Saturday, July 24, 2010

Voyage of the Poo Sucker

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I don’t have any pictures to go with this post.  You will thank me later, I expect.

My son has a job.  It’s one of those jobs that you talk about when you are older and you’re trying to tell your kids that life was harder “back then”.  In my son’s case, he will probably, hopefully, be right.

My son’s company does, among other things, waste removal.  For most of the summer my son does Catch Basins, or “CBs”  .  A pumper truck, loaded with 1 driver and 1 labourer, drives the local streets, stops at storm drains, and the labourer (my son) gets out,  lifts the grate off the hole and then  uses a remote control to position a boom (small crane) over the hole, lowers a hose, and sucks out the sand and silt.  The truck carries a tank for waste and another tank holding water used to flush things out.I think my son enjoyed the job for the first hour of the first day last summer; after that, not so much.  However he has stuck with it, and is still at it while he figures out what he wants to do with the rest of his life.  In the meantime, he has to set his own alarm, get his 19-year-old self up very early, make his own lunch, and be at the truck yard by a certain time each day.  As parents, this delights us to no end: valuable skills that will  stand him in good stead the rest of his life!

Some days our son doesn’t do CB’s.  Instead, he does laser cutting (digging holes for construction using concentrated beams of water that can “cut your arm off!” if you don’t watch what you’re doing).

Other days he works at cleaning out septic tanks and/or pit toilets.  Everywhere there is a basin and a substance that fills it, my son may be required to empty it out.  As he says, “It’s a SH***Y job, but someone has to do it.”

Yesterday was a pit toilet day.   For my more genteel readers: a pit toilet is an outdoor toilet positioned over a large hole.  One uses these at campgrounds and public places not connected to the sewer system.  If you’ve ever used one of these and wondered, “What happens when it fills up?” (and who hasn’t  sat there and pondered this while listening for the distant splash or plop), now you know.  It gets sucked out!

The community of Pemberton is located a few miles north of Whistler BC, home of the some of the events of the 2010 Olympics.  To get there, one must travel the beautiful Sea-to-Sky highway for 2-3 hours.  The road is winding, the scenery breathtaking.  The destination, in this case, not so lovely.  Somewhere in Pemberton six pit toilets are filled to capacity, brimming with a pungent primordial soup.    The two men locate the toilets and start to work.  The driver positions the truck, my son inserts the hose and the truck pumps it all into the holding tanks. Everything is as hunky-dory as it can possibly be in such absurd and smelly circumstances.  The truck is now full, and the two men set off for home. 

Purveyors of poo, exporters of excrement, these shippers of sh** sail down the Sea-to-Sky highway at a jaunty clip!  Talk turns to the weekend ahead and a pleasant drive continues until the frantic honking of horrified passers-by alerts the men to a problem.

The twisty road has set the boom a swinging, and this swinging boom has bumped a cap on the holding tank.  The cap has parted company with the holding tank, apparently some miles back up the road.  The result is an excremental exodus.  A trail of breadcrumbs this is not.  Pulling the truck over has mixed results. My son runs to the back of the truck to survey the damage.  What was formerly a steamy stream has now turned into a powerful pile of poo. A muddy mountain, if you will.

“How much poo?,” I interrupt breathlessly.

“Oh, bigger than dad’s Honda civic!”, say my son. “More sh** than I’ve ever seen in my life.”

A few million of my brain cells explode at this spectacle, but I urge him to go on.  He continues with the story:  apparently there is a valve inside the vomiting exit port, which is controlled at the truck’s dashboard.  “Shut off the effing valve”, my son yells at the driver, and the valve is shut off  forthwith.  At this point most of the contents of six pit toilets is now percolating at the side of the road just outside the town of Squamish BC (which I shall now ever more think of as “Squeamish” BC, for obvious reasons).

“Was there, er, toilet paper in the pile”, I ask, trying to picture the problem (I am a visual learner, incidentally).

“Oh Mom”, he says, “Toilet paper, tampons, diapers, condoms….”he trails off and his eyes glaze over slightly.  I feel another billion brain cells popping and decide to think about something else.  But I can’t.

“What did you do then?” I ask, wondering about post traumatic stress, if not for him, then maybe for the tourists driving by on the highway. Is there counselling for this type of thing?  What form will their nightmares take?

Fortunately there is a spare cap in the truck. Once the tank dribbles out it’s last, the cap is attached and an eerie silence fills the air. A cricket chirps, oblivious to the load of lava sliding his way.  Driver and labourer look at each other and consider their options. The phrase, “Oh Sh**” comes to mind, but remains unuttered. No point in belabouring the obvious.

There is only one option.  The driver flips a switch.  My boy manoeuvres the boom, lowers the hose, and a fresh round of poo-sucking begins.  “It’s different when you can actually SEE what’s happening”, my son explains. “ It seemed to take forever.”

He sucks up as much of the mess as is possible, and the driver calls the regional district office to explain that there is a stretch of highway where it is best not to stop to change a tire.  They request that a street sweeper truck be sent out.  The regional office dispatcher tells the men that they will take it from there, and my son and the driver once again set off homeward.  They get back to the yard after a 10-hour workday; some of it an easy ride and some of it a hot, stinky lesson in humility.

We don’t normally talk about poo in polite company.  Such talk is reserved for doctors’ exams when we are asked to describe it and encouraged to produce it daily. After that, we don’t discuss it, even though it is something we ALL have in common.

