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OPINION | GARY SMITH: Hold everything! It goes where when I flush?

Out of my depth as a new septic tank owner by Gary Smith | August 4, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

For most of my life, I've decided a lot of things operate on a "need to know" basis, and, frankly, I don't need to know.

I mean, I vaguely know cars operate on a series of little explosions. I kind of know how a TV works -- electricity. I've got the basics about circuits and transmitters and stuff, which is enough to confirm I don't want to touch any of it.

And most of what I don't really understand all that well (hypersonic flight, photosynthesis, etc.), I just don't really care about all that much about. Or come in contact with in more than a peripheral way. I mean, glad to know it's out there and someone gets it. Maybe just not my thing.

But there is this terrifying subset of stuff I don't understand all that well but I really ought to. Not a small set, by the way, and unfortunately growing daily, much to my discomfort.

For example, I don't really understand how septic systems work. Which is unfortunate, because now I am the proud owner of one.

And I say that facetiously, since if you are proud of your septic system, well, you might consider expanding your horizons a bit.

I've been a big fan of indoor plumbing for a while, likely because as a child I had to visit my grandmother's "farm" (I mean, I guess you could call it a farm. You could call a speed bump Mount Everest if you want. You'd just be wrong) and discovered that, despite the addition of an in-the-house bathroom, she still had an outhouse that hadn't been done away with. And I discovered that, since it was summer in Oklahoma, "out" needed to be "outer." Like, in Texas.

At that point, the idea was formed that, whatever else you may lack, indoor plumbing complete with pipes and sewers and all that stuff, was pretty critical.

So the idea, vaguely formed though it may be, that what was previously handled to my generally blissful ignorance by my city's wastewater disposal system is now being more or less stored in a big underground container in my back yard is pretty terrifying to me.

I mean, is that even legal? I guess it is. Or, if it isn't, maybe I should not ask too many questions.

The challenge for me is that, while I don't really understand septic systems, I feel like there's some level of maintenance I should be doing. Maybe actually even "doing" instead of just thinking about, like I do with air filters and that stuff you're supposed to put in the dishwasher.

However, when I ask actual people with alleged knowledge of how these things work, I get the same feeling I used to get from discussing organized religion with those not particularly well trained in the details – mostly a lot of certainty with no real evidence.

I'm beginning to think of the "you can put food down your garbage disposal" vs. "never put food down your garbage disposal" people like a solid waste version of baptismal sprinklers vs. dunkers.

A side note: My father, who was as affiliated as my mother required him to be, assessed the sprinkle/dunk controversy and told me he was going with dunking. He said if it was dunking and you were sprinkled, you might have a problem, but if it was sprinkling and you were dunked, well, you'd just over-delivered.

But leaving thoughts of the ephemeral aside for contemplation of much baser things, I find myself wondering what exactly I should be doing. Or if I even need to be doing anything at all. I mean, just because something's important doesn't mean it's complicated, right?

Yet, there's that nagging thought that if I'm wrong, I'm going to be, literally and figuratively, in deep ... yeah. Doesn't help that my system comes with all sorts of warning signs and alarms and lights and stuff. I mean, we're dealing in human, not nuclear, waste here.

So I find myself doing the next best thing to actually arming myself with information – namely, nothing except worrying about it, coming up with worst-case scenarios and then getting distracted by something else. I'm not saying that's the best strategy, but it certainly is one.

And perhaps this is a case where ignoring something works, at least until it doesn't. I mean, it's possible I'm overthinking this. These systems may have been idiot-proofed and I'm just the person to demonstrate that.

But if I'm wrong, well, see a previous statement. The one about being in deep ... yeah.

Print Headline: Flush with possibilities


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