Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Five Best Things About a Backed Up Septic Tank (If You're A #Writer)

Yes, this post is written from personal experience. I won't disturb you with the details, but suffice it to say that I had the opportunity to call the guy who pumps out septic tanks last weekend. I didn't call him to chat, but to plead for his presence, immediately, at our humble abode, at almost any cost.

How could there be five 'best' things about a backed up septic tank? Fundamentally, it's impossible. But hey, these things happen and I take my lessons where I find them, so here are the five best things I learned from my epic septic fail:

1) Writers aren't known for their athletic prowess (unless they happen to be a sports star having their memoirs ghost-written), but a backed up septic tank gets you up out of your chair and your heart pumping at aerobic (no pun intended) speeds. In a hurry. My sprint to the bathroom when I heard the toilet burping, then to the phone book to look up the septic guy's number when I saw water seeping where water has no business seeping, then to the cell phone to punch in that number, should've won a few awards for speed and agility.

2) Writers tend to shy away from interactions with real people. Imaginary people are no problem. It's just those who live in the real world with whom we struggle. A backed up septic tank turns that problem on its head. You get to wheedle and whinge your way into a visit from the septic guy at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Your bargaining skills shine, involving the trade of vast sums of hard cash in exchange for the arrival of that magnificent tanker truck that makes the seeping water stop.

3) Finding the backed up septic tank improves your physical stamina, because you have to bang a piece of rebar into the ground to find the tank, then dig the dang tank out to find the lid. (Actually, you dig both tanks out - since the septic guy is here, he might as well pump out both, right?) In our neck of the woods, digging out the septic tank involved a shovel, a post-hole digger, and a little soaking from a water hose due to the cement-like quality of the clay that covers it.

4) You realize that you really can hide a body in a septic tank. (I've often wondered whether one of my characters could use a septic tank for a body dump. What? Doesn't everybody?) Granted, it might take a little dismemberment and ensuring your character's septic tank is big enough to hold a full sized human body (at 500 gallons, ours could comfortably hold two each), but you really could dispose of a body in a septic tank and it would be some time before anybody was the wiser. 

If ever.

5) You get great story ideas when the septic tank backs up because the septic guy turns out to have a heart for the disposal of bodies and, once he realizes you're the chick who writes those horrific crime novels, regales you with tales of local people who (rumor has it) got away with murder and how they (rumor has it) disposed of the bodies. Extremely insightful, and a little scary when you think about your neighbors and what they might get up to.

There you have it. A Friday night septic disaster turned into physical, mental, and plot benefit. Will one of my characters dump a body or find a body in a septic tank? It's a distinct possibility. Keep reading to discover how it all unfolds.
(An added benefit of a backed up septic tank? You score big points with your husband, who has to go off to a gig and leaves you to deal with the septic tragedy on your own. He comes home to perfectly functioning drainage and remembers just how lucky he was to have snagged you in the first place. I'm thinking about a trip to a nice sugary beach, where the drinks come with little umbrellas. Work it, ladies. Those septic tanks only back up every so often.)

photo credit: Crowcombe Al via photopin cc
photo credit: The Knowles Gallery via photopin cc
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