THE CONTRIVANCE



It started on Wednesday night. I flushed the dunny and the bowl filled up to within an inch of the top. The water level went down very slowly. A chicky had been staying with us all week. She'd been doing work experience at Liz's shop. "Elise has been using too much paper." Liz said. "This always happens when there are visitors. Bert and I knew how to fix it. You open the inspection hole outside and poke a bit of wire down the pipe. There is a piece of wire in the garden with a hook on one end. You poke that down and pull bits of paper out." Bert was Liz's previous fella, and I didn't like to be told that I didn't measure up in comparison.

 

This didn't appeal to me at all. "How long since the tank's been desludged?", I asked.

In the morning, we got up early to inspect the equipment outside, under the dunny window. I got a spanner and tried to undo the bolts holding the inspection cover. The whole thing was all rusted up. When I got the cover off, you could see that things weren't flowing along well down there at all.

I climbed up the stone wall to the concrete slab that covered the inspection hole over the septic tank. The previous owner had wanted to build up the garden about a metre above the tank. He had built a brick pit over the inspection opening, built his stone wall, and then filled the space with earth.



I looked down into the brick pit at the septic tank below. The surface of the doings had a crust on it that looked so solid that it could have formed the foundations for the new Parliament House. "Needs to be desludged", I said.

I clambered down off the stone wall. "Look at that inspection opening", I said. "How could Bert have left it like that?" "Don't you complain about Bert", said Liz. "At least he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. He was prepared to get a piece of wire and clear the blockage."

I went inside and phoned a septic tank desludging crowd. Yes, they could do it today, as long as I put a cheque for $140 in the meter box. I wrote out a cheque and put it in a recycled envelope. I put the envelope in the meter box, and then went to the kitchen and got two bottles of beer, and put them on top of the envelope. "That'll fix it." I told Liz, and went off to work.

I rang Liz later that day. "Dunny all right?" "No it's not. The man hasn't come, and now the water level in the bowl doesn't go down at all." Liz wasn't happy. I had a good crap before I left work. This would have to last until I got to work on Friday.

That night, we didn't talk about it much, but the subject of the blocked dunny hung over us like a black mist.

The next afternoon, I rang Liz again. "Yes he's been. The beer's gone." When I got home I went straight 'round the side to inspect the job. The rusty inspection cover lay on the path where I had left it on Wednesday morning. Oh Well! I suppose you couldn't expect the desludger man to put that back. That's plumber's work. You'd have a demarcation dispute. I bolted it back on. Liz was inside. I yelled to her to flush the dunny. She did, and water squirted out all around the edge of the inspection opening.

You'll be able to use the dunny in the morning, when I've fixed the inspection cover." I told Liz and Anna. "How could Bert have left it like that?"

In the morning, I removed the inspection cover and put it in a bucket. I jumped in the car and drove to Burden's Plumbing Supplies in Ringwood. At the counter, I was served by Steve.

I asked Steve if he had a rubber gasket to fit the cast iron doo-dad in the bucket. "Don't pick it up!" I said as he picked it up. "Why not?" he said. "Because it's got shit all over it" I explained. "Now you'll have to wash your hands". He didn't know of any gasket. Funny about Steve, I thought, but he is Russell's brother, and Russell owns the business. Steve haunts the counter on Saturday mornings.

Steve called Russell over. Russell came and looked into the bucket. "Don't pick it up", I said as he picked it up. "Why not?" he said. "Because it's got shit all over it" I explained. "Now you'll have to wash your hands".

Russell didn't have a gasket, but he had some sheet rubber. Russell was in the rubber business. Perhaps plumbing supplies was just a sideline. He said that I could have some as long as I promised not to bring things with shit all over them into his shop ever again.

Next stop "All Tools". A three eighths inch BSW plug tap and one of those knives that you snap the end of the blade off when they get blunt. $24.00 poorer. Then to a "Shell Shop". One bottle of Pine-O-Clean.

Then to Anne Warren's place. I own a four inch angle grinder. I have been keeping this in Anne's garage as she let me put the Land Rover roof rack in there about a year ago to do some work on it. If I leave the grinder there, it helps create the appearance that the roof rack job is "in progress". I need the grinder, so we can't worry about appearances today.

