It was the late Erma Bombeck who wrote “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” The best-seller wasn’t 100% factual — the grass was brown over my septic lines this past summer when things really dried out. And that’s as much as I wanted to know about septic tanks.
Unfortunately, I learned more just before Thanksgiving. We had that lovely underground septic tank pumped last spring, so I was perplexed when the toilets weren’t flushing properly. Tired of using the plunger, and with my wife, Carla, tired of seeing it sitting beside the toilet, I sought advice. My handyman told me I could try a “$99 or it’s free” place.
That sounded like a $99 disaster waiting to happen, so I called a larger, recognizable firm. A technician came out the same day, snaked out the lines, gave me a bill considerably larger than $99, but assured me it was guaranteed for six months.
All was well until three days before Christmas. Our daughter from Georgia was here, and ladies like toilets that flush. So, I tested the guarantee.
Sure enough, the same tech came back, did the same thing again, then tried to convince me the real problem was the septic tank. So, that same afternoon, a knowledgeable veteran pumped the tank again. But he was certain the problem was in lines under the house, not with the tank.
Whom to believe? The next morning, two days before Christmas, when the toilets weren’t flushing right, I thought the septic tank man was a genius. Guarantee or not, why give the same company another chance? I elected to limp past the holiday, then call someone else.
By early afternoon on Christmas Eve, my daughter wasn’t having it. Everything quit working. So, I called the company with the guarantee. Someone would be there within two hours.
Two hours came and went, and no one showed up. About 8:30 p.m., my phone rang. Someone could still come out — but it would be after 10 p.m. My wife and daughter were chanting “let them come,” but who wants a sewer repair person in their house to see Santa Claus arrive? I told him we could tough it out, and the relieved dispatcher promised someone would be out Saturday morning, the day after Christmas.
We made emergency plans and went to bed. About 3 a.m., I woke to “Tom, our shower is backing up and overflowing,” and “Dad, the toilet is about to overflow.”
What? You’re supposed to put grandkids’ toys together if you’re up at 3 a.m. Christmas morning, not bail toilets! But I grabbed a five-gallon bucket, and nine five-gallon buckets later, the emergency ebbed. Groggily, I figured out what happened. Even though it’s not ideal, our water softener is connected to the main drain. When it ran that night, water started filling up everything and overflowing.
Then I got a Christmas present. At 8 a.m., the company with the guarantee called and said a technician could be there in an hour. I didn’t hesitate — Christmas Day or not. “Have him come out,” I said. A different technician arrived, and by 10 a.m. we were in business. And yes, the plug was under the house.
Are we home free? I’m keeping the plunger handy — in the closet. And I still have that precious guarantee.