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Thanksgiving: the most plumber-ful time of the year

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Plumber Bob of Kevin Shaw Plumbing has a pressing question for historians: Where is Squanto when we need him? The legendary native American taught Pilgrims the meaning of Thanksgiving in 1621 - but history records little of his advice on table-scrap disposal.

Thanks to that omission, the nation's day of gratitude has a growing, and humorous, dark side. Thanksgiving has become far and away the busiest time of the year for plumbers trying to take out what nature - or good sense - never intended to be put in. So as turkeys cool, plumbers grab plungers and overtime punch cards. And, sometimes, the scepters of peace.

Take Victor Gutierrez.

One November Thursday, the Redondo Beach, Calif., plumber arrived at a home where the man had bet his wife $100 that the culprit of their clogged sink was not potato peels. When the drain-clearing snake revealed that it was, indeed, potato peels, the man paid Mr. Gutierrez $100 not to tell his wife.

And from those other trenches - the bathrooms down the hall - plumbers report holiday finds of everything from "hot wheel" toy cars to toothbrushes, wigs, and false teeth dropped, and flushed, in the wrong spot.

"It's the busiest time of year for us as well as the funniest and most lucrative," says Donald McDonald, CEO for Rooter-man franchise systems with 600 outlets nationwide.

Statistics back him up. Last year, the number of plumbing calls jumped 46.4 percent the Friday after Thanksgiving, compared to a typical Friday, according to Paul Abrams, national spokesman for Roto-Rooter. That translates into 865 additional jobs for Roto-Rooter alone, worth about $235,260. Other companies report similar spikes, starting around 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving day.

And the cooking free-for-all makes plumbers Renaissance men of sorts: there are pipes and drains, sure; but also gas lines, water heaters, and the occasional flaming bird.

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