description.

One of my managers was named Dale.  He was sort of legendary as a guy who really liked to catch shoplifters, and I liked working for him.  On this particular occasion, Dale pulled me aside and asked me to assist him with an unusual project.

The store contained four walk-in coolers in the back of the store: one for meat, one for vegetables, one for frozen foods, and still another for dairy perishables.  It was the diary perishable cooler that he wanted help with.  There was a lot of condensation in this particular cooler, and the drain in the bottom of the floor was essential to leach away the extra water.  Unfortunately, during the several decades that this particular store had been open, many gallons of milk and quite a few eggs had leaked or broken while in the cooler and seeped down the drain.  Eventually, these binding agents had worked together to clog the drain, and now there were about three inches of standing water in the bottom of the cooler which had begun to slightly sour.

Rather than call an expensive plumber to deal with the problem, Dale had decided to try to deal with it locally first.  This is where I came in.  On the way to the back of the store, he handed me what looked like some futuristic weapon.  It was in the shape of a “laser gun,” was about 18 inches long, and was made of hard plastic.  There was a large pistol grip big enough to grab with both hands and a trigger.  The front end was round, about 3.5 inches across, and shaped like a funnel that tapered down to a nozzle point with a hole in it about ½ an inch in diameter.  In the back of the gun, was a little slot in which you would insert a carbon dioxide cartridge (the kind you would put in a pellet gun).

The idea was simple.  You put the nozzle into the offending drain and pulled the trigger expelling the entire CO2 cartridge in one second.  The result would be that most clogs would simply get blown down the line, freeing up the drain to function properly.

Dale quickly explained all of this to me, and he demonstrated by positioning himself over the drain and putting his weight on the gun to make a good seal.  He told me to be sure to put all my weight down on the gun, and he assured me that there was nothing to worry about.  I thought it was odd that as he was saying this, he was backing out of the cooler through the clear plastic “drapes” that hung down in front of the door, but I was not too worried.

I placed myself over the drain, made sure the nozzle was firmly in the hole, and put my full weight (about 220 lbs. at the time) onto the grip of the gun.  Then, I pulled the trigger.  I would say that time slowed down, but everything happened so fast that it would be impossible to think of it as slow, though I still remember it vividly over twenty years later.

My hands immediately shot past my face and hit the top of the cooler above my head.  Then, a scene which could only be described in language that would have been used at Spindletop unfolded.  Old Faithful would have been impressed at the geyser of old eggs, soured milk and sour cream that spewed forth and coated my whole body (chunks included).

There is no way to describe the awfulness of the smell.  Skunks would have run from it.  My manager looked at me (and smelled me) and said only two words, “Go home!”  This only made sense to me.  The problem was, there was only one way out of the store, and that was through the front of the store.  I figured that the best approach would be to go as fast as I could down the widest aisle, and straight out the front of the store.  So, this is what I did.

It was a surreal experience as I walked down the aisle, and came up behind people.  Before I even got to them, they would straighten up quickly, and cock their heads to the left, and slowly turn toward me with a horrified look on their faces.  I just blew on by them, but I assure you, it was an ill wind.

I went straight out the door without even clocking-out, got into my truck (rolling down the windows), and beat a hasty retreat to my home and a very long bath.

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