Find yourself.  Express yourself.  Be yourself.

What a Flush!

Recently, a short play that I wrote was selected by Play With Your Food, a beloved lunch-time play reading series, to be included in their February line-up. It was my first time having a play of mine read before an audience, and I was simply elated to witness it performed by gifted actors.

After the performance at The Greenwich Arts Council, my friend Jen and I stopped in the bathroom before heading out. I finished my business, flushed the toilet, and heard an odd clank. I turned around just in time to watch my keys get sucked down the toilet.

ME: Oh my God, Jen! I just flushed my keys down the toilet!

Total silence from the stall next to me. Had she heard me?

JEN: (after a dramatic pause) Are you serious?

The ramifications of what just happened started to dawn on me. I had driven us, so my car key was important. Could we get them back somehow? What should we do? I suggested shoving my hand down the toilet to see if I could feel them, at which time Jen told me to stay put and she would seek out a plunger.

She later described the scene when she walked into the nearby office.

JEN: Hi. I’m about to tell you something you’ve probably never heard before.

OFFICE WORKERS: Ok, go ahead

JEN: My friend just flushed her keys down the toilet.

OFFICE WORKERS (Lots of OH NOs and AWs): You’re right, we have never heard that before.

What ensued was a heroic effort by some of the employees of the Town of Greenwich to see if we could possibly, in any way, retrieve those keys!

There was discussion about what to do (plunger? wire hanger? how about my brilliant reach-a-hand-in-there idea?). They immediately sought to help.

The wonderful woman at the front desk called her husband, who happened to be a plumber.

HUSBAND: Don’t plunge!

That news came just in time because we had located a plunger in a utility closet and I was ready to grab it and give it a go! I confess I did don a pair of surgical gloves and reach in, which was as fruitless as everyone around me seemed to know that it would be.

Out-of-Order signs were made for my stall so that nobody else flushed. This proved a far better solution than us continuing to follow people into the bathroom, which was beginning to feel a bit like harassment.

Calls were made, and the word spread. Eventually the plumbers for the Town of Greenwich were summoned. This was now official town business.

As we sat on a bench awaiting their arrival we witnessed my blunder become a community event. When one person had to leave because her shift was over, she made her co-workers promise to text her what happened. The intrigue was palpable!

Commonly asked questions:

How did it happen? My keys were in my coat pocket, when I leaned forward to flush their weight must have shifted forward and they made their escape.

Which of your keys were on there? All of them.

Do you have a spare car key? Yes! But it is miles away with no one home to deliver it. We are pinning our hopes on that team of plumbers.

When they arrived, the head plumber was affable and assured me he’d been called many times to retrieve items that had been accidentally flushed.

ME: Have you ever been called for a set of keys?

Nope, this was a first. Congratulations to me!

JEN: What are the chances we actually get them back?

Turns out in all his years of answering those calls he’d never retrieved anything, with the exception of one diamond earring that he wasn’t even looking for. So, chances weren’t good.

But they tried! They snaked, they checked the “key hole,” they tried to flush them through, they went to the basement to check “the trap.” There was even talk of popping a manhole cover (this didn’t happen). They did more than I ever would’ve expected and, frankly, more than was deserved. I can only imagine what they saw in their pursuits, but none of it was a set of keys.

Resigned to never seeing them again, we had to figure out what to do about my car. We’d planned to drive to the train station, park, and head to the city to stay over and see a friend’s cabaret show. There were two dilemmas 1) we needed our bags from the backseat, and 2) we needed to address the two-hour time limit of the metered spot where my car was currently parked.

Enter the lovely soul Lori, who had been spearheading much of the afternoon’s efforts. Without us asking, she brought me into her office to get my car information and then called the police and the parking authority to explain this “unusual” situation and ask that I not be ticketed because, clearly, I had no ability to move the car.

I thanked her profusely and told her my next step was to call Triple A to get us into the car so we could get our bags.

LORI: Let me see if the fire department can help. They’re right across the street

Cut to Jen and I walking down Greenwich Avenue with three strapping firemen carrying various tools that might effectively gain us entry to the car. Working as a team they shimmied a long tool through the window, unlatched the lock and opened the door – success!!

And then the car alarm went off.

FIREMAN ONE: (dryly and profoundly) That’s gonna be a problem.

When your car alarm goes off the simple remedy is to push that button on your key or start the engine. Seeing that I was keyless, neither was an option.

Thinking quickly, they popped the hood and worked to disconnect the battery. It took a minute. The alarm kept blaring. Jen and I didn’t dare make eye contact with any passersby. We wouldn’t even look at each other. All our energy was focused on that car battery, willing it to save us. And it did!

Alarm silenced, we grabbed our bags, got a quick tutorial on reconnecting the battery when I returned with my spare key, thanked the firemen again for their trouble, and went on our way.

And oh how we laughed. Having Jen by my side on this misadventure was a gift. She was an incredibly good sport and a huge asset of resourcefulness. Also, what a story we now get to tell.

Earlier, when I was in Lori’s office:

ME: I cannot thank you enough. You all have gone FAR above and beyond to help us with this ridiculous situation.

LORI: You’ve been so good-natured about the whole thing, how could we not help?

We’d been good-natured? They had disrupted their day, extended themselves beyond any job description, queried, strategized, and commiserated with us. It was their nature that was exemplary!

Our attachment to our keys is real. Their sudden loss in the vacuum of a commercial grade flush was shocking, and felt temporarily catastrophic. But keys are replaceable. Within a day or two I’d made copies and retrieved spares for all of them. What is far more valuable is what I got in return from this scenario: the kindness, the display of community, the shared laughter, and the empathy. I’m the better for it happening, without a doubt.

The thrill of having my play performed for a receptive audience coupled with my humbling toilet mishap made for a very balanced, and memorable, day indeed. In re-telling this story some have remarked that this could be my next play!

They’re not wrong … I do like a happy ending.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS