Well, I Guess I Have
By Jeff Salter
Before I begin, let me establish that I’d had no prior experience with a septic system. Now, you’ll need to read to rest of my blog to learn what that has to do with our weekly topic, “Have we ever been snowed-in?”
Prior to my recent Kentucky years, my primary experience with snow was two years in Chicago as a toddler, one year in Mt. Pleasant IA as a high school sophomore, and about a year stationed inside the Arctic Circle at Thule Air Base, in N.W. Greenland. In Greenland, as you can well imagine, we had a winter full of snow and “Phase” storms… but that base was extremely well equipped to deal with those frigid conditions and I only recall a few times that conditions were so awful that I couldn’t get where I had to go (by some means).
I can’t swear which of the numerous major snowfalls – since we’ve lived these 13 winters in KY – but it was one of those several in which we had 9-12 inches of snow in a short period… that clogged the streets for days and stayed on the ground for a week or more.
At such times, since we are on a street that’s cleared AFTER the primary and secondary roads are scraped, we’re often stuck for multiple days at a stretch. Even after our street (McKee) is cleared, sometimes the county road (Cemetery) is still covered in snow and/or ice. And even after the county road and hill is cleared, we still have 150 feet of snow-bound gravel driveway that must be traversed. I guess you see what I’m saying here: we’re rather isolated and until each of these lanes is satisfactorily cleared, we can’t go anywhere in a vehicle. I still have to walk over to my Mom’s house each day, regardless… and that’s 400 feet of misery with my arthritic hips. [And a story for another time.]
All I’ve said so far is merely to establish my bona fides… vis-à-vis that I’ve been shut-in because of winter weather. But the second part of our topic was: how did I cope?
Funny you should ask.
And here’s where the septic tank comes in.
On the very first day of this particular snow-bound event, my wife noticed there was water – really UGLY water – backing up in the shower drain in the lower level of our house. I figured it was just a clog somewhere, so I got out a 50-foot snake and went after it. No dice. Whatever the problem was, it involved a lot more than a simple clog.
With some help – by phone or text (I can’t recall which) – from a cousin-in-law plumber, I reached the menacing conclusion that our septic tank was FULL… and therefore no longer “accepting” what we’d been sending down the line.
Remember me saying that I had no experience with septic tanks? Well, who would’ve known – if you’ve never had a septic system – that you have to pump out the tank every few years? I thought I’d understood our contractor to say that the leech lines took care of “distributing” the waste.
So, now I realize we have to get somebody with a pump and tank truck to clean out this clogged mess… but the roads are still axle deep in snow. Maybe, if we’d lived inside the city or on one of the major thoroughfares, we could’ve had that tank serviced on the first day. Maybe. But with all the road issues I outlined above, you can understand that not only could we not get OUT… but nobody could get IN to help us.
So, for the next 4-5 days, we couldn’t shower, couldn’t wash clothes or dishes, and had to very sparingly flush the toilet. In the interest of T.M.I., I won’t go into detail on that toiulet determination, but suffice it to say — anything we flushed was coming back up the downstairs shower drain.
Finally, the roads cleared enough for the septic cleaner guys to come out. They made short work of the dirty mess… and clucked at my excuse that I had no idea the tank had to be emptied. Afterwards, we scoured the downstairs shower, of course… and proceeded to catch up on both the dishes and clothes. And resumed the wonderful feeling of being CLEAN… after a long hot shower.
Had the septic system been properly functioning, being “snow-bound” would not have been any particular problem – since we’re both retired – provided we continued to have power and internet!
[JLS # 416]