It was that time again. Another two years had come and gone. This spring not only meant the greening of the trees and the blooming of the flowers. It also reminded me that it was time to empty the septic tank.
As I've done every other time over the past decade and a half, I called my septic-tank cleaning man. The funny little phrases on the side of his truck always made me chuckle in the knowledge that they made what he did for a living a little more bearable. To my dismay, I found that my septic-tank cleaner had cleaned out his last tank more than six months ago.
I called the next septic-tank cleaner listed in the phone book. The secretary told me that there would be no problem, and they could send the truck over first thing in the morning. All I had to do was stake the septic-tank's location, and the engineer (engineer?) would take care of the rest.
"Stake off where my septic tank is?"
My question to the secretary created a few minutes of silence. "Yes, all you have to do is place a stake over the area of your yard where the septic tank sits."
Not wanting to sound like a total moron, I simply agreed and hung up the phone.
That afternoon, I set out to find my septic tank. Being the intelligent individual I always believed myself to be, I found the pipe leading out of my cellar to where the tank should be. After looking up the codes, I knew that it had to be approximately 10 feet from where the pipe left the foundation.
With measuring tape in hand, I told my wife that finding the septic tank shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
Measuring the distance from the foundation, I proceeded to dig my first hole. I was convinced I'd found the right spot. I even laughed at myself, thinking how panicked I'd felt when I learned that I had to find my own tank.
Two and a half hours later, I finished digging my 25th hole. A gopher should hope to dig as many holes as I did that afternoon. The holes ranged in depth from 4 feet to halfway to China. I ended up digging a trench around the corner of my house, hoping to at least find the pipe that led to the now obviously invisible tank.
I couldn't even find the pipe. Did my septic tank exist? And if it did, was it 10 or 12 feet down in the earth? A couple of times I thought I'd found the tank. As I was lying face down in the dirt with my head stuck in one of my many holes, I could hear my shovel hit something hard. "Yes!" I screamed, thinking that my task was finally complete.
I began to dig furiously, only to find that I had severed another root that led to my soon-to-be-dying blue spruce.
My wife screamed from the top of the porch to see if I was still alive. From her angle, it looked as if I'd fallen head first into one of my many holes. Sweat poured over my glasses as I tried to scrape out the dirt, which I prayed covered the lost tank.
AFTER my third hour of digging, I decided to surrender and call the man who had originally built my house. Maybe he could remember where the tank was. The conversation I had with him must have sounded stranger than the digging itself. He couldn't understand how, after living in the house for more than 12 years, I had no idea where the tank was.
It was obvious that he had to view the damage I had done to my yard. He agreed to come over to help me find the missing septic tank. Because he was an old down-easter, he wasn't known to do a lot of smiling. But after viewing my work, he destroyed that reputation forever.
"You had the right idea," he chuckled, trying not to embarrass me too much, "but you went in the wrong direction."
He then took a long pole that he had brought with him and proceeded to push it into the ground in a direction opposite from the holes I had dug. Within minutes he'd found the tank, and thanked me for making his weekend.
I can't say for certain, but I thought I heard him roar with laughter as he was backing his truck out of my driveway.
It's been a few weeks since the search for my septic tank occurred. But now that I have a map in my desk drawer designating its location, I know such events will never occur again.
Or did I place the map in one of the kitchen drawers?