Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking the Plunge

One of the things people always reference when discussing their love of New York is its “convenience.” Because owning a car in Manhattan is only slightly less unusual than owning a python or an illegal immigrant, people walk everywhere, necessitating the existence not only of distinct neighborhoods, but even smaller subsets of microneighborhoods.

At the very least, these self-sustaining little pockets of activity usually include a bodega, a pizza place, a nail salon*, and a dry cleaner. There can literally be four dry cleaners on the same Upper East Side street, and no matter which one you go to there will be racks filled with clothing. It’s such a comical overflow that I often think they are props – clothing swiped from estate auctions or Salvation Army bins, wrapped in plastic and hung up to create the appearance of booming business. But no – there are literally that many people living in a hundred yard radius.

In Miami, that’s not the case. The city is so sprawling that everyone drives everywhere, and the suggestion of walking even short distances (say, half a mile) are met with such confused derision that you would think someone suggested punching a pregnant woman.

This, of course, is why ginormous chain stores were created. And though chain stores are meant to be bastions of the far flung masses, here I find myself, in my new apartment, living across the street from a Target.

Fucking. Score.

It’s impossible to quantify the convenience of living across the street from a Target, but if I had to try I would say it’s somewhere between “makes me a better man” and “life saving.” Need a picture frame? A corkscrew? Packing tape? Chicken? These are all things I have bought at Target in the past two weeks. It is, for lack of a better word, mynewbestfriend, one who is always there for me in my time of need.

Like yesterday morning.

It was a normal morning, if on most ordinary mornings you wake up and clog the toilet. But it’s not even that I clogged the toilet, it’s that the toilet got clogged. I’m not going to go into it, but I will say that there are distinct philosophical differences and one involves something that rhymes with shoop and one involves our world’s increasingly troublesome environmental crisis and the toilet industry’s misguided attempts at helping with low flow technology, combined with my love of flushing things (it’s like a magic garbage).

Anyway, no plunger. This shouldn’t seem odd because we just moved in and everyone knows that you never, ever move a plunger with you from home to home. It is one of those things like light bulbs that you leave behind to whomever should live there next as a housewarming gift. Something to say, “Good luck living here!” Unfortunately, we were the first people to live in this particular apartment, breaking the altruistic cycle.

At that point, I knew two things: 1. That I had to go to Target to buy one, and 2. That I definitely did not want to go to Target to buy a one. The idea of an unshowered guy walking into Target at 9:30 in the morning to buy nothing but a plunger was beyond sad. I may as well have worn a large posterboard sign reading WHOOPS! I’M HAVING A BAD DAY.

Still, it had to be done. I put on the most inconspicuous outfit I could think of (khakis, a white tee shirt, hat, flip flops, and sunglasses), and then I walked over.

Immediately upon entering, I realize I have no idea where to find a plunger. I try hardware first, and it’s not there. Then I head over to the cleaning supplies. Nothing. The store is huge, and plungers seem to defy categorization, being half-tool, half-cleaning supply, all gross, and nowhere to be found. I cave and ask a salesperson.

Me: “Do you know where I could find a plunger?”
Her: “A what?”
Me: “A plunger? You know, for toilets?”

This last sentence is accompanied by a reflexive, though highly regrettable hand motion that was intended to illustrate how plungers work.

Her: “I think they’re in Bath. Follow me.”

While I couldn’t say “No thank you,” the last thing I wanted to do was be led by this woman to the bath section where she would present to me (perhaps with a flourish of her hand) a large display of toilet plungers. Luckily, once we arrived all we found were three plungers, all the same, tucked behind some ornate trash bins.

Now, when I think of a plunger, I think of a crude apparatus. Wood handle, eraser-colored rubber head. That’s it. This plunger was . . . well, so much more.

It’s made by a company called Room Essentials (so true) and features a translucent faux-glass handle adorned with a decorative, orb-shaped tip. The head is made of glossy black rubber. It does, dare I say it, live up to its name: Deluxe Plunger.

Whether this made me feel better or worse about buying it is debatable, but fact is I still had to get out of the store. I got on the express line and stood there as casually as I could, holding the plunger more like a dapper cane, hoping people may think that I’m not buying this plunger because I need it, but because I just like the way it looks.

The woman in front of me is buying a compact of blush and the guy behind me has a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs, all things that a normal person may purchase on any given morning. There I stood between them, trying hopelessly to seem at ease with a deluxe plunger in my hand. The woman buying the blush looks back at me and smirks. I don’t blame her. The guy behind me won’t put his bread and eggs on the conveyor belt with my plunger. Don’t blame him, either.

