The opening of this story can be found by clicking here.
Friday – 11:30am
We had been clearing the room for an hour and a half. The sump-pump sucked out the sewage water the night before. All that was left now was a disgusting brown layer of crud on everything a foot and a half high and below. Tommy and Bobby (my brother in-laws) were working the upstairs. Their job was to take salvageable stuff from Matt B. (one of my best friends) and I who were in the poo goo in the basement. My landlord had told me a cleaning company was coming between 3:30pm and 5:30pm and before they arrived everything needed to be out of the basement.
“Whose here?” I yelled back as I stuffed more of my kids’ ruined toys into a black trash bag. I was hoping it was the cleaning crew coming to give me an estimate. That was supposed to happen before 3:30pm.
“A bunch of city workers.” Tommy replied.
“Oh yeah,” I said to Matt with a chuckle. “I forgot I called those guys last night.” I excitedly bounded up the stairs hoping they would be able to shed light on this mystery; or even better, hoping they could keep the last crazy 12 hours from repeating themselves.
“Mr. Akins?” One of them greeted me from the other side of my fence. There were three of them. They stood a least three feet apart from one another. Their posture reminded me of times I had been forced to do visitation with my church in high school. I always lagged back in fear, not wanting to engage, as if the person my group was speaking to might burst into flames at any second and I would need to make a fast get-away.
“It’s Elkins,” I said pleasantly, “Come on down and check out the disaster.” I motioned with my hand for them to follow.
“No sir,” one of them said militantly. She was thin and looked to be in her mid-40’s. She motioned an imaginary line at my fence as she said forcefully, “This is our side of the fence and that is your side of the fence. We handle everything out here. You handle everything back there.”
“Oh, okay.” I was taken back by her tone.
“Why don’t you just tell us why you called us out here. But I can already tell you this is not our fault.”
“Wait? What? How is a geyser of sewage flowing from my toilet not the city’s fault? If it didn’t come from the city sewer system, where did it come from?”
“Sir, where is your clean out?” She replied rolling her eyes. The two men with her fanned out and began looking around the yard.
“What do you mean?”
“Your clean out. Where is your clean out?”
“I don’t know what a clean out is,” I said honestly.
More eye rolling. She pointed down the street. “One of those. Right there.”
I had no idea what she was pointing at. Thankfully Matt came over and showed me the one foot PVC pipe sticking out of the front yard of a house five houses down.
“Oh? Umm, I don’t think we have one of those,” I replied.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so,” she said as she roamed the front yard looking down at the ground as if searching for a four-leaf clover. “Your neighbors don’t have one either. That is why all that stuff came in your house. You don’t have a clean out.” She sounded triumphant, like Holmes declaring the answer to a dark mystery.
“Wait a second,” I said befuddled and frustrated. “So last night it rained and my house filled with sewage and you are now trying to tell me that is all because I don’t have a small pipe sticking out of the ground.”
“That’s right. You need a clean out.”
“What does having a clean out have to do with rain water affecting the sewer system. I thought sewage and rain water ran in different pipes?”
Now I was making her angry. “Listen Sir, this is not our fault. If you had a clean out this wouldn’t have happened. I’m going to get the paper work that explains everything.” With that she started walking to her car.
“Okay thanks,” I called to her.
Now, because she used the word “everything”, I was expecting some massive stack of paper work. Maybe a manual for the magical clean out I didn’t have that would have saved my basement. Or maybe a three page letter entitled “Why Crap Flows Into Idiot’s Basements Who Have No Magic Clean Out.” Or maybe a charmed picture book with a small leprechaun who lived in the pages and could answer in a thick Irish accent any question I asked while he dancing a jig. I imagined his voice would be high-pitched but gruff at the same time. Maybe he would wink at me and say phrases like “Blarney!”
Sadly there was no charmed picture book, no leprechaun, not even a memo. All she handed me was a door hangar. It wasn’t even magic.
“I think ‘everything’ was an exaggeration.” I said with a smile as she handed it to me. She clearly didn’t know what I was talking about, but in times of hopelessness you need to entertain yourself. On the door hanger was the day and time the crew arrived, a brief explanation that they were responding to my phone call, and in chicken scratch the phrase, “Upon request we will return to clean out your clean out or install a clean out.” The guys and I went back to cleaning stuff out. As the city pulled away I hoped I would have a better experience with the cleaners.
To be continued…