It hasn't been easy sleeping at my house lately.
The problem is the creepy noise burbling out of the shower stall in the tiny bathroom attached to our bedroom.
"Glub! Glub! Glub!" it gurgles as I burrow my head under the pillows for safety. "Glub! Glub! Glub!"
As a modern husband and veteran homeowner, I know how to handle this sort of insidious plumbing emergency.
I poke my head in the shower, frown at the clogged drain for several seconds, then turn to my wife and snort: "Honey, you're going to have to do something about this!"
And then my wife will swing into action, wielding an assortment of tools she has accumulated over 30 years of marriage.
In our house, there is a natural division of labour, a system under which I am responsible for important things, such as operating the TV remote control and hanging up on the telemarketers who call nine times a night; whereas my wife handles minor duties, such as plumbing, lawn maintenance and automotive repairs.
So there I was the other night, parked in the den watching Monday Night Football, when my wife burst in and joyously declared: "I'm going to test my new snake!"
I looked at her blankly. "I beg your pardon?" I said.
"My new snake," she sniffed, then, noticing my vacant stare, quickly added: "It's a plumbing thing, a long steel coil you crank down your pipes to remove clogs."
"That's great, sweetheart," I replied, dipping my hand into a bag of taco chips. "Godspeed!"
For the next 30 minutes, stretched out on the couch, I heard horrific noises reverberating from the shower stall as my wife, wielding her new plumbing auger, assaulted whatever was hiding deep inside the drain.
Then, suddenly, there she was, grinning from ear to ear and uttering the words no sane husband ever wants to hear.
"Honey," my wife chirped, "you have to come and look at this hairball!"
(Note to young husbands: If your spouse demands you accompany her for the sole purpose of examining a hairball, run away, because nothing good can come of it.)
For once, I was speechless. "I'm sorry?" I grunted.
"I want you to come and look at the giant hairball I pulled out of the drain," she told me. "You have to see it."
Minutes later, against my better judgment, I found myself in the tiny bathroom looking on in wonder as my wife, like a proud angler displaying a trophy fish, held aloft her plumber's snake, from the business end of which dangled what appeared to be a giant sewer rat dipped in oil but was, in fact -- and I am going to utilize the caps lock feature of my keyboard here to emphasize the drama of the moment -- THE WORLD'S LARGEST AND MOST DISGUSTING HAIRBALL.
"Wow!" is what I said, because I sensed that was what my wife expected me to say.
As the hairball dripped brackish black gunk onto the floor of the shower, my wife glared at me and grunted: "This is your daughter!"
Despite years of experience as a parent, I was confused. "That's my daughter?" I repeated, staring at the unsightly hairball, which, to my eyes, did not look even remotely familiar.
"Yes," my wife grumbled. "This is what happens when she washes her hair in our shower."
My instincts told me this was the moment my wife expected me to engage in hands-on parenting, so I scrunched my face into what I hoped was a look of sincere concern, and said: "Fine, I'll tell her to stop taking showers from now on."
As it turns out, that was the wrong thing to say. "No," my wife explained, scowling, "just tell her to stop combing her hair in the shower."
As I pondered this advice, my wife used her iPhone to take a photo of the offending clog and texted it to my absent daughter, along with the following stern message: "Here's a picture of YOUR hair clog!"
Which prompted my daughter to instantly text back: "Ha ha ha! Gross!"
To which my wife promptly replied: "Ha ha ha! Cut your hair!"
It became obvious there was not much more I could do to help resolve the situation, and so, as my wife dispatched the hairball, I slunk slowly out of the bathroom and returned to the den to watch the end of the football game.
But I did not shirk my household duties. In one hand, I gripped the remote control. In the other, I clenched the phone in the den, because you never know when a telemarketer will call. And speaking of hairballs...