I got home, soaked the inspection cover and the bolts in Pine-O-Clean and set to work with the grinder to remove the rust and make the cover serviceable again. I got out the long extension cord, and ground the rust and goop off the cast iron pipe at the back of the dunny as well. I cut out some gaskets with the knife that you snap the end of the blade off when it gets blunt.

I was surprised to find that my tap holder was exactly where it was supposed to be, and the tap I had just bought, fitted it. This was too easy. A clear sign that something diabolical was to go wrong later. As I was using the tap to clear the threads in the bolt holes for the inspection cover, Liz came past with my daughter, Anna. I took the opportunity to give them a short talk on the process of tapping. The dunny might not be completely together again yet, but at least I could create the impression that I knew something that they didn't about something that you had to know about if you wanted your dunny to work properly. The women were not impressed. Women always prefer men who know nothing technical.

Anna asked if she could use the dunny. "Yes, provided you don't flush it.", I said. I continued to tap the holes whilst Liz stayed to make sure I didn't stuff anything up. Anna finished in the dunny and absent-mindedly pressed the flush button. It all came out the inspection hole, all over me. "I'm sorry, Daddy", she said.

After a wash, I sperted the inspection cover with some pressure pack tar-paint that I found in the garage amongst Bert's stuff. This job had already got out of hand, but it was being brought to a finale now, so might as well make a good job of it. Anyway, Bert was the one who left the inspection cover in an unserviceable state, and Bert was the one who created a precedent by fooling around with a piece of wire in a pipe full of shit, so why not use his paint?

After a token time for the tar-paint to dry, I bolted the inspection cover on with the two rubber gaskets I had made. The bolts slipped into the freshly tapped holes as if they were greased, which was good because I'd gone to a lot of trouble finding my tin of grease just to get that effect. The whole thing was a joy to behold. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Who had ever seen a dunny inspection cover installation like this?

I rushed inside. I was going to be the first to flush the dunny. It had been almost a whole day's work, but it would be worth it to see the water gushing down the "S" trap to meet its destiny in the freshly desludged tank.

I flushed the dunny and the bowl filled up to within an inch of the top. The water level didn't go down at all. Liz burst into tears. "I said you had to pick the paper out with a piece of wire." she sobbed. "Why don't you ever listen to me?"

Isn't it funny how some little thing can spoil your whole day? So far this business had spoiled half a week, and it didn't look nearly ready to give up yet. I went to bed grumpy. It was just as well I didn't go to bed in a romantic mood, because all normal expectations for a happy life were "on hold".

Liz woke me in the morning. "When we were first together," she said, "you used to get up much earlier than this. Come on. Face up to it. Now we have to pick the blockage out with a piece of wire."

"The previous owner had no right to build the garden up over the tank like that.", I said. "There is an inspection hole at the inlet to the tank that we just can't get to."

"I know all about this. You need to use a piece of wire.", said Liz.

"I know all about it." I said. "I had this trouble up at my parent's place once, and I rang John Scholes. He's a shit expert. Works at the Dandenong Valley Authority."

Liz flung the front door open and rushed out in her dressing gown to where the inspection hole cover installation had looked so lovely just the night before. I unbolted the cover. Liz started fishing for whatever she could find down the pipe with a piece of wire. She worked at it with a fury. Each time she pulled the wire from the hole it sprang out and flicked whatever was clinging to it, all over the place. This was no place to hang around. I was in disgrace, however, and it was part of my penance to stand there and give my full attention to the lesson.

The wire flicking process was not up to the task, although failure was not due to any lack of energy on Liz's part. Not only had she been denied the benefits of a job promptly and effectively done, but she now had been denied the pleasure of showing me just how easily I could have fixed it if I had only listened. She was not pleased. She and I had a look down the brick inspection pit. The desludger man had knocked one of the bricks from the top of the pit into the tank. "I shouldn't have given him that beer." I said.

Liz went off to work, but the dark cloud, that had seemed to have centred itself on her, stayed with me. I washed my hands several times. For one of the rinses, I used Pine-O-Clean. My hands still didn't seem clean enough to get breakfast with.

I drove off, planning to pay the local plumber a fortune to get me out of the shit. As I drove up his street, I remembered the last time I got him to do a job for me. He stuffed it up, and it took me months to get it right. Remembering this, I did a U turn and headed for Warrandyte Hiring. Perhaps they would have something that I could hire that would fix it all up.

