Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Paradise Blows Back

En route to bed last night I was quite surprised to find my bath tub was full of water. The water was a thick dark brown, a situation I will leave to your imagination as the picture was quite repulsive. I had to go to work at one in the morning and we found to our astonishment that no twenty four hour plumber in the Keys isn't actually available twenty four hours.... Weird that.

I've lived most of my adult life on boats so the vagaries of house plumbing and the like are a bit of a mystery to me. In conversation at work (after I washed myself at home in the kitchen sink) Shannon told me about this little square plug used as an emergency drain in the pipes. Open that and release the jam she said. This morning my wife located a septic tank dude to come and empty the tank and a plumber to snake the system, we thought. I touched nothing preferring to give the experts a chance. Silly me.

We had a meeting in town we could not avoid but the septic tank guys came by, couldn't locate the underground tank and left promising to bring a back hoe as soon as possible to dig up the yard and try to locate the errant sewage pit. "Maybe tomorrow," he said. Maybe I thought to myself. This was the best effort of a sewage tank man called Hauk famous in the Lower Keys as the best man for any septic tank job, by far. Great, this is looking good, I thought to myself. Third Generation Plumbers of Marathon came by while we were gone and they opened the fatal valve apparently. The area under the house was sprayed, forcefully by the backed up contents of the down pipe. Great. They didn't even snake the deadly mulligatawny in the bath tub, which was marinating nicely where we like to wash. So much for experts. I cleaned the tub with old towels, bleach and scrubbing. What a great day off work! Bits of toilet paper stuck to everything under the house where the experts opened the firehose valve. Used toilet paper hosed everywhere. Bleach is a wonderful thing, it turns out. Too bad the experts couldn't have used a garden hose to rinse it before it dried and stuck to everything.
We stopped by West Marine on the way home and bought a forty dollar plastic toilet seat that supposedly fits on a five gallon bucket. Line the bucket with a plastic bag and there's your emergency shitter. Designed for a boater to use on a small vessel, useful in an emergency in a house following a hurricane, or when "the experts" can't clear your septic tank. We readied it for service, though naturally the seat doesn't fit the bucket without some minor modifications... We are now ready if the toilet backs up again before the "experts" locate the missing septic tank. So much for the middle class lifestyle, bitches.
In point of fact we live with one eye on a natural disaster or a human made error cutting us off from the rest of the world. You pretty much have to if you choose to live on a ribbon of dirt in the middle of the ocean. I store gasoline in jugs against power outages. We have a fully functioning water cistern that supplies our whole house with filtered rainwater that tastes better than aqueduct water piped to the house. We keep a small generator supposedly ready at a moment's notice .... to power fans and lights in the event of a prolonged outage. We also store cans of food and some long life dehydrated crap they make in Utah for Mormons waiting for their personal rapture (true story -look it up). The test pouches don't taste too terrible if your chef uses her sauces and potions to add some zest; my wife will cook anything if she has to! Self reliance is a pain in the ass but it limits the stress of hurricane season. If we do get cut off we won't starve. Plus we now have somewhere to take an emergency crap.

Next time you call a tradesman and they show up and do the job remember it doesn't work that way everywhere in the continental US. Paradise sometimes comes down to "will the buggers show up?" Remind me of that when your driveway is covered in snow and the skies are gray and I'm gloating about my winter sunshine...

5 comments:

RichardM said...

Ugh! Kind of ironic after your recent post on Key West sewer systems and local politics.

Outside of the city and military bases, census data indicates that 21% of Fairbanks households don't have indoor plumbing. It's easier if its planned as opposed to an infrastructure failure…

Dry cabins are an attractive student housing option.

Rob said...

One of my mountain biking buddies is a plumber and I keep him on speed dial. He's saved me twice now, and I only need to repay him in the form of quality craft beer.

Conchscooter said...

Richard, the irony was not lost on me! And Alaska sounds ever more wild. I can't imagine the place you live. I will drive there before long.
Rob, never leave. You are a lucky man. I wish I'd gone to technical school as a kid. A fat lot of good it does me to know my history and my geography. Oh well.

Martha Tenney said...

It's a work ethic thing. In my hometown it was mostly union workers, so the work ethic was terrific. Work well done was THE POINT. And in the north there is that lovely German work ethic, too...Not to say there are no duds.

I feel your pain. And for the first time since the 60s I have a drain in my basement that can back up in times of terrible rains. I'd be in a similar situation as you except my entire basement would be your bathtub.

MBeattie said...

I miss a strong work ethic. And I am not only a Teamster but a government employee. The private sector is not shining brilliantly in this case.