the septic tank story

March 25, 2009

Telling this story is oddly a bit recursive to me. See, Sunday I was teaching a class about teaching classes, and in the part where I mention that to properly prepare for teaching, one should be constantly writing down ideas, like Seinfeld when he wakes up in the middle of the night to write down a funny idea but in the morning can’t figure out what he wrote down, I told the class about how I write blog ideas in my iPhone, and I even highlighted how the other day Brad told me that I should tell the septic tank story.

I’m sure none of you have noticed that I have trouble getting to the point. I tend to write mostly to amuse myself, and I’m easily amused. I apologize if you have the attention span of, say, Brad, and can only read one paragraph a day. Hi Brad!

So now, of course, I have to tell the septic tank story. In my own, rambling way. If you want to just cut to the chase, here it is: we had a septic tank once, it was gross, got clogged up, and was fixed in a way that was even grosser. Now be free, go browse on It’s generally awesome.

A year or so after Kim and I got married, we rented a tiny, weather-beaten, crappy old house in the Provo riverbottoms. The riverbottoms were and are generally a pretty swanky area, but like many swanky areas, the riverbottoms have their old dirt farmer holdouts. Our little pink house (yes, really, it was pink) sat in a weed infested, dirt driveway lot amongst several million dollar McMansions.

On the south side of the house lived some other holdouts who had a horse and a whole bunch of geese. I had never before, nor have I since heard of or seen anybody who kept a few dozen geese as if they were chickens. And, it turns out, I have a story about how a few of those geese had their spectacular geese lives cut tragically short.

But not today. Today I’m talking about the septic tank.

On the other side of the house our “yard” abutted the horse pasture that served as the front yard of a beautiful McMansion.

In our pink house, the furnace was really just a space heater jammed into the wall between the kitchen and the front room, except it wasn’t quiet like space heater–rather, it was quiet like a monster truck show.

Anyway, my point is, the facilities were, to say the least, sub-standard. For example, instead of being on the city sewer system, our house was old enough to be grandfather-claused into legally having a septic tank, even though we lived a stone’s throw from the Provo river.

Like the rest of the stuff in the house, our septic tank was also a bit defective. As in it would back up regularly. We would know this because when we let our Siberian Husky come inside from the back “yard” he would reek of raw sewage. And even though we’re not dogs, and we don’t readily recognize the individual scents in sewage, we had a feeling the sewage was ours.

Because the sewage was filling the back “yard” as it came up through the valves of the septic tank shallowly buried back there.

Of course, we called the landlord. And eventually he came out to take a look. He surveyed the damage, and assured us he would “take care of it.”

We expected him to call the city and get us onto the grid. Or at least to dig up the septic tank and put in a new one.

Instead, he sauntered out to his truck, put on some big rubber boots, some gloves and got a long hose and hauled it back to the tank. He waded into the lake of effluvium, removed the cover to the tank, dropped one end of the hose inside, and grabbed the other end.

“Where?” That’s what you’re asking yourself, right? WHERE would he dump it?

Well, into the small horse pasture next door of course. He simply walked over to the fence, and I kid you not, sucked on the end of the hose for a second to get it started, and siphoned the contents of our septic tank into our neighbor’s yard.

It took over a week for the smell to go away. And our neighbors never said a word. I guess effluvium is effluvium.

Oh Hell, who am I kidding? Effluvium is NOT effluvium. Human effluvium is different. Special. And do you think I can ever get the image of him with his lips around that hose out of my head? NO. No I can’t.

That house is still there. I think it’s gray now.

30 Responses to “the septic tank story”

  1. mark Says:

    Wait, you had a dog?

  2. Annie Says:

    Good grief. That’s about the nastiest thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe your neighbors didn’t freak out!

  3. Chad Says:

    So I had to use the bathroom at one of the local coffee shops near me the other day (blue state coffee, New Haven, CT) and noticed something I had not seen before. I couldnt help but wonder if you, as noticer of all things bathroom related, had run into it and had an opinion. Maybe this is old news but apparently Dyson is making a hand dryer that is significantly more high tech and awesome than run of the mill hand dryers: . I failed to whip out my camera phone and snap a pic, though.

  4. Chad Says:

    oh, and yes, that is awesomely gross.
    I have little experience starting a siphon, but you have to suck the liquid fairly far before it will actually run, right? How many times can you play that game before you get a mouthful of septic nastiness because you waited too long to take your mouth away?

