I was reminded the other day about an adventure I had one morning, a few years ago. It was the fall and I had decided that I should get my septic tank inspected before the winter. A bit of a “better safe than sorry” type of preventative measure I thought might be a good idea before the snow falls. When I called to make the appointment, I had specifically asked if I needed to be home. Since my septic tank is easily accessible in the back yard, they told me that they’d just come by and would leave a note with the results of the inspection at my door if I wasn’t home. Perfect! A week later, late one afternoon while I was busily working in my office, the doorbell rang. I answered the door to an extremely good looking guy who seemed somewhat agitated. “Madame!”, he says, “You must come and see right away. You have a big problem. There’s a problem. You must come now, it’s an emergency!!”. I had absolutely no idea who he was or what it was about. Then I looked over and out into the driveway where I saw the septic tank truck. My first thought was that someone had hurt themselves. So out I went and followed him to the back yard where he directs my attention to the septic tank. Not knowing a thing about these devices really, I looked at it and then looked at him. The problem, he then explained to me, was that it was completely full to the top and that one or two more flushes of my toilet and it was all going to back up into my house!! This was simply not normal, he went on to explain. There was something very wrong with my system which needed to be repaired immediately. Of course, I took him seriously and asked him kindly to fix it. Well, he was not equipped to do that. I needed to call in an expert. He was extremely helpful and called one for me. And he impressed on this expert, over the phone, the urgency of the situation. Alas, it was the height of their season and the expert could not come before the next morning. Fortunately, this very helpful and gorgeous man was able to empty out the tank so that I could use my toilet, and flush, before the expert arrived to resolve the issue of the tank not emptying itself normally. So I was safe for the next 24 hours. Nothing would back up into my home, for now. Talk about luck and amazing timing!! But what went wrong with my tank???
The next morning I make sure to get up good and early because I know these people start their days at the crack of dawn. I don’t know when the expert is arriving but I want to be up and ready because this needs to be solved. Luck was on my side because it turned out he’d scheduled me in for his first stop of the day. That turned out to be 6:30am. That’s when the doorbell rang. I wasn’t quite ready. I expected him no earlier than 7am so I was still in my pyjamas. But who’s complaining…when you can no longer relieve yourself, you want a solution no matter the time. The expert was a short stocky man, about my height and full of beans for that time of the day. He begins by telling me about his divorce and his medical issues. I guess that’s what was top of mind for him since it was all recent. He’d just come out of the hospital and was still recovering. Something wrong with his back and some internal issues, liver, kidney stones and something else I didn’t quite get. I listened for a good 20 minutes, not quite sure what this had to do with my septic tank, but hey, he had so kindly come out to help me and was going to solve my “emergency”. Finally off he goes to the back yard to assess the situation. I’m excited because now I can have my coffee which I hadn’t yet had time to have and get dressed. I got as far as pouring my coffee and getting a spoon of sugar in before the doorbell rings again. He needs my help. Could I follow him to the back.
Still in my pyjamas and assuming this would take but a minute, I slipped on some shoes and follow him out to the septic tank where he has one of the three covers off the tank. He explains to me that there is a pumping system down that hole and that the issue must be with the engine in the pump. But he’s not sure. He needs to remove the pump in order to check it. I’m half awake because it’s not really my time of day and I’m simply not understanding how I can help him. I really know nothing about septic tanks and pumping systems and all that he’s explaining. I’m wondering to myself, “And???? Sooooo???? You want me to do what????”. He’s a smart man and quickly sees the confusion in my face. He tells me to look into the hole. Now the cover on that hole is exactly 24 inches in diameter. The hole is eight feet deep and the inner circumference is about six inches less. So imagine, that hole is about 18 inches wide and 8 feet deep. It’s a cement column and at the bottom there is a pump that is about 15 inches high. His problem was that he couldn’t reach the pump to check it and see what’s going wrong. Great, I still don’t see how I’m going to help him. I can clearly see that there is no way to get a ladder in there so I suggest a rope to grab it and pull it up. He tells me that won’t work because it’s bolted down to the bottom of the tank. Instead, he is going to go down there and get it himself and this is where he needs my help…
I’m still confused but I’m listening. He gets down on his knees in front of the hole and then lays face down in the grass. He then instructs me to hold his legs. So I crouch down behind him and grab each of his legs. He checks to make sure I’m ready and then decides that my position is not good enough. “No!” he says while spreading his legs, “Get in between my legs, up here!!!”. Still I’m not sure what’s about to happen exactly. He then pulls himself, head first into the hole up to his waist. His legs are now the only thing out of the hole and straight across the grass. I’m down on my knees and in between his legs. It’s early morning still and so the grass is soaking wet from the dew. I figure that all I need to do is push down on his legs to secure him to the ground. It seems easy enough until he yells something from down there in the hole. I can’t make out what he’s saying because it’s kindof echoing and muffled all at the same time. That’s when I realize that he’s too short to reach that pump down there with just half his body in the hole. I think he was trying to tell me that he’s going in…as in all the way down the hatch! Sure enough, he continues to slither himself down. At this point I can no longer just push down on his legs. I need to grab onto them and hold up the entire weight of this man. He clearly weighs a good 40 or 50 pounds more than I do and I had just put on a pair of slip on shoes. I get back up on my feet hoping to get better leverage. Now I’m standing in the slippery dew covered grass in shoes that have absolutely no tread and a pair of rather loose pyjamas on and I’m hanging