Life without a bathroom

This is part one of a two part opinion piece. Part two appears in the July 26 editon of the Ely Echo, on newsstands Saturday.

Living in the North Country you adapt to the climate and circumstances. For the past couple of weeks, employees at the Ely Echo have had to adapt to a workplace without a bathroom.
Just before the end of June we noticed the flushing portion of the toilet’s performance was below par. Well, it was below removing the water from the bowl.
Our first plan of attack was the tried and true number one tool of a plugged toilet: the plunger. Except our plunger was on the scale of a hobbit. Trip number one to the hardware store.
After numerous plunging sessions (which don’t appear to resemble yoga sessions), it was time to remove the toilet and see if the problem was further down the line.
But even after several more trips to the hardware store for various equipment, it became apparent we needed a plumber to save the day.
Our plumber arrived at 6 p.m. on a Friday night. It’s our belief this only happens in small towns where you know the plumber by his high school nickname.
A bulky and heavy unit known as an auger was unloaded from the van and transported into our bathroom. If you’ve never had the fortune of using the bathroom at the Echo, you’re lucky. It was apparently built by welders who did not want to give up any space to a place where you only did one thing. Or two things. Or number one and number two. Anyway, it’s a small bathroom built out of steel.
So, the auger was sent down the hole in the floor with high hopes. But instead of going toward the city sewer, the auger wanted to climb up the clean-out pipe. Since this also led to the roof vent, we decided this was not going to work.
His advice was to get a jetter, a high pressure hose that squirts a stream of water to clean out sewer lines and allow toilets to return to their normal line of duty.
But when we checked the hole in the morning, the water was gone. Problem solved! The toilet was reinstalled and we could go about our business again. Job one and job two were back in production.
This lasted a little over a week. Then the plunger was called back into action. Repeatedly. At this point Echo employees had to make other arrangements when Nature called. Luckily they were able to answer Nature’s call without having to track down an unused outhouse.
As frustrations grew we called another plumber for another opinion. The second opinion was the same as the first. Get a jetter.
So we called a company that has a jetter and they came over to take a look. Their jetter was not built for such a location and they were concerned there would be a flood and the feds wouldn’t come bail us out.
They brought in their auger and gave it the old college try. Three hours later college was declared tried and died.
Another jetter call was placed. We also called in for reinforcements. A bright blue porta-potty was delivered pronto, providing an option for employees trying to cut down on their gas bills by driving home for bathroom privileges.
On Thursday our jetter guy strung hoses from one end of the Echo to the other. He had pumps, he had buckets and he had rubber gloves. Good thing.
Seven hours later he was reeling up his hoses and placing a call for a new plan of attack: dig a hole in the ground and come in from the outside.
As this edition of the Echo was going to press, plans were being launched for an underground attack. We’re not sure if this will solve the problem - a few of us have become toilet half empty thinkers through this ordeal.
But we’re hoping. Holding and hoping.