It seemed like a good idea when we bought our
home in a distant suburb. Plenty of space, no rubbing elbows
with neighbors, peace and quiet, fresh country air. That was
before I found out about septic tanks. Iíve been dealing with
the distasteful business known by non-urban dwellers as
"pumping the septic tank."
For you city slickers who donít have the
faintest idea what Iím talking about, a septic tank is sort of
the modern replacement for the outhouse, an individual sewer
system for homes that are not on a city sewer system.
Periodically, the realities of country living catch up and it is
time for the unavoidable chore of getting it cleaned.
The first step is finding a septic service
that will answer the phone. Like service people of any sort,
they have more business than they need and donít care whether
they get any calls or not. After repeated attempts, however,
someone finally picks up the phone. I can almost smell the smell
through the phone wire.
Darryl and Darryl from the old Bob Newhart
show operate the service I picked. I donít know why, but it
seems to be a family sort of business. They try to be
professional asking the usual questions: "How long has it
been?" THAT LONG? "How old is the house?" THAT
OLD? "How many people?" THAT MANY? I could hear the
price going up.
Apparently, Darryl is not good with
directions; or else he is in shock over my answers to his
questions. He put the other Darryl on the phone. I gave him
directions while he repeated them back to the first Darryl. My
house is not hard to find, but somehow I knew already that they
would get lost. "We can come right now," he said.
"Right now? But, Iím at work. Can you
"Okay, how early?" We discussed the
time I get up, the time I usually leave for work, and finally
decided on 7 a.m. That would be great. I could take care of the
dirty business and go on to work. I forgot about the golden rule
of all service people: "Never Show up On Time."
Sure enough, the next morning Iím ready and
sitting by the phone at 7 a.m. It rings. I figured they were
lost. Wrong - itís worse! "We are running a little
late." What a surprise. "We will be leaving in about
15 minutes, right Darryl?" Leaving? You are supposed to be
arriving! I dared not complain as they perform a vital, if
Darryl went on to tell me about the clutch
going out in the truck, how they were getting it fixed, how the
repair shop was running late. "We will pick up the truck
and be right there." I could hear the other Darryl agreeing in the background.
Good grief! Why didnít they tell me
yesterday that there was a problem with the truck? "Okay, Iíll
be waiting." I sprayed the phone with Lysol to get rid of
the smell, and called work to say I would be late.
At 8:30 the phone rings again. They are lost.
They took the wrong exit off the Interstate.
I canít stand it!
Finally, they show up and after much mumbling,
head scratching, and digging, the tank is found and the foul
deed is done. They call me out to inspect the work, as if
anything could possibly matter to me more than the smell. After
a nauseating look, I praise their excellent work, then go inside
and spray myself allover with Lysol.
Finally, they were finished and drove away. The neighbors
waved a grateful goodbye from a respectful distance, and the
flies returned to the rotten apples under the apple tree. I
may never get the smell out of my nose. However, I guess to
those that make a living with that sort business, it must smell
Pardon me now while I gag, take a bath, and
spray this column with Lysol.