onto his legs like they were the handles of a wheelbarrow. He continues on down and now I’m losing strength. I am not so sure I can pull this one off but it’s too late to make that decision now. I have no choice. I realize that if I let go, he’s going head first into that solid metal pump in a cement hole. In other words, he’s done, finished, and I can put the lid back on the hole and never pee again. My shoes are slipping on the grass and I’m going to have to pull this guy back up the damn hole without losing my pyjama bottoms which are slowly inching their way down with the friction of his legs up against mine. Suddenly I have a thought…it dawns on me that my neighbours are early risers and they like to look out to see what’s going on in the neighbourhood. My mind starts in with scenarios as I’m imagining them standing at their windows with their morning coffees watching their lunatic neighbour dangle some fool down her septic tank in her pyjamas that are now halfway down the crack of my ass and I can’t do a damn thing about it! I’m thinking that if they drop one more inch they’ll be down around my ankles, just to add to the public interest factor. My arms are absolutely shaking as my muscles are burning, my eyes are popping and my endurance is waning. I’m trying to push my stomach out to hold up my pyjamas. My shoes slip closer to the hole. Am I going in with him? At least I’ll get a cushy landing while he cracks his noodle open. Now I’m about six inches from the hole when I hear him yell, “Okay, pull me up, pull me up!!!”. Jesus! Is he fucking kidding me? I have absolutely no grip and nothing to brace myself on. Already the guy is too heavy for me and now he’s also got the damn pump with him. The pump alone must weigh 20 or 30 pounds. I’m screwed. For sure the neighbours are watching. There’s no way I can get away with this. Oh but maybe if they’re watching they’ll come out to help. Surely they will. Now I realize, in my desperate attempt to figure out a solution here, that it would actually be a really good thing if someone would come to the window. So I decide to make noise and I scream back at him, “What? What did you say? Do you want to come up now?”. I know full well what he said. I’m just trying to draw a neighbour or two out. I’m in serious need of help. This is just too damn much for me at 6:30 in the morning without coffee.
Noone comes out. At this point I’m not sure this guy is going to survive this. I stand really still trying to catch my breath and find a last bit of strength somewhere. I have him by the ankles and the only thing sticking out of that hole is about six inches of legs and a big pair of kodiak boots. I’m crouched down at this point and I can feel the morning breeze wafting over my butt crack. Can you imagine the scene? My eyeballs are popping out of my head and I’m sure I popped a few veins in the process. I’m sweating bullets and convinced this man is a dead man. Finally I tell him that I don’t have the strength and that he needs to find a way to help me. He answers that he can’t pull himself up. Of course he can’t. How the hell do you pull yourself up a vertical shaft when your hands are full of some pump system and you’re fully upside down with some half-naked woman in slip-on shoes holding you up in the morning dew? I don’t know what happened next. I must have blanked out for a minute because somehow, somewhere I managed to get him back up out of that hole. You should’ve seen what he looked like coming out of there. He was beet red, hair all disheveled, filthy, smelling like a sewage system and so proud of himself all at the same time. Maybe too much blood had rushed to his head. In any case, he had the all important pump. Halleluia! He takes it back to his truck and starts explaining to me about his back troubles again. Somehow though, now I’m no longer wondering how he hurts his back. I’m actually surprised that that’s his only issue. He figures out that the motor in the system is dead and I need a new pump. “Great, please install the best one you have so I won’t have any more issues!”, I say. He has to go get one. He doesn’t have such a thing in his truck. I inform him that I only have 12 safe peeing hours left before my tank will be back in an emergency state. He takes note of this and tells me he’ll do his best. Off he goes. He calls me later that day to let me know that he’ll have a new pump for me in the morning. I spent the rest of the day being mindful not to flush too often and recovering from my morning activities.
Obviously the next morning I hadn’t fully recovered because when he returned with the new pump, it had never crossed my mind that we’d have to do the same life-threatening exercise down the hatch again. I guess somewhere in my mind I secretly assumed he would come up with a better plan. But no. He rings my doorbell at 7am the next morning and with a great big smile informs me that he will need my help again and launches right into his hospital story like this was a normal day for him. The day before, I’d had no clue what I was getting myself into but this time suddenly I felt paralyzed. At least I was dressed though. Think, I thought to myself, think! There has to be a better way. But I couldn’t come up with one and I needed that pump installed. This time I put on some proper footwear with thick treads and I went out and tried to dry the dew off the ground. I’m more alert this time and I know what to expect. I think briefly about enlisting the neighbour but what was I thinking. The neighbour is 84 years old. Not that he couldn’t help but it’s not exactly the type of thing that’s appropriate to ask an 84 year-old to help you with, is it? The other neighbours have left for work by that time. It’s just me and the repair man again. Then suddenly I had a brilliant idea. I went and got a funky tool out of his tool box and dug out some of the grass and dirt around one side of the cement hole so that I could at least brace my feet on the tank for leverage. It was still an exercise in strength and endurance but we got through it more quickly and with a bit less stress the second time around. He lived to write out the bill. Off I go wondering how many other women in the area have this joyful experience of dangling a man by his ankles down into their septic tanks at the crack of dawn in the early morning dew. Surely it isn’t just me. In the end I never did come to a final decision on whether this man had mastered the fine art of absolute trust or whether he was just simply not all there. Either way though, he did successfully solve my problem, fix my pump and I never had a problem with it again. I’d highly recommend his services. I have since moved to a condo. I’m done with septic tank living. Some adventures are only meant to be experienced once. I’m convinced of it.