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.