Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

The 5-gallon flush remembered


Here's a modest proposal to keep our politicians and other leaders firmly grounded in real life. Once a year (maybe twice a year for federal Liberals), every minister, MP and MNA, every CEO and captain of industry, should dig up his or her own septic tank.

Ideally, this should be a solitary occupation. A quiet hour or two of hard work and contemplation. Plumbing the depths of the human condition while plumbing the depths of their plumbing.

For who among us can sustain pretensions to superiority while prying open the concrete cistern of a year's efforts? And who, wrestling to unplug the septic entry pipe with a wire snake, can deny the Bible's poignant yet chilling "all flesh is grass"?

But people (being what we are) would soon turn the annual event into a solemn ritual and invest it with trappings of power and grandeur.

The Prime Minister digs live on Newsworld. The chairman of the Bank of Montreal pulls on coveralls of cashmere and digs with an antique silver shovel. A compliant religious leader, wearing purple gum-boots and protective fiberglass miter, blesses the proceedings. While a panel of pundits reflects on past septic tank openings.

Highly paid speech writers burn the midnight oil crafting moving statements for tank-side, judicious mixes of earthy humor and weighty observation. The governor of the Bank of Canada looks up from his pit and declares his drain pipe open to the gathered media and the dollar immediately falls on world markets.

No, the annual cleaning of the septic tank drain pipe must remain a private contemplative act. Self-effacement and humbleness lend themselves too readily to the public relations agendas of the powerful.

And this, too...

Problems with the water that runs both in and out of my house have plagued my summer. But it is truly an ill wind that blows no one good, so here are some helpful hints gleaned from hard won and expensive experience.

1) Major plumbing repairs, like major surgery, require a second opinion. It's small comfort several thousand dollars later knowing that two plumbers agreed that your well needed to be rebuilt, but at that point any comfort whatsoever is deeply appreciated.

2) Buy stocks in the Naya, Labrador, or Perrier water bottling companies. Like me, you could be hauling in fresh water for weeks and you can't believe how much of the stuff you use just for drinking and cooking. Let's not even talk about bathing. And frankly, you can just forget about showers for the whole season.

3) A helpful (and seemingly knowledgeable) plumbing professional may suggest that you add a dose of bleach or chlorine to your well to sanitize it. Here on this high ridge above Hatley, the springs percolate up through some kind of serious iron deposit. A chemist explained to me later what happens at the molecular level when iron meets chlorine in aqueous solution. In laymen's terms, your water turns rust red and stains your clothes, your bath tub and probably your body too, if my coppery good looks this fall are any indication.

4) Adopt a spiritual perspective on your troubles. Keep reminding yourself: My body is made almost entirely of water. I cannot do without it. It is me.

Be the water.

Royal Orr digs up septic tanks in Hatley, Quebec.

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