  When people ask my son about his job I don’t know what he tells them, but if and when he moves on, whether it be to a “cleaner” job or to go to acting school (his dream), he will have earned the right to be there.  I’m proud of him, my poo-sucking young man.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Man in the Yellow Shirt - The Great Wall

My husband often wears a yellow t-shirt.  Maybe it's because he has 16 of them. 
This is the story of a backyard, a patio wall, and the man in the yellow shirt.  A story of danger, intrigue, mystery, suspense, courage, shovels, swearing, dirt, the wheel-barrow, the level.  Man vs. the elements.
The taming of one small corner of the planet, a triumph of the human spirit.....a wall going boldly where no wall has gone before...........and the man in the yellow shirt who tamed the dirt, tamed the yard, and ultimately tamed me (well, no, not quite).

First, he dug.  And dug, and dug.  And dug some more.
Over 70 wheel-barrow loads of dirt were removed from this small area.
I don't have a "before" picture, but it was all weeds.  Weeds, I tell you, weeds!

Then he put over 35 loads of stones in, as part of the patio foundation.

Then, he bought and carried all of these Allan blocks to the back yard.  They weigh approx 75 lbs each, and he used about 45 of them. This was the dangerous part.  Danger of dropping block on foot.  The courageous part was me watching him almost drop block on foot.  Repeatedly.
Did I mention swearing?

He carefully places each stone, mindful of my screeching reminding him to use the level.

A purposeful stride to the next block. Thinking "Whose idea was this wall, and when am I going to have some beer?"

These are the caps - about 60 of them were used, at about 30 lbs each.  He had to rent a special saw to cut them for the curved area and other tight spots.

Now some of the previously-removed dirt comes back to fill in the planter areas. this is the intriguing part.  Dirt go away - dirt come back.

He goes to get more dirt.  Things are shaping up.
The photographer is relentless!

Artful stepped planter area: to be filled with stunning greenery.
Bedraggled old greenery to be rearranged/removed.
Money to be spent at nursery; credit card to be further melted.

This is still the old greenery. Not enough form, shape, colour!
It's mostly shady back here, so a few hostas and other shade-lovers are in order, I think.

Another angle.  I love this wall, and plan to praise the man in the yellow shirt daily for the rest of our lives.
Or, until I get distracted.

I think my deck pots need scrubbing.
Oh man in the yellow shirt....another chore for you....
(Just kidding, I'll do it myself)

A final shot of his holy walliness.
We're off to the store to buy some plants.
We'll tackle what to put down as an actual patio some other day.  Now he's talking about putting in a Japanese garden instead of a patio.  We'll see. This is the mysterious part of the story...and the suspense.
Stay tuned for plantings, patio or garden construction, and more stunning images of the man in the yellow shirt!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Flowers - they talk to me...

Howdy!  Mah name's Coral.  Coral Nasturtium.  Ahs a been growin and growin, fit to bustin out all over.
Ahs a bin soakin up that there rain and suckin it right up mah stem, ah have.  Gits so a girl caint suck up no more rain without showin' off her pistils n stamens n such.  Never thought ah'd see the day when ah would open up mah petals just as easy as yuh please, n let all n sundry see mah insides n such.  Ah feels kinda funny bout that. Still, it seems all the uther gals 'round here are doin' it.  Guess ah'm no better nor worse than the rest of'm....

What's that yer sayin? Yuh wants ta friend me on Facebook?  What the hell's Facebook? That one o them naughty sites where gals lift their petals and wave their dad gum pollen around?  No sirree, ah aint a goin' ta expose mahself ta that there cow poop.  ah jest aint that kind a flower.
Mumble, mumble mumble.... 
Now take mah cousin Arleen.  Arleen Fuschia.  Now SHE would do anythin ta git herself some more attention.  Flippin back her petals and stickin her parts way out.  Shameless she is! Shameless!
Go on, ask HER ta go on that there Facebook naughty cow poop site.  Oh Arleeeeeeen.....

What? Whaddya want Coral?  Quit yellin at me - ah'm tryin ta get me a suntan.  Jezebel? Who'r you callin a jezebel?  Why you little nasturtium.....ah hope a little ol slug climbs all over you, ah surely do.

A trade-off

I need to exercise.

I am a bit overweight, and there are a few nasty diseases that run in my family.  This year I turn 50, and the biggest gift I can give to myself is to improve my health.  I have already started to eat better, and am making good, 'tho not perfect, progress on that front.
I know all the great reasons to exercise (here's a partial list), and I know that it IS possible to find an extra 1/2 to 1 hour a day if I really try.  Right now I spend too much time on the computer, and too much time watching TV.  WAY too much.  I love my TV shows, and I love my e-mail friends, and I love the blog world.  BUT, those things are sedentary.
So here's the trade-off: It's time to spend less time on my butt, and more time on my feet!

Are any of you on this same path?  Are you further ahead?  Would you like to join in?  Have you tried and failed/tried and succeeded? Do you find it ironic that I'm blogging about this (as opposed to just doing it?)

I'm not about to turn this into a fitness blog.  It's just a reflection of where I am on my journey...and I'm interested to know where you are on your journey!

Incidentally, if any of you have a story to share, involving slightly chubby, sedentary, 50-year-old women who have managed to get fit, I would really like to hear it.
Come to think of it, any motivational story will do.
Really, anything.