Iranian culture values politeness. So we went to the Colonel’s home, Giovanni and I were on our best behavior. We entered with warm embraces and kisses and Giovanni quickly proceeded to play backgammon with the Colonel. I hadn’t seen the Colonel and my aunt in over 9 years. After chatting and catching up, we ate the usual fruits and nuts and drank black tea together. Only a few hours had passed when I stood up to use the bathroom. My aunt informed me that both of their toilets were “farangy” meaning foreign or Western style. So I sit down to urinate and thinking I was in the US, I wiped with toilet paper and disposed of it in the toilet. I knew I made a mistake when I saw that no matter how many times I flushed the toilet, the water level continued to rise. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the water level did not change. So I then quietly called Giovanni into the bathroom who noted we needed a plunger. There was no plunger in sight. There was a toilet scrubber, and lots of cleaning supplies in the cabinet, but no plunger.
By this time, the Colonel entered the bathroom to see what was going on and the looks on our faces communicated the problem. Since we were his guests, he told us not to worry. The next thing I know, the Colonel has plastic gloves on (the dishwashing kind) and he proceeds to pull the wet toilet paper out of the toilet with a metal stick which looked like a hanger. And I swore that I hadn’t put that much paper into the toilet because he continued to pull out clumps of toilet paper multiple times and tossed them at the edge of the Iranian toilet. But the toilet still didn’t flush. And so he proceeded to empty the toilet tank into the Iranian toilet on the ground. That doesn’t solve the problem and I’m horrifyingly embarrassed at this point, so I kindly ask the Colonel to leave so that I can deal with emptying it. And then he proceeded to place the two metal hoses normally used to wash your behind and pushes them deeply into the toilet and turns on the water at the highest pressure in order to try and unclog the damn thing. But of course that doesn’t work either and the water level rises once again. So we ask if we can find a plunger at this point, and my aunt proceeds to call her son who lives upstairs and a couple other neighbors, but no one has a plunger. I guess toilet clogging is not a common problem here!
Meanwhile, the doorbell rings and the Colonel’s nephew arrives and delivers blessed food for the family. And the Colonel quickly asks for a ride to the hardware store in search of a plunger. So we agree to leave the bathroom until he returns. The hardware store is closed so the Colonel returns with the equivalent of Iranian Drain-O. He pours it into the toilet and the clear water turns yellow. We then proceed to wait.
After 30 minutes, Giovanni and I enter the bathroom and we flush the toilet thinking that enough time had passed. Unfortunately, the toilet filled once again with water. We go back into the living room and my aunt asks if we flushed the toilet. She informs us that the solution should have stayed in the toilet until morning…very different from the 15-minute Drain-O process in the US!
The next step involves the garden hose. The Colonel runs down the two sets of stairs and returns with the green garden hose. He asks me to go downstairs and turn it on. On my way down, I laugh at myself for causing this situation. After two attempts of high pressure water from the garden hose, the toilet finally clears! Hallelujah
Looking back on the incident, I feel that the three of us in the bathroom with my aunt occasionally peeking in from the kitchen was actually a true bonding experience.