Closed.

Off to McEwans. Perhaps I could think of something I could buy that would solve the problem. I wandered around McEwans for a while. Gradually an idea crystallised. I bought a plumber's mate, one of those suction cup things on a stick that you place over the plug hole and joggle up and down. Then I went back to Burdens for a collection of plumbing fittings. I had a plan to force the blockage out with water pressure. Thirty five bucks, and off back towards Warrandyte.

Now, should I drop in to the shop to tell Liz about my plan? Women always prefer men who know nothing technical. Their second preference is for men who know some technical things, but keep it to themselves. Such men might do something every now and again with their technical knowledge, but it will hardly be noticeable. Projects undertaken by them always materialise in a completely finished state. Nothing ever goes through a partly finished stage for them.

Third come men who might let their technical side show, but only when it manifestly brings great benefit to the women folk.

Men who are technical with no apparent good reason or justification are intolerable.

Thus one must take great care in deciding whether to show a woman anything more technical than an icy pole stick. If a woman is shown anything so complicated as a pair of icy pole sticks, and is induced into making some positive noise or other, she knows that she will be accused of endorsing, or even specifying the plan when it turns out to be a disaster.

On the other hand, if there is going to be a disaster, it is better to get a supplementary pass for effort, than to be accused of not applying what little ability one has.

I decided to show Liz my goodies and tell her of my plan. I showed her how the plumbing fittings could be connected to the rubber cup from the plumber's mate and how the whole thing might be able to block and pressurise the sewer. "What is this?" she asked pointing to a threaded piece of brass pipe. "Continuous nipple", I answered. "You know," Liz said, "this thing must really be affecting me. It is even affecting my hearing. Just then I thought I heard you say 'Continuous nipple'!"

I bought lunch for her. She tried to thank me profusely, but I rushed out before she could. No good letting her discharge her obligation that easily. If the plan didn't work, I knew the only thing I would have going for me that night would be that lunch.

I drove to John and Alison's. Alison saw me coming from the verandah. "Watch out John!", she yelled. "Richard is coming around to borrow something again." John stood by the door to his workshop. He wanted to get on with his stone wall 'round the back, but if he had to lend out another of his hard earned possessions, he had better get it over with.

I thought that I should make some conversation before putting the hard word on John for the tool I wanted. "I own a die grinder.", I started out. "I lent it to a bloke named Merv Daniels. He did some work on my Land Rover. I went 'round to his place in Mitcham, where he lives with his dog named Silvie. Some people joke about his relationship with Silvie, but it's impossible for there to be any hanky panky. She's so ugly. I think she must be a cross between a bull terrier and a wart-hog. I took Rex 'round there. (Rex is my son's dog.) He jumped out of the car and ran up behind Silvie and sniffed her bum. Then she turned around and he saw her face. He let out a yelp and jumped back into the car.

Merv's got a lathe. I didn't try to touch it, but he let me look at it! Anyway Merv's a good bloke, and he wanted a die grinder for some job on a motor bike. This is why I havn't got my die grinder. Have you got a little grinding stone that would go in the drill?"

John got out the perfect thing. "I might as well do it here.", I said. I used the stone to enlarge the hole in the rubber cup from the plumber's mate where the handle had been. I took the hole right through to the inside of the cup, installed the continuous nipple, and put the hose fitting on the end. John was impressed but perplexed. "What a contrivance!" he said. "Thanks John" I said, and was off.

Back at home, I fitted the contrivance to the hose, stationed Anna at the garden tap, and thrust the rubber cup through the inspection opening and down the sewer pipe. "On full blast, Anna!" I yelled.

The rush of water compressed the air down there. It was all I could do to hold the contrivance in there against the pressure. Then suddenly, "Whoosh!" a cubic foot of shit and dunny paper blasted into the septic tank. (There might be a design for a weapon for use in the council chamber gallery here.)

It had worked! I repeated the magnificent installation of the inspection cover with the two gaskets I had made. The bolts still slipped into the freshly tapped holes as if they were greased. I rushed inside. I pressed the button. It worked! The water flowed as if drawn by magnetism towards its goal. Nature abhors a vacuum, and flushing dunnies abhor an empty septic tank.

I rang John and thanked him. Then I rang Liz with the good news. Liz will be mine tonight!