2020, what a shitshow, and I don’t just mean the bushfires. Or the pandemic.
I mean, a few weeks ago, right about the time the United States was clearing out their own shit, so was I.
Rest assured, since moving to the farm, I have managed to avoid anything too gross. There was a frog in both my toilet and bathroom once, but apart from that baptism of fire, everything has been fine! I’ve only seen one snake (importantly: outside) and two mice. And a lot of earwigs. And centipedes, shudder, I think I hate them the most. But I digress! Farm life has mainly been red wine, my husband setting the fire and some herb pots. In other words, heaven.
One morning a pungent waft entered the house and our drains stopped working, at exactly the same time.
“Could it just be a dead rat in the ceiling?” I asked hopefully. “Will Draino fix the pipes?” (Draino: fixer of everything in my apartment when I lived in the city).
Being far braver than I, my husband took a deep sniff. “I don’t think so,” he said sombrely. “We need to call a plumber.”
The plumber who arrived took one look at our septic tank and delivered the bad news: “You’re full. You need a septic specialist to pump this out.”
A septic specialist! My husband immediately decamped to work, no doubt attracted by their working toilets. I began to google septic specialists and learned that in the country, being a septic specialist is a legitimate career. There were so many to choose from, but I settled on Barry, who called himself ‘The Septic Man’, a straightforward name that ensured if there was one thing Barry could do, it was septics.
Upon arrival, Barry set up his truck and hose and began to pump out the tank. Some time later, I heard a knock at the door. Perhaps Barry mistook my grateful desperation for him being available at short notice for friendliness, but either way, he had decided I was interested in learning how septic tanks worked.
“Come on out here,” Barry said, adding ominously: “I want to show you something.”
Show me something? But, no, Barry! I don’t want to see that!
“I’m from the city, Barry,” I said with a nervous laugh, glancing down at my pale hands.
“All housewives want to know about septic,” he said firmly. “Come on.”
Terrified but slightly chuffed at being called a housewife (I’ve never been one before!) I grabbed some gloves and followed Barry out. He led me to the tank, which had three manholes, all with the lids removed.
“Come on, stand over here and look into it,” he encouraged me and as I approached the manholes and peered down, I began to suffer from the irrational fear that he might push me in. Don’t. Even. Imagine. It.
I won’t describe what I saw in there, or how it’s affected me since. But Barry, dear soul, showed me how to unclog it and save money on a plumber, remove the filter and clean it (why…does it even have a filter…seriously?) and gave me the screws so I could learn how to remove and put the manhole lids back on.
“There you go,” he said, satisfied, as I gagged. “That’s twenty-six years of experience, there. Now you know everything I know.”
I felt proud that I, too, was now a septic specialist, and that Barry had chosen me as his unlikely successor.
Then I breathed in and the moment was lost.
Later that day, I explained all of my newfound knowledge and talents to my husband.
“That’s great, darling,” he said. “I’ll leave the septic to you from now on.”