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Our septic saga

03/05/2012 @ 10:02am

The phrase “water in the basement” elicits a deep sense of dread in every homeowner. Those four little words could make even Rambo quail and wail.

My wife recently mentioned that a funky odor was emanating from our basement. I had to take her at her word since her olfactory powers are far superior to mine. Women smell better than men, especially when the female in question is wearing Chanel No. 5.

Armed with my favorite aftershave/ secret odor-fighting weapon -- a large jug of Febreze -- I descended into the basement to investigate. The sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth soon reverberated from the cellar.

My wife had been correct: there was a definite dampness in the basement. But it wasn’t just water! Other icky items were also afloat.

This wasn’t fair! I thought we’d solved our sewer problems once and for all!

Two springs ago, our youngest son and I rejuvenated our drain field. We ripped out what had passed for state-of-the-art in 1962 and replaced it with a system that’s currently state-of-the-art. Things had been both hunky and dory ever since.

That is, until this recent malfunction. But I knew what to do; this wasn’t my first rodeo. I wrangled an assortment of tapes and snakes into our sewer pipes. The efficacy of these tools was enhanced via a time-tested mélange of mumbled maledictions.

All for naught! The water and its nasty components remained stubbornly puddled around the floor drain.

Experience had taught me that the next step was to call Gene Wiehr, my septic tank pumping guy. It’s probably not a good sign when you’ve committed your septic guy’s phone number to memory.

Gene lowered a large green hose into our septic tank and his powerful truck began to suck out our tank’s contents. It made me think of an elephant taking a long draught from a subterranean pond.

As the septic emptied, I listened intently for the sound of water gushing into it from a newly-unplugged sewer pipe. Nothing!

I decided that it would behoove me to know what, exactly, was going on beneath the basement floor, so I summoned a plumber who has a sewer camera.

There was great anticipation as the plumber guy -- let’s call him Bud -- deployed his James Bond-like device. I was giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. At last! The source of our sewer problems would be revealed!

Bud and I watched on a tiny TV as his camera snaked through the hidden recesses of our pipes. For some reason, the word “colonoscopy” popped into my head.

The camera slid along smoothly until it came to a T joint in the pipe. Try as he might, Bud couldn’t get his high-tech thingamajig to go beyond that joint.

“Problem is, this here joint shoulda been a Y,” pronounced Bud. As if to empathize the point, he pulled out a hanky and honked his nose powerfully. He then studied the hanky for a long moment, as if it were an oracle that perhaps held the secret for resolving my plight.      

When my Grandpa Nelson built this house fifty years ago, I’m sure he trusted his plumber. I can see how the plumber guy, perhaps in a hurry one day, tossed in a T joint where there really should have been a Y. No one would be the wiser. And it’s not like this alphabetical swap would ever cause any problems.

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