Yesterday, as I was drooling in front of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and pondering whether or not I should just move the television into the bathroom so I could throw up endlessly and be entertained at the same time, ZM came in, wringing his hands a little and furrowing his brow.
"Um, now don't freak out, but I kind of need your guidance here because it looks like raw sewage is backing up all over the ground outside."
For some unfathomable reason, I have an instinctual understanding of septic systems and the maladies they tend to acquire. Last summer we went to the Colorado River to stay in one of those riverside vacation houses with the in-laws and all the cousins, 17 people in all, and naturally, the septic system decided to revolt against the sheer number of Number Twos and associated two-ply quilted Charmin being forced upon it. The landlord was being shirty about it on the phone with my mother-in-law (who had paid for working potties and by Jingo, she was going have working potties) so I figured, why not have a look at it while Mother-In-Law was getting some kind of satisfaction. 10 minutes of inspection later, I determined that the plumbing in that place appeared to have been installed by recently lobotomized crackhead monkeys. 20 minutes after that, using a plunger, a piece of rebar and a coil of wire I found out back of the house, I had the system working again, but cautioned all and sundry that if it was yellow, it would be wise to let it mellow and if it was brown, one could flush it down, but put the paper in the trash can or the system was going to hang again because those pipes had what one would call minimal pressure thanks to Crackhead Installation.
Because I'm pregnant, unwieldy and tend to barf a lot, especially when faced with particularly putrid pongs, I was inclined to just call Septic Guy for our current situation and let him handle things. We haven't had to call Septic Guy in four years, mainly because the last time he was here, I hung out with him the whole time and quizzed him hard about everything we were seeing and smelling and I've been able to apply that information and avoid having to call Septic Guy. I tend to do that with any and all tradesmen because a) why the heck not, b) I believe that when I pay for a service call, I should get my money's worth and c) Knowledge Is Power. Plus, my earnest interrogations seem to amuse the service guys, especially when we all have our heads down in a septic tank. But we would have to wait until Monday to call him, because it was already getting late and it costs double to get him out on a Saturday.
ZM looked sort of relieved that I was willing to let someone else handle it, because I've been known to get obsessive with this kind of thing and end up lying at the bottom of a muddy hole praying for death. But 45 minutes later, my brain began to rebel and I started thinking about the facts of the matter. I knew the problem had to be between the clean-out and the tanks, because of where the mung was burbling up. I knew whatever was gakking the pipe up wasn't occluding the pipe lumen 100%, because of the amount of standing water. My gut said it was a grease and paper clog right there in the three-foot section of pipe between the clean-out and the tank. Grease clog...grease clog...An idea occurred to me that was based on previous septic experience and the open-heart surgery procedure I got to observe when I was in nursing school. I quietly found a set of work gloves and two trash bags and sneaked out the back door. I cadged a hunk of PVC pipe off the pile and a reasonably new (and therefore stiff) water hose, hooked the hose up to a nearby faucet and put the trash bags over my feet and legs. I used the hunk of PVC to locate the clean-out, which by this time was eight inches buried in unmentionables, and fed the hose down towards the tank until it encountered resistance. Then I turned the water on full blast and started wiggling the hose around and jacking it up and down like a crazy person. I was glad I'd used the trash bags, let me tell you. In a few minutes, FLOOSH, everything went flying down the hole! YAY! Now, getting that hose back out without showering myself with goob was a bit of a challenge, a challenge I didn't ultimately rise to. I waddled back to the house and yelled, "Someone flush a toilet!" and then stood there by the clean-out and observed the water flowing freely. The work gloves were trashed and I had to take a long hot shower with antibacterial soap, but that shower was doing double duty because the hot water going down the pipes helps clean out any remaining grease that could hang the system again. I also informed Daughter that she doesn't need to use half a roll to wipe her pristine fanny. I only wish I'd hauled ZM out there to observe the makeshift angioplasty procedure and thus empower him to solve an issue such as this, because I got quite a charge out of doing it, a charge I desperately needed because I've felt pretty damn useless of late between the endless puking and pregnancy-induced narcolepsy. I also saved us a couple of hundred ducats, which is not to be sneezed at under any circumstances.