CSI: Poopsmith

If you are easily grossed out, you might want to skip this one. If not, dig right in.

Speaking of digging right in, I spent yesterday afternoon digging up my septic tank and then waiting for some guy with a poopsucker truck to come and pump it out. I learned several things, and disgusting as they may be, I'm going to share them with you, because that's what I do. I'm generous like that.

For those of you who live in the boonies, you know all about septic tanks. For those of you who do not, I offer this distinction between septic tanks and city sewers: If you have a septic tank and flush the toilet, the crap disappears, slides through your pipes, exits the house, then travels about 20 feet into a tank where it stops and sinks. If you have a sewer and flush the toilet, the crap disappears, slides through your pipes, exits the house, then travels to Manhattan and Los Angeles where it is used to periodically refill the inhuman shells of Michael Moore and Barbara Streisand.

The guy who showed up was pretty friendly, and I made the mistake of actually standing out there and talking to him as he got all his hoses set up. My wife has a pretty extensive flower garden, and the tank is buried right in the middle of it. My job was to make sure nothing got screwed up.

My grandmother always used to say that I thought my crap didn't stink. Well, Gram, let me tell you -- I was wrong. So friggin' wrong you wouldn't believe it.

The septic dude took the top off this thing and it was like an invisible cow farm jumped out. I took a step back and reflexively said, "Holy Shit!" The guy laughed at me. "Nah, this isn't bad."

I hated to think what he thought "bad" was, because goddamn, I almost chucked on the spot. Of course, it didn't help that it was about 95 degrees out and the air was so stagnant that the smell just hung there like a burrito fart in a down sleeping bag. This was his last job of the night, and his 6th tank of the day, so I imagine he was probably pretty used to it by then.

He walked back to his truck, started the pump running, and came back with what I refer to going forward as his poop rake. This is a highly specialized tool used exclusively for, as you've probably guessed, raking poop.

He jumped down into the hole I had dug, dropped the rake down in the tank and proceeded to start pushing things around down there. This had the unfortunate result of releasing a fresh new cloud of horrendous stench. I couldn't really figure out a good way to excuse myself without seeming like a big pussy, so i stuck it out. To tell you the truth, I think I almost started getting used to it by the end. By that time, I was instinctively taking shallow breaths through my mouth, so that may have been what saved me.

He swirled his rake around there for a while, and then looked up and said, "No kids, right?"

"No, no kids," I answered, surprised.

"Yeah, I can tell," he said. "Normally, you'll see a lot more paper and toys and other stuff. Kids like to flush things."

Some additional sloshing and poking ensued, and then "You guys eat pretty healthy."

"We try," I responded cautiously, half expecting him to tell me what I had for dinner last Thursday.

"You can tell by the amount of cooking grease floating on the top. You have a little, but you wouldn't believe some of them. I've seen it in a layer 3 inches thick. And tell your wife not to flush the tampons anymore. That's bad for the system, and they get stuck in the grease and don't sink."

I nodded, and made a mental note. Who knew that tampons and cooking grease combine to form an impenetrable barrier that could apparently be used to armor tanks?

He did, of course.

He was, after all, a professional turd technician of the highest order and it was clear he was the best that money could buy. A master of fecal forensics. The Columbo of Crap, if you will.

He swirled a bit more and the he said, "Hmmm. Slight problem."

Those are two words you don't want to hear when you're looking down a hole in your lawn at five years worth of your own excrement.

"What?" I asked. "Something bad?" As if anything involving that much liquefied crap could ever be good.

"Not really," he said. "It's just that you should have pumped this about 2 years ago, so the solid to liquid ratio is way off. I don't have enough liquid to get the rest of the sludge out. I'm gonna have to backwash."


"Yeah, he said. I have to fill your tank back up in order to break things up a little."

"Huh." I said. "I didn't know you guys carried water on those trucks."

"We don't," he answered.

Just as the full ramifications of that statement dawned on me, he said, "Hey, can you put your foot on this hose while I go make the switch to the other nozzle?"

I was committed at this point, so I said, "Sure." and then stood at the edge of the hole with one foot on the hose, keeping it from falling down into the tank.

How the fuck did it come to this? I thought. One minute I'm making small talk, and the next minute I'm holding a 4" diameter hose about to erupt with a solid stream of someone else's crap. I stood there awkwardly, breathing shallowly through my mouth, my head turned as far as possible away from the hellhole of stank.

Let me tell you, I crushed that hose with the full weight of my massive 147lbs, trying to abolish visions of a giant, poop-spewing hose whipping around like a wounded snake, spraying brown sludge everywhere.

