Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Back on my head

My head may currently be full of philosophical thoughts about life, the universe and everything, but the reality of my existence, it would appear, insists on being much more prosaic.
Very down-to-earth, in fact.

There has been an odd smell in my house for a couple of weeks now. Not bad enough to worry about, but definitely there, and quite obviously getting worse. Then yesterday I noticed that the drain outside the back door was filling with water and overflowing whenever I used the sink.

I have been here before. When this happens, there are a couple of things to try before really panicking.
The first is, well, to don the industrial-strength rubber gloves and have a grope to see if there is an immediate blockage. I can tell you, there is nothing like being up to the elbow in it to reconnect oneself with reality. I will gloss over some of the language that escaped my lips as I was doing this, but suffice to say, it did not do the trick.

The second step is to get out the drain rods.
And no, I had never heard of drain rods either until I moved to a house with a septic tank, at which point they became an irregularly-used, but nonetheless essential part of life.
Then I had to locate the rodding eye - the manhole cover that gives access to a section of drain - and lever up the heavy metal cover with a crowbar. Down in the drain, one way heads towards the septic tank, the other towards the house. If there is nothing in the rodding eye, then you have to work back towards the house, as that is where the blockage is. If the eye is full of, ahem, stuff, you must head towards the tank as the drain may be blocked on that side.
To do this you select your attachment - one has a sort of double-helix affair, another a big sink plunger type of thing, and the last a hinged semi-circle that I don't quite understand. My choice of weapon was the double-helix. If it's good enough for Watson and Crick, it's good enough for me.

Into the hole it goes, then screw on the next rod and give it a good shove. When it has gone as far as possible, screw on the next one. Repeat until there are no rods left. Then give them a good to and fro, just in case there is a blockage.
If the content of the eye stubbornly refuses to go down, then this can only mean one thing. The septic tank is full, the contents are rapidly backing up and are about to invade the house. Now I have never had this pleasure, but it happened to a friend of mine not too long ago and she assures me that it is every bit as awful as it sounds.

Having by now exhausted my knowledge of drains and how to care for them, I started to pull out the rods, unscrewing each one as it came up. Until I got to the one with the double-helix ..... which was not there. Somehow, amid all the pushing and shoving and turning, I had managed to unintentionally unscrew the last rod, leaving it languishing somewhere in the bowels (sorry!) of the earth.

Well I wasn't going back in there for it.

By now it was too late to call out the tank-emptying company. So I tidied up outside, removed 95% of my clothing by the back door, contemplated whether to put it into the washing machine or simply burn it straightaway, and headed for the bathroom. Where, of course, I was unable to have the shower I wanted because of the risk of imminent invasion by the Thing That Lurked Beneath.
Washing in half a teacup of water was not satisfactory at all.

Fortunately the company was able to come out and empty the tank late this morning and all is fragrant around here once more. I was, however, too embarrassed to say anything about the lost drain rod and the nice man didn't mention finding it, so doubtless it is just biding its time down-under, waiting to bring another wave of chaos into my life.

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