My Sink Runneth Over

My husband views our quarter acre of suburbia as a battleground. It's us against the crabgrass, the neighbors and the appliances. Today, he meets the enemy head-on with a can of Drano and a coat hanger.

By Carol Band

Mom! The sink is overflowing!

I race to the kitchen and switch on the disposal: Click.


Maybe it was the remnants of the shrimp cocktail that I made for New Year's Eve, or the peels from the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, or a bamboo skewer that inadvertently ended up in the sink after the Labor Day cookout. Heck, in my house it could even be Legos™ or the TV clicker or my missing sunglasses. Whatever it was, it made the garbage disposal back up, break down and die. My daughter commented that years of ingesting my cooking had finally killed it.

I confess, I'm not a great cook. But in our family, I am the only cook. So after preparing three meals a day, seven days a week, for five people, for 18 years, when the kitchen appliances go on the fritz, I don't blame them. In fact, I feel sympathetic. I also feel like going out to eat. I figure we all deserve a break.

Household Word ArchiveWhen I do cook, i n order to compensate for my mediocre culinary skills, I use a lot of dishes. This morning I made breakfast and now the sink is overflowing with plates and mugs and greasy gray water where knives lurk like gators in the Everglades.

I'd put my head down and cry, but there's no counter space, just dirty dishes. So, I don rubber gloves and troll the murky depths of the sink for silverware then load the coffee mugs and egg-encrusted pans into the dishwasher and hit the "Heavy Duty" cycle. As part of an apparent suicide pact, the dishwasher makes a sympathetic grinding noise, belches more filthy water up into the sink and emits the faint odor of burning rubber.

"Hey, I smell something cooking!" my teenage son says as he bounds into the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"

"Pizza or Chinese," I say as I hand him a stack of take-out menus.

"Sa-we-eeet!" he breathes.

Now, my approach to appliance repair is to ignore the problem and seize the opportunity to go out to eat. I like to believe that whatever's wrong is just a temporary situation that's probably caused by sun spots or by bad karma, and that it will eventually go away. If it doesn't, well, at least I'll have had a decent meal.

My husband lacks my faith in the ability of inanimate objects to heal themselves. He views our quarter acre of suburbia as a battleground. It's us against the crabgrass, the neighbors and the appliances. He is confident that, properly armed, he will emerge victorious. Today, he meets the enemy head-on with a can of Drano® and a coat hanger.

"I told you not to put shrimp into the disposal," he mutters as he bends the hanger into the shape of Florida and shoves it into the sludge in the sink.

"It's called the 'In-Sink-Erator®,'" I retort. "It should be able to handle a few measly shrimp."

It's not that I don't have confidence in my husband's abilities as a handyman, I do. He has replaced broken windows, repaired the front steps and re-grouted bathroom tile. But, as he sinks elbow deep into the fetid water, I see a telltale vein bulge in his temple and I know that we need more than a coat hanger. We need professional help.

I open the Yellow Pages and look for a plumber - preferably one with experience as a marriage counselor. But frankly, I don't think it's anything that a nice dinner out can't fix.

Carol Band composts everything except shrimp tails. Write to her at