New Hempstead and Ticonderoga, New York, United States
I'm a writer and editor and a corporate communications specialist. I was a clinical social worker and a healthcare and social service agency administrator for years, so I have a good feel for communications for not-for-profit agencies -- I speak the language. My Web site at stephenphelps.com can most charitably be described as a work in progress; don't judge it too harshly, eh? E-mail me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or mailto:email@example.com
There are things that, until yesterday, I did not know about a septic system. The septic system here at Tottering-on-the-Brink is an old-fashioned dry-well setup -- no tank, no leach fields, just a pipe that runs out to a large, rock-lined hole in the ground with a sturdy pressure-treated lumber cover overtopped with sod. Last fall an inspection/pumping hatch, like a small manhole cover, was installed to make servicing and troubleshooting easier. On Wednesday I had opened the hatch to see what was happening in there, and found it full to near the top. Not knowing that this was a normal condition, and that the salient concern is the depth of the "solids" at the bottom, not the height of the more-or-less liquid waste in the well, I called and asked for a pump-out. The driver arrived yesterday, opened the well hatch, connected two lengths of four-inch hose together, fished one end into the well, attached the other end to the truck, and started the big high-speed pump.
The way we later reconstructed it, the driver and me, was like this.
Not knowing that the well was full of mostly-liquid, the driver had diligently fished his hose down to the bottom. Because ours is not a tank, but a well, the hose encountered muddy soil and rocks. The pump obligingly sucked mud and rocks up into the hose. I had retrieved my checkbook from the house and was walking from the truck to the well, to ask the driver a question. As I reached the juncture of the two hoses, so did the rocks and mud and effluent. They stuck momentarily there, briefly increasing the pressure on the joint, well beyond its capacity to remain sealed. A small seam opened between the hose sections, and, at about a million miles per hour, a thin stream of waste water, urine and liquefied feces sprayed out of that seam. Sort of like a jet from one of those rotating lawn sprinklers.
It hit me on my left side. There was shit in my hair, on my glasses, in my ear, down my arm, soaking my T-shirt, Jeans shorts, socks and sneakers. The driver seemed too genuinely shocked and dismayed to think of laughing, and probably would have suppressed it anyway in what I imagine was his horror that I might try to get him fired. "Hey," I told him, "shit happens," and we went over the incident and figured out what had gone wrong. These things only need to be pumped every three to five years, he told me, unless you get symptoms (smells or a backup). I did not know that. I thanked him for the explanation as something dripped from the ends of my hair down the back of my neck and under my shirt.
My checkbook, having been in my right hand, had been spared; I was able to write the check for the $172.00 that this lesson cost.