After taking my money, the cash register lady tries to bag the plunger, but due to its odd shape can only wrap the head in a plastic bag and tie it in a knot, thus drawing more attention to it. It’s at this point that I totally give up being embarrassed about buying a plunger at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. “Hey world!” I might say. “My toilet isn’t working properly!” And everyone in the store would stop what they were doing and say, “Been there!” (including the attractive woman buying the blush) and we would, in that moment, all feel like a neighborhood, everyone united by the occasional failings of modern plumbing.

Indeed, upon entering my building at home I waved the plunger at the concierge in the form of a big hello. He didn’t look at me funny. In fact, I don’t think he looked at me at all.

* How a manicure became as ubiquitous a necessity as food and clean clothing I’ll never know, but ask Brooke what she misses most about New York and she’ll tilt her head to the side, lost in a pleasant memory, and sigh, “Koreans.”


Blogger j said...

All Brooke needs is to locate this shop. Call that number!

You're lucky. I tried to find a plunger at a CVS in Coral Gables only to find that someone had boosted the business end of all the plungers in stock. The CVS employee had only "Oh, snap" as an explanation.

February 18, 2009 at 2:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Vanilla said...

Holy Crap (rim shot) we have that same exact plunger. Now I know where my wife bought it.

I remember it because when I saw it's beaded plastic head poking up from behind the toilet I excitedly thought it was something else. It wasn't. It won't ever be.

February 18, 2009 at 2:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dan said...

You're absolutely right about the beaded handle. I wasn't going to go there, but thank you for going there.

February 18, 2009 at 3:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger [mother] said...

I am so surprised you didn't go there. I did, briefly.

February 18, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Maxine Dangerous said...

I'm still there, actually. :)

February 18, 2009 at 4:02:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god, I love your mom.

(Also, my word verification was 'bumstin'.)

February 18, 2009 at 4:03:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Mo said...

I went there and now I'm considering buying that plunger.

February 18, 2009 at 5:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Not The Rockefellers said...

Dan, you never fail to make me smile. You can take the most normal,nothing, boring crap and suddenly make it worthwhile reading.

It's you boy. And you should know it.

You're like Mary Tyler Moore, except you're a boy.

Peace - Rene

February 18, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Meg said...

I, too, went *there*.

February 18, 2009 at 7:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger sid said...

LOL! I loved the footnote at the bottom. Man if I were you I would have bought extra stuff so it didn't look as if I was JUST buying a plunger.

February 19, 2009 at 1:08:00 AM EST  
Anonymous kw said...

I also have that plunger. Word of warning: it is a complete piece of crap. Use it once, it's fine, wait a year until you need it again, it doesn't plunge at all. And there is nothing quite as terrifying as watching an overflowing toilet with non-functional plunger in hand.

February 19, 2009 at 9:09:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was about to "go there" on the plunger handle because I've seen said plunger and never bought it for fear it would give my boyfriend some ideas. But then I figured I'd better read the other comments because SURELY someone else noticed and what do ya know - you're all as sick in the head as I am. Even mom, God bless her.

February 19, 2009 at 9:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger A Lil' Irish Lass said...

Yup. We all went there, apparently.

Bunch of sick fucks reading you, Dan.

February 19, 2009 at 12:10:00 PM EST  
Anonymous kate2.0 said...

Water view AND next door to Target? Where are you, heaven?

I have the toilet brush that accompanies that plunger. (Yup, my husband said the same thing about the handle.) And it is a piece of junk - the brush tends to come loose. Having to touch the brush (gloves on, of course) to reattach it pretty much defeats the whole purpose of having a toilet brush in the first place.

February 19, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dana said...

We all have filthy minds. Anyway, next time you're in need you might want to have one of these on hand.

February 19, 2009 at 3:11:00 PM EST  
Blogger Christine Staley said...

Dude! I bought the exact same plunger from Tarzhay a few weeks ago; shitty (pardon the pun) plumbing in our apartment building!

and for the record, it took me FOREVER to find where the heck they hide them in the store!

February 22, 2009 at 1:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger Alexander said...

This last sentence is accompanied by a reflexive, though highly regrettable hand motion that was intended to illustrate how plungers work.

Dan, you owe me a new laptop. I snort milk all over the keyboard after reading that sentence.

February 22, 2009 at 1:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Alexander said...


February 22, 2009 at 1:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Raven said...

What ever happened to the original mario brothers style plunger? They work well and likely cost half the price. Whats more no one would dare think such thoughts of a splintered wooden handle.

February 23, 2009 at 11:12:00 AM EST  
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May 1, 2009 at 11:25:00 PM EDT  

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