Friday, February 11, 2011

I Found My Sewer

I found my sewer -- I can back to writing now.

For the past several weeks most of the time that I would normally have spent hunched over my Mac keyboard, pounding out whatever it is that I am pounding out now, has been consumed in a less than satisfying orgy of ice chopping and snow shoveling -- interrupted only by cups of hot tea and short daytime naps.

Our part of the country has been socked with its worst ever - in terms of inches of snowfall - ever. The good news - for those of us who love the look of pristine, white, frozen precipitation - was that there was a lot of it. That's because - and this is also the bad news - whenever the snowplows threatened to turn our smooth snow-globe landscape into jagged mountains of gray frozen slush, Mother Nature redecorated. And thereby afforded Mars and me the opportunity to spend several more hours out in the snow-scape -- reshaping M.N.'s exterior design scheme with our own idea of how the snow on our property should be arranged.

We live on a three-way suburban street corner with a one-car driveway and a sidewalk along the two street-facing sides of our property. Each snowstorm (and I've actually lost track of how many there were) was at least six inches deep. At most I remember, three days between them. We also received, at the end of our driveway and around the bend onto our sidewalk, the street's-worth of slush that the town plows accumulated in their travels -- several times, each storm. And somewhere beneath that dogleg iceberg was my sewer.

It's actually not "my" sewer. It technically belongs to the town and to the metropolitan water district that services our burg. But based on the number of hours of one-on-one quality time that I have spent with that metal-grated hole in the road - it is mine.

I never intended to become the neighborhood sewer rat when Mars and I purchased this property. In fact it was a job opportunity that I didn't even know existed. But over time even someone as unobservant as me could not help but notice that many times when the sewers were called into action to do what they do -- they couldn't. In the warmer months they became clogged with leaves. In the winter they disappeared under walls of ice. At first I expected someone in uniform to show up and resolve the problem. They didn't. In fact, during snow situations, they created the problem, and then over time, made it even worse.

I was at home during our town's 2009 tornado when the rain poured down, the wind blew, the power went out, and the intersection in front of our house flooded. The depth of the standing road water allowed safe passage only to high-riding SUVs. Smaller cars wisely turned back. I knew immediately what the problem was, and as I went outside to clean the catch basins I looked forward to the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes from saving the world from certain disaster with minimal labor.

As I stood ankle-deep and hands-plunged in the rapidly rising water, I wondered -- did I really want to leave this life as a result of being welded to a municipal drainage conduit by an errant bolt of lightning? On the other hand it would make a pretty entertaining story for someone else to tell. But, since I did not get fused in place and the passageway did get cleared, I guess I and my other neighbors who came out did the right thing. Despite the drama, the rescue effort took less than five minutes.

But most of the real work happens during the winter. In a normal year the volume and frequency of snow is low enough to allow me the time and energy to shovel out my sewer after I finish my sidewalks and driveway - before the snow freezes to a degree of hardness impervious to any human effort to dislodge it. And so it was for the first two or three (who can remember?) of this season's white tempests. But the most recent wave of atmospheric chaos kept coming too fast and too frequently -- and then, that quickly, my sewer was gone, buried under at least four feet of rock-hard slush rubble. Since then we have been in a week long snow drought.

It took five days of intermittent chopping and shoveling - plus the help of the natural sunlight which, even in below freezing temperatures, softened the topmost snow enough to allow daily progress. Now, even though there is still a small obdurate bump of solid ice in front of the catch basin, any running water that finds its way onto our roadway will have a way to leave.

The feeling of accomplishment has returned -- although unfortunately not in proportion to the effort expended. But at least I can now go back to my literary efforts. As soon that is as I am able lift my arms up to keyboard height again.

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