I consider myself quite a pro at fixing garbage disposals, you get to be a pro at this kind of thing when you are also quite adept at breaking the darn thing. The first time I choked up a garbage disposal was when I tried to shove a big plate full of artichoke leaves down one. Garbage disposals do NOT like artichoke leaves. Luckily I was smart enough to watch the plumber and so figured out the trick to most garbage disposals. When you've put too much stuff down a garbage disposal (like lettuce leaves, banana peels, and potato peels) it jams. The little blades get stuck and then your sink backs up and you can't use your dishwasher till it gets fixed. Well, all you need is a hex key or Allen wrench set. Underneath the disposal, usually right in the center, is a little hole. In that hole is a screw that needs a hex key to turn it (you'll just have to try a bunch to get the right size key). Put the hex key in and turn the screw back and forth, this turns the blades inside the unit and loosens up any blockage. Then look for a button on the bottom of your disposal and push it two or three times (I have no clue why) and then try to run your disposal again.
Alright, enough with the tutorial and on to the drama. It was the night before Thanksgiving and I had just finished feeding our guests. With DSSH's brother and his family visiting we had a total of 4 adults and 10 kids. That equals a lot of dishes ALL the time. We were waiting for the dishwasher to finish a load so we could run a second one and were prepping things for tomorrows special feast. After peeling a mountain of sweet potatoes my SIL asked if she should put the peelings in the garbage because there might be too many for the disposal to handle. I, in my sinful pride, said, "Oh I have an awesome disposal. It can handle anything." And that was when it all began. I was wrong and my disposal is not that awesome. It clogged. The dishes in the washer were still covered in food and soap and there was still another mountain of dishes waiting on the counter. The clogged sink quickly filled up with greasy orange water and vegetable peelings. My stomach hurt, I'm pregnant, and was much too tired to have to deal with this. Everyone kind of shrugged their shoulders and went downstairs to watch TV and get ready for bed. DSSH tried to plunge it and then said we would just have to deal with it till our landlord could get to it. I searched high and low in a frenzy for my hex keys, to no avail, and then sent DSSH out to go buy me some new ones (in both SAE and Metric). He had to drive to 3 different places but only an hour and a half later I was working my disposal magic. Only, it wasn't so magic. I almost cried. I almost threw greasy vegetable sludge across the kitchen. Just the idea of hand washing dishes for 14 people through the usual ordeal of Thanksgiving had me in minor hysterics. I took a deep breath and started to dismantle the pipes. I was sprayed all over with the nasty water sitting in the pipes, every thing under the sink was sprayed too. I was already short on towels but now they were all being used to mop up the putrid liquids that covered my floor and my arms. I did it! I found the clog and, with the help of a boning knife and lots of water, I got it out.
Now come the hysterics. I fixed the durn thing but then one of the pipe joints wouldn't go back together. Turns out that my landlord had jimmy rigged this one joint with a special plumbing compound to seal it together. Well, I broke that seal to get the pipe off and I didn't have any of this special stuff to seal it back together. Now we had the opposite problem, instead of a clog we had a free flowing waterfall under our sink. No bowl is big enough for the kind of water that was gushing down below. This meant no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, no hand washing, not even rinsing a rag. DSSH started to worry about me at that point as I grabbed the side of the sink and my face turned all shades of red and purple. I was trying to breath and trying not to cuss. I sat on the floor and just stared at the mess I'd made. It was nearing midnight and when I'm pregnant I usually can't stay awake after 9pm. But in this instance my stress, and lack of sleep, induced delirium actually helped. I sat there mumbling, "Stupid landlord had to use some kind of stupid plumbers putty to rig the stupid pipes, but I don't have any stupid putty for the stupid pipes my stupid landlord....." Then, like the Grinch, a smile started to unfurl on my tightly compressed lips. I didn't have plumbers putty but I did have poster putty. I ran downstairs to rifle through all my school supplies and let out a loud, "HA!" when I found my, as yet unused, poster putty. I grabbed off a chunk and started to roll it into a long thin snake (I was an expert playdough snake maker as a kid). I wrapped this putty snake around the pipe joint and started to screw it back together. IT WORKED!!! I expected confetti to fall from the sky and to receive a big cash prize for having saved the holiday. I at least expected everyone to wake up and thank me for saving them all from having to help hand wash millions of dishes over the weekend. But all I got was a very tired DSSH saying, "You are awesome. Now, lets go to bed." It's okay, though, because the confetti was falling in my head and I was smiling, knowing that my Father-in-Law (one of the world's proudest jimmy-riggers) was smiling down on me from heaven that night. I restarted the dishwasher and promptly went to bed. Oh, yeah, I totally rock!
Here comes the mushy part. Before I jumped in bed I knelt to give a prayer of thanks and as I prayed I was truly humbled. I realized how very lucky I was to only be worrying about a silly clogged sink. There I was in a big warm home, surrounded by loved ones, with my fridge full to busting with good food, and I realized that there were a lot of people out there who would have loved to trade me problems that night. I am so grateful that at this time of year the only thing that I have to worry about is a little ol' sink.