Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Septic Tank Monster that Ate Christmas

Finding any Christmas spirit for me is an increasingly difficult task each year. Many stores in my area now pull out their Santa and other Christmas displays about two weeks before Halloween, which creates a curious dichotomy down some aisles as happy and joyous Christmas stuff shares shelf space with sinister looking masks of bloodthirsty monsters and psychotic aliens. Shortly after that, obnoxious televisions commercials start barraging us with propaganda that associate love and friendship with the buying of largely meaningless crap. Speaking strictly for myself, it all leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Throw in the unbelievably tragic recent events and my natural cynicism was augmented with a large dose of outright despair.

Not until early Christmas morning itself as my daughter and I sat on the couch watching the movie Polar Express that the clouds of skepticism and gloom lifted to any great degree. This Christmas was suppose to be gloriously simple since my wife and kids were scheduled to leave the next day to go see her mom up in Richmond, Virginia. Christmas dinner was going to be hamburgers cooked on the grill and then we were all suppose to go see Les Misérables, despite excessive moans of disgust from both my teenage son and ten year-old daughter. But Fate’s fickle finger decided to collectively poke us in the eyes and throw everything into a huge tailspin.

It was mid-Christmas morning with your intrepid blogger sitting at the computer desk in the living room with his fingers dancing over his trusty laptop keyboard after having a major breakthrough on a story that had been stuck in a creative rut for several days. My wife was sitting in a nearby chair reading a magazine and my kids were upstairs watching some movie. At some point, my creative nirvana was interrupted when I started hearing a gurgling sound coming from the kid’s bathroom in no way associated with them performing routine dental hygiene.

“Oh Hell,” I said automatically fearing the worst when it comes to all things related with our two-thousand square foot money hole. Walking into the small bathroom all my suspicions were answered when I saw brown water rising up into the tub. A quick flush of the toilet further confirmed the worst with it failing to do its proper operation. Walking across the house to the master bathroom, I found water coming up in both the whirlpool tub and shower stall and that toilet also unable to flush.

“Son of a Bitch,” I groaned feeling all my hard earned warm and fuzzy Christmas spirit evaporating like an insane Frosty the Snowman on vacation in the tropics. At first, I just assumed that our septic tank was filled and that until someone could come and pump it out my family and I were metaphorically shit out of luck while in actuality we were suffering from an overabundance of the substance. If my reaction was understated my wife’s verged on outright panic. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated her response since trying to get someone to come pump out a septic tank on a normal day is tough enough, needing that same service on Christmas Day is exponentially worse. I could write a lot more about how this situation was far more messed up than what I am saying at this moment but you simply do not want to know.

So, with no working bathrooms and absolutely no prospect of them being repaired until the next day my wife and kids packed up and left early for Richmond. Of course, that left me the responsibility to deal with getting everything fixed and to take care of my own bodily functions until then. I did make a few phone calls while the wife and kids packed just on the very slim chance I could get someone to my house that day but all efforts were an utter failure. By the time the wife and kids got on the road two hours later I had to run out myself to find someplace open to take care of what you might expect. To say I was disgusted would be an understatement but there was nothing I could do but institute the old army saying of: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.”

It was a cold, smelly comfort but with the house quiet, I tried to return to my writing. It was then Fate intervened once again, as I sat typing I once again heard a strange sound coming from the kid’s bathroom. The sound was the same gurgling but in a lower tone.

“Ah what fresh Hell comes my way now?” I said to the house while I got up to investigate. For reasons I cannot explain I soon learned that all the standing water in the bathtubs and the shower stall had drained out and both toilets were now operational. While I was very happy with this new state of affairs, it still left the question as to why the stoppage had occurred in the first place. As the afternoon progressed, I tested several theories but was unable to recreate the condition.

Figuring an ounce of prevention might be better than a pound of cure so first thing this morning I ran to the nearest hardware place and bought several things that were suppose to help clean out my obviously troubled septic system. The end result was amazing in its subtle irony. After pouring a drain cleaner in all the bathroom drains the directions said to run hot water immediately afterwards for about five minutes. No problem, I had a few other minor chores to do during that time and when I returned instead of all that water quickly flowing down my newly clean drains I had standing water in them again. Not only that, the toilets were once again out of operation putting me back at square one.

I sit here now waiting for the plumber to come and hopefully do their expensive magic and set everything back the way it should be. To say this Christmas has stunk would be much too easy, but whatever way it will be remembered it is sure to go down in the history books.

