Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Pipe dreams and plumbing nightmares



By G.D. Maxwell

Cariboo Kottage – we’re still searching for a name – is not exactly rustic. The road leading to it is paved, the last stretch of gravel having been blacktopped between the time we bought it and the time we first arrived to enjoy its waters and wonder what in the world made us think buying it was a good idea in the first place.

It has indoor plumbing for which I am grateful. Several nearby cottages do not, including at least one I know of that is occupied more or less full time. I cannot imagine being Canadian enough or hearty enough to do the Outhouse Trot in the depths of Cariboo winter, a season the oldtimers assure me has become almost as mild as Southern California – they’re all liars – but which regularly dips down into the minus thirties. I would also be surprised to find everyone in Southern California has snowblowers.

The house is plumbed for water as well. Either that or the entire place is an elaborate whiskey still. I’m not sure. A large black pipe – actually two large black pipes – bring water from the ice cold depths of Sulfuric Lake to a malevolent Sears pump in the corner of the basement. The pump fills up something that looks strangely like a mash kettle. I think it’s the pressure tank. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Pipes go every which way. Some double back on themselves, some just suddenly end. Some go to faucets that look like they belong out in the garden, some go to faucets that just frankly make no sense at all unless one were to stick a bucket under them and catch dripping moonshine.

One pipe goes to a water heater that breathes fire every time it comes on. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be that entertaining but there’s nothing nearby to ignite and what the hell, it’s full of water anyway so why worry.

Upstream of the dragon water heater is a filter. The filter is a much greater cause for concern than is the predictable jet of flame licking my ankles if I stand in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sulfuric Lake is either azure blue or Caribbean green, depending on which way the light hits it. Floating away from its shores, you can clearly see the bottom for quite some distance and depth. I can easily see the refracted, distorted spot where the big black pipes bringing water to my still, er, house end. The water is, in a word, crystal clear. Okay, two words.

The filter just before the dragon, however, looks like it is either filtering oil from a Chevy badly in need of a valve job or frenchfry grease from McDonald’s. "Yuck, what’s all that... that... yuck," as my Perfect Partner so lucidly described it the first time she saw the filter.