It’s a Dirty Business

old truck

It seemed like a good idea when we bought our home in a distant suburb. Plenty of space, no rubbing elbows with neighbors, peace and quiet, fresh country air. That was before I found out about septic tanks. I’ve been dealing with the distasteful business known by non-urban dwellers as “pumping the septic tank.”

For you city slickers who don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about, a septic tank is sort of the modern replacement for the outhouse, an individual sewer system for homes that are not on a city sewer system. Periodically, the realities of country living catch up and it is time for the unavoidable chore of getting it cleaned.

The first step is finding a septic service that will answer the phone. Like service people of any sort, they have more business than they need and don’t care whether they get any calls or not. After repeated attempts, however, someone finally picks up the phone. I can almost smell the smell through the phone wire.

Darrell and Darrell from the old Bob Newhart show operated the service I picked. I don’t know why, but it seems to be a family sort of business. They try to be professional asking the usual questions: “How long has it been?” THAT LONG? “How old is the house?” THAT OLD? “How many people?” THAT MANY? I could hear the price going up.

Apparently, Darrell is not good with directions; or else he is in shock over my answers to his questions. He put the other Darrell on the phone. I gave him directions while he repeated them back to the first Darrell. My house is not hard to find, but somehow I knew already that they would get lost.

“We can come right now,” he said, “We’ll be in the area anyhow.”

“Right now? But, I’m at work. Can you come tomorrow?”

“Okay, how early?” We discussed the time I get up, the time I usually leave for work, and finally decided on 7 a.m. That would be great. I could take care of the dirty business and go on to work. I forgot about the Golden Rule of all service people: “Never Show up On Time.”

Sure enough, the next morning I’m ready and sitting by the phone at 7 a.m. It rings. I figured they were lost. Wrong — it’s worse! “We are running a little late.” What a surprise. “We will be leaving in about 15 minutes, right, Darrell?”

Leaving? You are supposed to be arriving! I dared not complain as they perform a vital, if distasteful, service. Darrell went on to tell me about the clutch going out in the truck, how they were getting it fixed, how the repair shop was running late. “We will pick up the truck and be right there.” I could hear the other Darrell agreeing in the background.

Good grief! Why didn’t they tell me yesterday that there was a problem with the truck? “Okay, I’ll be waiting.” I sprayed the phone with Lysol to get rid of the smell, and called work to say I would be late. At 8:30 the phone rings again. They are lost. They took the wrong exit off the Interstate. I can’t stand it.

Finally, they show up and after much mumbling, head scratching, and digging, the tank is found and the foul deed is done. They call me out to inspect the work, as if anything could possibly matter to me more than the smell. After a nauseating look, I praise their excellent work, then go inside and spray myself allover with Lysol.

Finally, they were finished and drove away. The neighbors waved a grateful goodbye from a respectful distance, and the flies returned to the trash can. I may never get the smell out of my nose. However, I guess to those that make a living with that sort business, it must smell like money.

Pardon me now while I gag, take a bath, and spray this column with Lysol.

Copyright 2003 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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4 Responses to It’s a Dirty Business

  1. Pingback: Sunday Share: Y2 W6 | All In A Dad's Work

  2. Sheila Moss says:

    Undoubtedly they are exposed to all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and other awful stuff. I’m very surprised they do not wear hazmat suits.


  3. For a while I worked at the company’s training facility in a rural area with a septic tank. The “honey dippers” used to come on a schedule to empty it. We would gag as they sat in the truck and ate their lunch. We were dying with the smell. They are very brave people who work in that field. It’s not for the weak hearted. Best for the smell-impaired.


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