***Update- The plumber left about twenty minutes and after clearing the pipe, he said it looks like we have some type of root in our sewer line. What that ultimately means will be answered when the guys with the camera system designed to scout out such places arrives. Damn!


lime said...

oh gag. i am so sorry you had such a literally shitty christmas. here's hoping the root situation can be rectified in the easiest and cheapest manner possible.

Pearl said...


Why are you tested so?!

:-) Still. Funny post, anyway!


MikeP said...

We can fake a moon landing but we can't come up with trouble-free plumbing!

Windsmoke. said...

Murphy's Law strikes again!.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Something very similar happened to me here at my apartment on Christmas Eve. My mother flushed the toilet, which has been fine to my knowledge as long as I've lived here for the past year, and the next thing I know there is water and shit all over the bathroom floor. I take off my shoes and socks and dive in to turn the water to the toilet off. I get out the wet vac and start cleaning. I am almost crying, my mother is super embarrassed, and the maintenance guy is on his way with the snake tool. Ugh!!!! I washed and bleached everything three times and washed my hands over a dozen times. We moved the family event over to my daughter's home and I got over it but man, what a shit storm.

Now we've gotten a snow storm and I didn't go to work today. I needed the extra time off let me tell you.

Pixel Peeper said...

What a pain!

I don't understand why a root can cause such a sudden problem - did the root experience a sudden, overnight growth spurt to suddenly block a pipe? And exactly on Christmas, of all times...

I hope it gets resolved quickly and you can enjoy a quiet house all to yourself!

Cloudia said...

Oh man, I feel for YOU!!!!!

Friendly Aloha from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >
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> < 3 3 3 ( ' >

Randal Graves said...

Deck the bowls with logs of poopy
Fa la la la la la la la la

You got your me time, but also got this; everything's got a price?

Akelamalu said...

That was your Christmans downt the pan then? (Pardon the pun)

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

If it is any consolation, I am glad that you didn't find out what several around here did a few months ago. For they were all the owners of some very expensive (at least to me) homes that had been built in the last five years by the same construction company, and when they started having a lot of problems with their sewer systems, they found out that the sub-contractor for that had installed much of the pipe at an angle not steep enough to allow for a good flow. Subsequently, they are now having to face having it all dug up and replaced--including what goes under their foundations! Oh yeah, I am sure that several law suits have already been filed against the construction company, but you know how that may go,

jadedj said...

Yep, yep, yep...the ol' plumbers friend...the ubiquitous root ploy. I hesitate to tell you this, but many times...NO, EVERY requires the laying of new pipe. I will spare you the rest of the story...the part that involves backhoes...several men on the job for about three checking account.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: Leading indicators suggest this is probably going to get expensive.

Peal: Yeah, after a couple of Landsharks I did start to laugh at all this.

Mike P: LOL!! Everything about the house I live in was done on the cheap. The list is long but on the sewer piping they used thin wall plastic stuff instead of even schedule 20 PVC. Now add the fact the house is over twenty years old and the problems never seem to start coming.

Windsmoke: In this case Murphy is probably an optimist.

Life As We Know It: Yeah, when the toilet system goes bonkers it is guaranteed to ruin at least the whole day.

Pixel: I'm not sure either about how this started so suddenly. The plumber suggested that not only is something like this pretty common roots but that after so many years its guaranteed.

Cloudia: Never cared for the "glories" of home ownership and this only reinforces my opinion.

Randal: Yeah, but it sure derailed the story I was writing.

Akelamalu: LOL!!!! Yeah, pretty much. And I was reakky looking forward to seeing Les Misérables.

Jerry: Yeah, the plumber guy with the sewer camera came out late yesterday afternoon and it was easy to tell my sewer line has a decent sloping angle. The next problem I am facing is roots tangled up in the input baffle. or roots clogging the drainline. Now adding insult to injury I don't really trust the large plumbing firm I called yesterday. Local reviews suggest they like to push high dollar fixes.

JadeJ. That is my greatest fear. The one thing I have on my side is that the sewer line from the house to the septic tank is only about eight or nine feet long.

Now what terrifies me is the possibility that roots are in the drain line on the opposite end.

Mike Williams said...

Well I hope your new year gets better. The joys of home ownership, they are never ending.

Red Nomad OZ said...

As we'd say downunder (while enjoying a cruel laugh at your expense) your septic's ROOTED!!! Happy New Year!!