A sure cure

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I have a friend who, in a great depression, could not get off the couch. She could not read, take a shower, eat, even watch TV.

And then the cleaning lady poured out the potpourri that had been stewing lightly in a crock pot for a week. Two problems: 1) one of the ingredients in the potpourri was a small orange, called a “clementine”; and 2) she poured the little orange into the toilet with the potpourri – and flushed.

The little orange stuck in that “S” track of the plumbing that you can see from the side of the toilet.

Whatever my friend tried did not dislodge it. She contacted several neighbors, pals and acquaintances for either equipment or help. No one could fix it. The most adept fellow said he’d have to take the toilet off the floor and go in from the bottom. But he couldn’t do it right then because he needed to find somebody heftier than him to pick up a toilet. He never called back.

She was getting depresseder.

She looked up Angie’s List for plumbers in her area. She typed out her story and before she pushed Send, three calls came through. Each plumber, apparently sitting on Angie’s site, couldn’t wait to get there. $179 in the door, $300 out. Maybe more.

The despond worsened. All she wanted to do was pull the covers over her head and sleep. For one thing, she wasn’t sure she could ask another neighbor for use of a bathroom.

But being propositioned by three plumbers to the tune of $300 raised the ire from somewhere deep inside her.

First sign of a lifting sadness.

My friend went to homeowner’s paradise, AKA Home Depot, and spent half an hour in the plumbing aisle, reading labels, looking at plungers and other esoteria of the toilet world. Finally, she snagged a clerk, who suggested an auger and Liquid Plumber. My friend spent about $20, went home, read the directions on the liquid poison and learned never to use it in a toilet. What it was doing in the toilet aisle was a question that would have to wait.

Things weren’t looking good, including life itself. There were no instructions at all on the augur, which she thought odd. It took her seven minutes to get it out of its plastic. Why is something you’re going to put in a toilet protected from germs? She was getting pissier.

She started auguring, winding the spiral of the augur through the potpourri to the hilt. She unwound it, brought it up, out of the depths.


Nothing happened for the first three tries. But…on the fourth try she came up with orange pulp!

Her depression flew out the window. She was suddenly euphoric, making her wonder if she’d developed the manic side of depression, something she’d never experienced before. She plunged on. By the eighth auger, the auger came up clean, she flushed, the water flowed in and flowed out. She flushed 10 times, at first to make sure the orange had moved on, then because it was fun to see the toilet empty and fill, just like a toilet should.

This is kind of a long and mundane story to come to this point: work can get you out of a depression. Especially if it’s the kind of work that has a Hurrah! ending.

My friend is back from her long day’s night. She’s normal, going to work, doing her crosswords, inviting her friends for dinner. She jokes about having a sign made for the side of her car:

[Not for hire]”

She said she had learned this lesson before, that work is a savior, a denier of sadness. But once in the throes of depression, one forgets, she added.

One forgets especially that leisure time will not help you through a low period. Work will.

If, having fallen into the slough of despond, you don’t happen to have a toilet to fix, or something you’ve been putting off for a long time like alphabetizing your spice cupboard, try writing it all down and selling it to your local newspaper.

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