septic tank lid

So I shot my mouth off, joking that I was going to cut my name into Uncle Joe’s lawn when I cut it for him in PEI this weekend.

Really funny I am.

Karma threw me a shitty curve ball though.

Let’s start at the beginning.

My Uncle Joe is really particular about his lawn. Even though his place in PEI is a summer place, and a cottage, he brought the specific grass seed he wanted from Ontario and planted the world’s most gorgeous lawn. He was even was particular about people walking on the grass because they’d leave footprints.

It was like a living nightmare this spring when all the dandelions growing in fields all around him invaded his lawn.

He is away on vacation for the month, and my Mom and her friends are staying at his place. I offered to cut his grass for him. His other brother cut it a week ago when he was neighbourhood so it wasn’t too long yet.

First I had to figure out the lawnmower.

No. First I had to figure out how to get the lawnmower out his immaculate garage, everything it it’s place, everything on a hook or shelf, riding lawnmower backed into its spot.

I found the button to open one of the garage doors and pushed the mower out onto the lawn.

Then I read every sign and warning on it so I could figure out how to use it. I don’t think I’ve been on a riding lawnmower for about 20 years. This one was an automatic!! And it had a really wide cutting swath.

It took a while for me to figure out how to get the blade lowered. I had to get the combination of switches, levers, and pedals just right so I could turn the knob for the blade height.

Starting it was easy. Just a key with a regular choke and the ol’ snail to rabbit lever. Not a problem.

But it wouldn’t GO anywhere. Not forwards, not backwards.

No brake was on, parking brake was off. What the hell?

Luckily, Joe’s neighbour, and the man he bought the property from, Stan, happened to drive by and stopped when he saw me on the mower. I gave a little “could you pretty please come here and help me pretty pretty please” motion with my come here finger, and he leaped out and came to my rescue.

Only he couldn’t figure it out either. Engine started. Blade’s not turning, and, it isn’t moving. Check switches, nobs, pedals, gear. Hmmm…

FINALLY, he figured it out! (And I may never have.)

On the back, just above the hitch, there is a little button that pulls out to put the lawnmower into ‘easy-push’ mode to push it into the garage. Once Stan pressed that back in, we were in business!!

Actually, not so fast.

Everything seemed to work until Stan hit the reverse pedal. Then the engine died.

A few more tries.



I guess the blade has to be disengaged in order to go in reverse. Safety thing?

Anyway, I was now in business.

But I was so nervous of messing up – and Joe has a million and one trees planted all over his lawn surrounded by dark mulch. I had to go around the trees and throw the grass outwards so I didn’t get the mulch dirty with grass the lawnmower throws out.

Only the turning radius wasn’t quite tight enough. Sometimes I had to go around the tree 3 times to get the grass cut right to the mulch.

(Didn’t Uncle Joe say he uses a push mower around these trees?)

Anyway, off I go, trying to keep the grass blowing away from everything pretty when BANG! CRUNCH! OH MY GOD WHAT AM I CHOPPING UP! awwwwwkkkKKKKK WHAT DO I DO? BLADE UP/BLADE OFF/GIVE IT GAS/REVERSE/JUMP OFF AND RUN/FREEZE IN PANIC/OR OPTION D ALL OF THESE AT ONCE.

It was the plastic cap for the septic system. I clipped it, then panicked and got right on it, and smashed the thing to little green pieces of plastic.

Awwww crap.

Keep cutting. Pretend that didn’t happen. Keep going. Don’t look back. I’m sure no one heard that. No one is watching. I’m sure I’m good.

I finish up the lawn, in robo-mode, and then I went to survey the damage.

Half of the 22″ cover is in itty-bitty-no-way-could-I-glue-these-back-together-and-run-for-home kinda pieces.


And it is a Sunday morning.

Well luckily Charlottetown isn’t closed on Sundays. Mom, her friend Jean, and I, went to the Home Depot and I went to the plumbing isle.

A super-duper friendly guy named Rob said he didn’t have them, but I was the third person who was in about them in the last few weeks. He told me where he though I should call and looked up the number for me.

So I covered up the dirty secret with a piece of plywood and some red PEI sand rocks and hoped for the best until Monday.

Monday morning (today), I called the plumbing place and they referred me to a concrete place.

The receptionist at the concrete place didn’t know what I meant, but she said she’d get one of the guys to talk to me.

Well the guy knew exactly what I was talking about. He said there were two types of covers so I should bring it in the remains so he could see. He also wanted me to check if the sleeve going into the ground was broken because if so, I needed to replace that too.

So out I went, back to the stinky hole, armed with a bunch of screw drivers, and without my iPhone.

(seriously, the thought of it slipping out of my pocket into the septic system was almost too much to bear).

Mom and Jean wanted to come with me and were terrified of the sewer gases and wanted me to get a mask.

I put my nose in my shirt and hoped for the best.

I took the rest of the cap off and then there it was.

A 22″ portal into nastiness.

Oh please God don’t let me fall in there. Or this screwdriver.

Damn it. The sleeve was cracked.

So Jean helped put the stinky remains of the lid into a garbage bag and Mom and headed for Charlottetown to buy the new cover piece.

The guy at the concrete place was nice enough to throw in new screws. Not to bad – $67 bucks for the lid and sleeve piece.

Back at Joe’s place, I headed out to the scene of the crime again.

Next step was to try to remove the first 6″ portion of the sleeve. I had to lie down and reach in to slowly unscrew 6 screws holding the top half of the sleeve in place.

Then I tried to pull the sleeve up.

No go. The soil and grass are flush with it to the top and there was no way it was coming up. Don’t tell me I have to dig this sucker up now.

“We have to tell Stan”, Mom said.


So Mom and I went over to Stan’s house and told him the tale.

He had a bit of a blank look at first and I knew he must be mad. But he wasn’t. He just couldn’t believe I broke it. “I drove over those all the time,” he said. “I once forgot about the one at my daughters house and had the tractor tire stopped right on top of it,” he said.

I guess if someone was going to find a way to break something that appears to be flush to the ground, it might as well be me.

So he came and had a look. He decided that it would be best if we didn’t dig up Joe’s lawn. So we screwed the sleeve back in place (with Uncle Joe’s drill this time) and put the new cap on top and screwed all the lid down with the new screws.

There is still a small crack on the side at the top, but Stan said he had a way to seal that up, and then maybe Joe might want to replace the sleeve after the gorgeous lawn season is over.


So there you have it. That is the end of my confession.

Now if I could just get this smell out of my nose….