  5. KanyonKris Says:

    OK, I’m back from todaysbigthing.

    Nothing makes a story interesting like human excrement.

    Best american euphemism: honeydipper

  6. Grizzly Adam Says:

    Was your landlord Cousin Eddie?

  7. Rob Says:

    The hose was marked right? Marked which end goes in the mouth and which end goes in the tank right?

  8. VA Biker Says:

    That is an awesome story! In a bad kinda’ way, but very compelling to read. Not the ending I was expecting, but I just wasn’t sure what to expect, either.

    Dude sucking on the end of the garden hose to “empty” the tank was but a minor fix. That can only last so long, as I doubt the fluid was the problem…

    I’ve had a grandfather-claused in septic tank for some 13yrs with zero problems. Lord, I hope no problems like this arise.

  9. zeph Says:

    wait…does that then qualify as OUT one end, IN the other.


  10. Eric Says:

    We rented a shack, it looked like a cabin on the internet listing, when on vacation in Colorado one year. Whenever you flushed the toilet, there were 5 of us, it went into the septic tank and overfowed out the vent, or whatever it was. It flowed down the driveway and puddled up in this one spot. You either had to tramp through the rocky woods to get to the truck, or jump over this puddle of nastiness in the driveway to get out. The renter was some mountain climber stud. I know this because he had pictures, and an ice axe, hung up all over the shack advertizing his exploits. I was fed up with the nastiness, had no tools of my own, so I took the ice axe off the wall and dug a trench routing the nastiness to the side of the driveway and down the hill. When I was done, I rubbed the axe in some dirt to clean it off and hung it back on the wall. Ended up, I’m glad he was a mountain climber.

  11. MOCougFan Says:

    Dug… did he get his mouth off the hose IN TIME?!!!

  12. Reading that story was like watching a train wreck happen. Nice work, I’m still grossed out.

  13. Jenny-Jenny Says:

    Just gotta say…this is your best poop story yet.

  14. bikemike Says:

    Cormac Mccarthy couldn’t have said it better.

    • dug Says:

      bikemike, you are a true flatterer. by the way, i’m halfway through blood meridian. it took a little longer to grab me, but it’s the same powerful prose. i wonder if he talks to his kids that way.

      • bikemike Says:

        yep, i’m almost finished with all the pretty horses…real slow start but now it’s got me hooked and i almost pulled an Ian and called in sick/late for work today to finish it.
        can’t wait to get the next one.

  15. Rick S. Says:

    yeah but I bet you had the greenest grass on the street. You should have planted all kinds of fruit trees and crops. Human, the special kind, of poo would probably produce a World record apple.

  16. Jonnie J Says:

    Dug – Great story! How many of these little nuggets (pardon the pun) do you have tucked away? Your poop stories never get old.

    • dug Says:

      jon, six, i have six more.

      actually, almost every day i think i’m totally out of material, and then i remember another one. i guess i’m like tommy m. but you know, without the “helping people” angle.

  17. Simón Says:

    This is a good, albeit gross, story. Thanks for sharing, I guess. How exactly would you work it in a church lesson? Would the septic tank represent the ether world, and the effluvium represent those at the bottom of the seventh circle of hell?

  18. dug Says:

    simon, i didn’t talk about either the tank OR the effluvium. the class was about teaching, not dante. and the point was, when you have a useful idea, WRITE IT DOWN, because otherwise, when it’s time to USE the material, you’ll just sit there scratching your head.

  19. g Says:

    I want the goose story!

  20. steveA Says:

    I guess Brad didn’t get to read your “hi Brad” since you wrote it in the second paragraph! I remember that house!! Great country appeal for … never mind. Having started some siphoning in the past I get a little upchuck feeling just knowing at some point your landlord failed to recognize when to stop sucking or grabbed the wrong end of the hose, he had to learn somehow. And yet, he obviously kept doing it. What was that dog’s name? He had the coldest blue eyes, almost evil, I have ever seen.

  21. Jeff Says:

    Even if he didn’t get any liquid…I mean the gases had to have a distinctive flavor…maybe that’s when he knew to pull his mouth away?

    I guess I won’t be finishing this chocolate brownie Clif bar, now…

  22. hp Says:

    Do the Darwin Awards have a Landlord Category?

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