Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Things that go pump in the night



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Cariboo Time is a bit like Caribbean Time except that nobody around here says mañana and a cold Molson or twelve is preferred to cute rum drinks with slices of fruit and colourful umbrellas. If a qualified Cariboo fix it guy says he’ll be at your place on Tuesday at 9 a.m., you can set your clock by it. And then you can watch your clock zoom right past it without a sign of the guy for, very likely, several days, after which time he’ll call you up and tell you "something" came up. He may or may not choose to reschedule but by then Guy DIY rule three has probably kicked in which reads, in part: Things left unattended go from bad to worse, requiring a whole new set of skills you can’t hire for love or money to fix.

I have, therefore, become reluctantly more skilled and knowledgeable about my septic system over the past few summers than I ever dreamed I would, or had any desire to, become. It is not by accident the word septic itself means "to make putrid."

However, you’ll be extremely happy, especially if you’re eating right now, to read my septic system is working quite nicely these days. My current descent into DIY hell involves the supply side: water.

The domestic water supply at Smilin’ Dog Manor comes straight from the sparkling waters of Sulfuric Lake, a fact generally greeted by guests with an uncomfortable smile and a search for signs of bottled water. The contraption by which water goes from lake to tap resembles nothing so much as a still put together by a bootlegger with no working knowledge of plumbing. Pipes of black plastic, clear reinforced rubber, painted metal of unknown pedigree, copper and, if I’m not mistaken, stainless steel, crisscross each other in a design reminiscent of the screensaver that comes with Windows, the one where tubes start running amok across your screen, bending and twisting every which way until they fill it up entirely only to start over again.

And those are just the ones I can see.

Other pipes disappear through the basement floor, run somewhere under the well-tended flower beds between house and lake, emerge from the mud some 20 feet from shore, run another 70 feet or so through aquatic weeds and end in a contraption tethered to a float and suspended halfway between lakebed and surface. When all goes well, a pump – I immediately recognized this device – fires up, sucks water from the lake, serpentines it through all the crisscrossing pipes, fills a bladder in a pressurized metal tank and then shuts itself off until the pressure drops below a certain minimum, at which point it starts the entire cycle again.