No, I’m not planning to wow you with my scatalogical humor. This post is, quite seriously, about those wonderful people who deal with poop on a daily basis, and the great sense of humor they all seem to maintain. I’m talking about plumbers and pumpers.
This all starts with a lot of boring back-story. Rather than put you to sleep, I’ll skip most of it and say that for the last fifteen years or so we’ve lived on either septic or cesspool systems, and because some of them have had more than their fair share of problems, we’ve had ample opportunity to get to know the pumpers and plumbers in our area.
Pumpers and plumbers deal with poop on a daily basis. It’s smelly, it’s messy, and according to one pumper it means they have to get a bunch of shots each year that other people don’t have to get. Personally, I rank pumpers and plumbers up there with the super-human hero types. I’m serious about that last part. Look at it this way: When you were a kid, did you ever play the “what would you do for a?” game? It goes something like this:
Kid 1: “What do you really want, more than anything else in the world?”
Kid 2: [Stereotypical Girl] “A pony!” [Stereotypical Boy] “A BB gun!” [Me] “A rocket that’ll take me to the mooooon!”
Kid 1: “What would you do to get it?”
Kid 2: “I don’t know…”
Kid 1: “Would you… dig your way through a pile of pooooop?! Hahahahahaha!”
Kid 2: “EWWWWWW!”
See? Fun game. It can even be played as a three-way:
Kid 3: “I’d dig my way through a pile of poop if you paid me enough.”
Kid 2: “Really? How much!?!”
Kid 1: “No fair! You’re supposed to dig through your own poop, not pay some other kid!”
Kid 3: “Don’t worry. I’ll send you a bill. Now where’s the poop?”
That third kid is likely to grow up to be a pumper or a plumber. And thank goodness that third kid exists! ‘Cause let me tell ya, I’d give up the pony and the bb-gun and the rocket to the mooooon so long as when I flush the pot everything goes down. And yeah, I’m willing to pay that third kid a lot of money to make sure that happens. It’s worth every penny.
Even when you’re kids, that third kid is great to have as a friend. They’re brave! They’re daring! And not one day goes by that they’re not fun to be around because something cool is going to happen. As adults, it’s even better to have one as a friend because, let’s face it, they’ll keep you out of the poop.
I’m convinced that humor is an essential part of the job. Without it, I can’t see how you’d survive the daily grind. Besides, without exception I’ve had a great time talking to every pumper I’ve ever met. And now that I’ve been dealing a little more with plumbers, I have to add them to that list. Every single one has had a great sense of humor. And every single one has been a blast to talk to.
My favorite pumper story comes from the first time I ever had to get a system pumped. We were living in Texas. It was Christmas Eve, if you can believe it, and both toilets in the house backed up. This was our first septic system, so we didn’t even know who to call. We called a plumber, who referred us to a pumper. On Christmas Eve? No way!
Yes way. About an hour later the guy showed up with a ginormous truck. He had to show me how to dig up the access port on the system, but in no time he had his truck sucking the tank dry.
It was cold, but he was laughing, smiling, and telling funny stories. Sure, I could’ve hidden in the house to stay warm, dry, and un-smelly. But come on! What a rare opportunity to learn about another trade! So I stuck it out and talked to the guy.
Part way through he realized there was a prophylactic floating in the tank. “Um, sir? You know you’re not supposed to flush those things.”
I looked down and saw it. “We don’t. Not that I know of, anyway. And I figured I’d know, right?” Har har… Yeah, don’t try to match poop humor with a pumper. They’re better at it.
An uncomfortable silence settled over the two of us. Eventually he asked, “Um, did you just buy this place or something?”
“Yeah, like six months ago.”
“Oooooh!” A big smile lit up his face. “That explains it. Probably the previous owners. But be sure not to do that. It’ll plug your leech field. That happens? I have to come out and flush the field.”
“You don’t wanna know.”
This time the silence was more companionable.
“You know,” he said, “One of the most uncomfortable jobs I’ve ever done was this preacher’s house. I open it up, and there’s a condom floating in the tank. I brought the guy over and showed it to him, and I told him the same thing I told you. You shouldn’t flush these things.”
“Mmm…” I said, not really seeing where this was going.
“Then the weirdest thing happened,” he said. “The guy just storms off! And I was like, well what did I say? Then he storms back out of the house, dragging his teenage daughter by the arm. The guy shoves her face down toward the tank and starts yelling at her about, ‘Look what you’ve done? What have you been doing behind my back?’ and all like that. And here I am pumping their poop. I mean, I can’t leave or anything to give them space. I just kinda had to stand there and hold the hose and act all casual while the guy reams his daughter out. Hey! Don’t mind me! Just a bystander, pumping your poop. Man! You talk about uncomfortable!”
I felt awful for the minister’s daughter, but I had to laugh in spite of myself. “Hey, at least she was using protection!” I said.
“I know!” he replied. “But it’s not like I was gonna say that to a minister right then!”
After he was done he cleaned his equipment, loaded his truck, and handed me a bill. It was a couple of months worth of car payment. More than I’d spent on all the presents we’d bought that year. And you know what? It didn’t look bad at all! As the guy climbed into his truck he leaned out and said, “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” I replied. And I meant it.