It was actually kind of a let down. He didn't pressurize it, which makes sense when you think about it. While faster, that's just asking for bad trouble. He let gravity push it out of the truck. At that point I had just about had it with the heat and the stench, and my main concerns were reduced to not getting splashed and not throwing up. It wasn't so much the smell, as the combination of smell and sound. It was like a being in the next stall over from a 400lb biker who was in the midst of a really bad Budweiser-and-chicken-wing dump on a hungover Sunday morning.

He came back and took over, and I was glad to move away from ground zero. He poked around some more, then aimed the crap bazooka around inside the tank, apparently loosening up the last of it. He said, "You haven't had this pumped in about five years, have you?"

"Five years to the month," I said. This guy was too good.

He went back to the truck, and reversed the hoses again, and the hose started chunking and slurping the sludge back toward the truck again. I, for one, was glad to see it go. He came back and started up with the rake and in a few minutes the hose was making that sound like a straw at the bottom of an almost empty chocolate milk shake. A really big, really disgusting chocolate milkshake.

He pulled the hose out and examined the end, scraping it with the pooprake.

"So, you play the drums?" he said.

"Yeah, I do," I stammered, thinking, He can tell that from looking at my poop?

He must have noticed the odd look on my face because he nodded toward the house and said, "I can see them through the window."

I was relieved to know there was no genetic poop signature that singled out the percussionists among us.

He cleaned up all his tools with my garden hose while holding them over the hole, then closed it up and brought everything back to the truck. I followed behind him, taking deep breaths of fresh air.

"That'll be $171.20," he said, stowing his gloves and taking out a clipboard holding my invoice.

It was a bargain at any price. I paid the Poopsmith and crawled back into the house.

Next time, you can bet your ass that's exactly where I'm staying.


  1. That sounds crazy, but I guess every man must be a master of some craft, even if that craft is poopology.

    You should get a composting toilet! No more septic system, no more horrible odors (only medium - bad ones).

  2. So, is the wife supposed to pull apart and disperse the tampons like the secret agents do with their cigarette butts while on a stake out?

  3. The Columbo of Crap: excellent alliteration.

    how funny that you thought he might have figured out you played the drums by looking at your poopies.

    (i am so thankful i have a sewer system).

  4. Yeah, I made the same mistake, hanging out with the dude when he pumped us out. We talked about his divorce and how well he made out.

    I was a little uncomfortable with his sharing, but at least we weren't talking poop.

  5. Anonymous10:29 AM

    at least your septic tank didn't explode on thanksgiving.

  6. Man - I haven't laughed this hard since the picture of your wife hurling on that pontoon boat in the islands.

    good times, that...

  7. Nice post, Johnny.

    I would suggest you forward poopmaster's name to the Dirty Jobs people, but I think they already showed the septic segment.

    I'll tell ya, it's much funnier watching someone else muck around in the muck.

  8. Anonymous8:18 AM

    interesting. i had to go and google "how things work" after this.

  9. Mr. Friendly beat me to it. If you don't already watch it check out a few episodes of Dirty Jobs.

    For a second there I thought he had found digested chuncks of drum sticks or something.

  10. Anonymous6:31 PM

    I can just imagine the plethora of exciting google searches you will get after this post~

  11. I haven't finished reading yet, but I am going to go and put a pot of coffee on, and come back and dive right in. I find this as funny as all heck......and yes, I have a septic tank, AND I have a flower garden right over the top, so to me this is a training manual.........but I will have my sandwich a little bit later. haha.......but so far I am not grossed out. However, there is still time, ........nah, I can carry a bedpan in one hand and eat a sandwich with the other.......

  12. Oh my god, I am not going to stop laughing for a week..This was so damn funny......now it is not that I find poop so funny, in fact I find my poop to be rather brown, and disgusting, but this is the funniest story I have read in blog land to date. And I guess partly because my septic tank is six years old, and I had no idea when it needed pumping, shittttttttttttttttt.

  13. Composting toilet? What the hell do I do? put leaves on it??

    JB - I think they should invent the tampon-genie. So you get a long sausage-link-like string of them. Maybe to decorate your christmas tree with....

    Mckay -- yeah it was pretty funny. It was only for a split second but...

    Shammy - divorce beats trade secrets.

    anna - I feel for you if that actually happened.

    Nessa, I can't believe you remember that drawing.....

    Mf, I've never seen the show...

    WCG -- I had a similar thought, but I was thinking about my drum stool.

