Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The most important thing

In the aftermath of disaster, you find yourself needing a lot of stuff.

Things that you used to have that were ruined in the flood. Services that you used to take for granted before they were lost. Papers that you realize in hindsight you should have taken with you. Photographs and mementos that cannot be replaced and are missed more each day.

But here is what I have learned, and it's totally true.

The most important thing you find yourself needing in the aftermath of disaster is a sewer cleanout.


Once your house is flooded, your furniture ruined, almost all your worldly possessions are covered in mold and mildew--what you find yourself wanting more than anything in the world is for FEMA to let you have one of those drab travel trailers.

Ugly, boxy, sterile and white. Many people would give their eyeteeth for one--they're that eager to get one set up on the front lawn of their flooded homes.

I know a lady who went to the FEMA field office at midnight to get in line to sign up for one of those four-cornered beauties. And she was the sixth person in line! She waited there all night as one would camp out to get front-row seats to a Rolling Stones show, except she was trying to get a rolling box.

When FEMA finally called her many days later with good news, they told her what she needed to have her "dream home" installed at her site: electricity, water and sewer service. When these were ready, FEMA would deliver.

No problem, she thought. Her home was only moderately flood-damaged and all the utilities were present and accounted for.


It turns out that in order to make the connection from the travel trailer to the sewer line, the FEMA folks like to tie into your existing sewer cleanout. A quick and efficient connection--if you know where it is. And that's where things started to go down the drain.

My friend had no idea where to find the sewer cleanout.

A travel trailer literally just plugs in to an outlet for electricity, and water comes through a garden hose from the house.

But you've got to dig up that sewer cleanout. You've got to know where it is. You've got to be able to find it and uncover it and run a pipe from the dump-side of the trailer to the inlet side of the sewer.

She dug all around her yard with no success. FEMA soon informed her that if she could not locate the sewer cleanout, they would have to give the trailer, her trailer, to someone else.

My friend never even knew there was such a thing as a sewer cleanout, buried and hidden somewhere under her front lawn. But suddenly, it was the most important thing in the world.

Finally, someone suggested she go to the parish utilities office. They keep records of such things. She said they were very helpful, showed her a map and told her where to dig.


My friend now has her cube-ish home, comfortably situated and fully connected in the front of her real home. She, her husband and two children share the queen-sized bed and two bunk beds, a 30" shower and toilet, and a kitchenette-dining-living room combo.

My friend says for the rest of her natural days, no matter where she lives, she will know where the sewer cleanout is.


dillyberto said...

The true story is moving on its own.

I like to see it also as metaphor.

Pure lyric poetry.

The sewer cleanout is what we need politically, too.

Mr. Clio said...

Beautifully done, sir.

I caught the end of City Slickers, that Billy Crystal flick, the other night on cable. The Jack Palance guy shows the mystery of life to the guys by holding up his index finger. Crystal figures out in the end that the "one thing" is what we all have to figure out for ourselves.

This whole mess has made the "one thing" quite pedestrian, as you write. That might not be the worst thing. But I'm sure you and your friend might rather be focusing on loftier things.

Loftier things are not all they're cracked up to be. Keep on keepin' on.

Laurie said...

Your site is quite educational. I guess I better go out and check my shi**ers.