Trashing the disposal |

Trashing the disposal

Alison Osius
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Alison Osius

I flipped the garbage-disposal switch, but instead of a throaty roar, a strange buzzing tenor emerged. I stopped the disposal, reached down into it and dug around the edges. Out came a twig. Then a small round rock. And another.

I called my sister, then living in Paonia.

“Lucy, when you were here, did Sam” – my nephew, age 8 at the time – “put anything down the garbage disposal?”

There was a short pause and then she asked, in a voice so low and level I knew something was coming, “Why do you ask?”

It turned out that she had come in from hiking to Mushroom Rock and wiped off her shoes in the sink, but thought she’d brushed up and carried away all the dirt.

She apologized, we laughed (nervously), and then I called Russ’ Technical Service. Russ had installed this half-horsepower disposal when something choked our original quarter-horsepower one.

He now told me to dig out all the dirt and debris that I could. And said he’d come over and check on it, but that garbage disposals can’t be taken apart to clean.

Sure enough, he phoned from my kitchen, saying, “Sorry. It’s toast.”

By then my mother, to whom I had originally lamented that Sam must have erred, had offered to pitch in for a replacement, as had Lucy, but we were still all a bit horrified, because a new disposal cost something like $275.

This winter my husband and teenage sons, all dedicated hunters, developed an avidity for hunting ducks. They brought them home and cleaned them, and Mike grilled them for dinner, and one evening something – a shot pellet, I believed – rattled in the disposal, and then its pitch rose an octave.

I called Russ again. “You and your disposals,” he said. “I’ve had the same kind for seven years and never had one problem.” Then he drove here and installed another one, with a sympathy discount on labor.

A month ago I came in from a rare evening out to find Mike saying that he had broken a glass in the sink. It was an old glass and had shattered. He’d picked up what pieces he could, but was unable to fit his hand in the disposal, he claimed. I called Russ before even reaching down the gullet.

“I can’t believe this,” Russ said. He told me to use flashlights and retrieve every crumb of glass that I could; glass was at least soft enough to allow for hope. Headlamp strapped to my forehead (while Mike relaxed in the living room), I fished for 20 minutes, fingers bleeding. Then I again called Russ, who said to try turning it on – and to call him back, because he wanted to know. The disposal stuttered but recovered. Russ then asked to speak to Mike. They’d just been to the same Ducks Unlimited banquet and auction.

“Oh, you got that boat?” I heard Mike say with interest.

A month or so ago something else rattled.

“A piece of shot might have gone down it,” one son said.

It reminded me of the time, eight or so years ago, when both boys ran in a panic up from the basement room where they’d been roughhousing, and where jets of water now sprayed, to announce, “A pipe broke!”

Apparently, Teddy had picked up a piece of shot in the driveway. He’d put it on Roy’s dinner plate, as a joke. It then was forgotten, and went into the sink. This was not either boy’s fault, according to them.

I called Russ, who told me to search with magnets. I retrieved nothing, but somehow the disposal survived that one, too.

“OK. Is Mike there?” Russ asked.

So I really thought I’d used up my luck by the recent Sunday when my phone rang as Mike and I drove home from Glenwood Springs.

“Um, Mom, there’s an issue,” said Roy. “Teddy and I were shooting paper clips at each other and we think one went down the garbage disposal.”

I yelled – yelled – a bad word.

I had forgotten the date. Until he said, “April Fool!”

– “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at

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