Back to Vienna: Site of Previous Toilet Explosions

I'm heading back to Vienna tomorrow (Saturday). I land at 17:30 or thereabouts.

Alas it's too late to go to BarCamp Vienna (on Saturday), which upsets me greatly. I think that's the 4th BarCamp I've missed due to not being in Vienna. Hopefully I'll be here for the next one. I tried to change my flight but the cost would have been over € 300.

In addition there's an open day on Sunday at the Tudor Barn in England where I'm getting married. It would have been lovely to go to that but that also would have required a change of flight (in the other direction).

And hopefully when I get to Vienna, my toilet will be OK.....

The night before I left Vienna (mid December), which was a Saturday, I went to the pub with some friends. Needless to say my plan was to pack on the day of departure, Sunday. I got back late, but with 6 hours sleep I would have had (just) sufficient time to get up at 9am, pack, and make my train.

I got back and to my horror — the whole of my toilet floor was covered in water (thankfully water into the toilet not out of it!). I had to leave the next day, a Sunday, it was now 03:00 on that Sunday morning, and my parents had paid for the hotel room in the Austrian village where they we were staying, for Sunday night.

What I did first—obviously!—was panic! What I did second was to ring the Austrian girlfriend of the friend I'd been out with that night. I knew she'd be awake as we shared a taxi together and I got out first. She advised me of an Austrian 24-hour plumber I could call. That was a real life-saver!

Then I made a bit of a negotiation mistake. The plumber advised me on the phone he only accepted cash. I pointed out that I would only be able to get out € 400 (the limit on my card). While he was on his way, I went to the cash machine and got out that full amount. Once he'd done the work he told me the bill came to € 398, quite a coincidence...?

Now the thing about my toilet is that it used to be the floor's toilet. So the main tap which turns off the water to my flat doesn't actually turn off the water to the toilet; the toilet is before that tap. But not to fear, there's another tap just for the toilet. I started to turn that tap and the toilet did stop dripping, but now the tap started dripping! I turned the tap back on, hoping to revert to the situation that the toilet was dripping, but now they were both dripping! Nightmare.

When he came, he said he'd have to turn the water off in the basement. Now when I moved in to my flat 9 years ago, there were a bunch of keys hanging up on the inside of one of the cupboards. To this day I don't know what they're all for. So I grabbed them all and I set off for the basement with the plumber who'd just arrived; at 04:00 Sunday morning, in winter in continental Europe, chilly with snow on the ground outside, 5 hours before the time to get up (and not fully sober, I must confess, although seeing all that water helped.)

Basically under the building where I live—which is neither modern nor well-maintained I must assert—there is a labyrinth system of brick tunnels. It's really amazing. And so many wires and pipes, in all different directions. And all so dusty and nasty! And one of them, probably, was the tap to turn off the water to the tap next to my toilet.

We didn't find the tap. He even asked me if I had any documentation on the tap structure of the building! So he did what I can only describe as a "hack" on the tap next to my toilet to make it stop dripping and also stop supplying water to the toilet. He fixed the toilet with what might also be described as a "hack". I finally got to bed at 6am.

A few hours later, I awoke, I packed, and I got my train. Needless to say I forgot any of my skiing clothes (I was going to a ski resort, although not to ski), I brought normal clothes including some summer clothes, enough for about 4 days. I wondered why my case was so light yet I was going away for so long? But it didn't occur to me what the reason could be or what I could do about it!

I have been living with the consequences of that bad packing experience—the complete lack of clothes—for the last 6 weeks.

Anyway – this is all to say, I hope his hack worked? I'll see when I get back to Vienna tomorrow.

This article is © Adrian Smith.
It was originally published on 25 Jan 2008

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