    Nea -- good luck. Tip for you -- mark it well. Otherwise in five years, you'll be in your yard digging random holes thinking "Maybe it was over there? It has to be here somewhere......"

  14. They pumped out the septic tank at work which ended up being about 5 feet away from the back door. The stench was unbearable. What was weird though was how every man in the place wandered back holding their coffee mugs and stood in a circle around it - staring down into the pit of poop.


  15. OH MY GOD, MY SEPTIC is about 5 feet from my bedroom window......I am going to need to move when it needs pumping. Which it needed last year, I guess.

  16. As much as I hate all things poo, this was a great story.

  17. JV - are you kidding? That drawing made me "Embarrassing Personal Problems" girl in my old office. I laughed so hard, and so loudly, that people actually stopped by my cube later, concerned for my sanity and physical wellbeing.

  18. holy shit is right. this is precisely why i fear homes with septic systems. i mean, there's nothing to fear per se, but i'd rather not have the potential for my yard to resemble deniro's in 'meet the parents'. i can just see something going horribly wrong with my shit at the most inopportune time.

  19. Oh my effing God! Classic post!
    My grandfather (step actually)was a Poopmaster himself. Needless to say, I am relieved that I was born before the "Take Your Granddaughter to Work Day." Ewwwwwww!

  20. They could set fire to my flower garden before I would watch the poopmaster at his work. In fact, they could set fire to the house.

    I'm glad I read it though. For some reason, it took my appetite away.

  21. No photos with this post, I observe.

  22. This is so awesome. I love that he freaked you out with the drums thing. I love this poop guy I've decided. Also I have heard that about tampons, but come on-think of the alternative. Gross. Stories about poop = good times.

  23. Anonymous7:54 PM

    This story is great and made me laugh. It is very funny, well written, and involves a lot of poop - you should submit it as an article on ZUG.

  24. Oh gosh, this is hilarious!!! He is right about the kids thing. My daughter went through a phase about 4 years ago where she flushed all of her hair accesories down the toilet. And yes, we have the whole well and septic set up. It did not affect the septic that I know of, but we did have to buy a whole new toilet for some reason. My husband was a special kind of pissed off.
    And sorry for making such a long comment, but back in May 07, the pump in our well died. My husband had to go away on business which left me home alone with no water and all of our kids. So he ordered a port-a-potty for us to use until they could come to replace the pump. Let me tell you.....using one of those things is no fun. Having one sitting in your driveway is even less fun!
    I documented that whole experience here http://tipsfromnicole.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html
    You may have to scroll through some of my garbage to get to the pics of the potty.
    Then the next month, our septic started coming back into the house, yeah fun!!! So we had to get that worked on too.
    So, not only did we get hit with double grossness, but lots of expenses!!

  25. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Just when I think I will get through a post without staring of office mates for my laughing. It was amusing, but I was not making a fool of myself bu loudly laughing at my desk. Then, I got to the part about the drums. Busted at work for surfing the net - again!

  26. Anonymous4:43 PM

    I had to stop several times while reading this so I could muffle my laugh and wipe my tears. A coworker actually came in here to see if I was okay.

  27. wow. i have never been so happy to live in a city with a sewer. of course, it's a city that's so poorly run and maintained that the EPA has mandated a $4 billion overhaul of said sewer, but at least i won't have to go through what you just did.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Anonymous1:47 PM

    What a fantastic post. One of the funniest movies to ever come out of Australia was based on this exact subject. The name of the movie is Kenny.


    It's a hilarious mockumentary that follows the life of a guy named Kenny, a plumber/waste management expert. Director Clayton Jacobson describes the character of Kenny as "The Dalai-Lama" of Waste Management, eternally optimistic and always ready to put others before himself. Kenny represents the humbling nature of common decency."

    A must see if you liked this post.

  30. Johnny, I don't know if you read comments on old posts, but this is the funniest thing I've read in months. It's just as well I was on my own here in our office, as I was literally bellowing with laughter.

    Reminds me of living on the farm as a kid. We used to have what we called 'thunder boxes'. Basically a pit over which was built a platform and an outhouse. Built away (well away!) from the farmhouse of course. Kids being what we were, we loved to guess how full it was from the lag between 'bombs away' and the splash.. Hehehe

    WV: 'schic' - what you felt...

  31. Morris, I do read them -- thanks! Nothing like the stink of a two-holer in the summer, right?

  32. My husband asked me to leave the bedroom while reading this because I was shaking the bed with laughter and ruining his nap.