I spent a good portion of Monday night and Tuesday morning elbow-deep in my old friend the grease trap. It started innocently enough with the men’s restroom flushing slowly…the women’s followed suit and then the floor drain started backing up in the dish pit. This is never good, this trinity of waters not going where they should.
For those of you who may not know, a grease trap is a simple device for keeping grease and other food solids from entering the wastewater system. It is basically a metal box with baffles, water enters from the dishwasher and sinks by way of a pipe at one end and the baffles catch any grease or solids as the water passes freely toward the pipe at the opposite end to join the rest of the wastewater exiting the building. Once a month some big smelly guys in a big smelly truck come and use a big smelly vacuum to clean out the grease trap and then send me a bill for seventy bucks. About once every three months a guy from the Village comes by to make sure that the guys in the truck have been by. He almost never checks my records or looks in the grease trap but takes my word that it’s been done, I initial a form and he goes on his way.
Usually this process works well and any problems are easily handled by my maintenance staff…me. This is what my friend Burt, who owns a clothing store up the street, refers to as “pride of owership,” and yeah, it’s supposed to be spelled that way. Owership is the state of being in perpetually high debt so that you can lie and tell yourself (and anyone else who will listen) how much happier you are to be your own boss and how fulfilling it is to work for yourself and not be just another cog in some corporate, or worse, government machine. I also go out of my way to handle some jobs, especially nasty ones, so that the staff sees the old man doing something that they are glad not to be doing themselves, and thus I have become a specialist in the grease trap and our ancient, decomposing roof. Plus, I’ve never respected a boss who wasn’t willing to get dirty with me.
All that said, I was not feeling like the noble leader I want to be, or feeling particularly thankful to not be dealing with municipal police politics as I lay on the dish pit floor with my face six inches away from what had become an open sewer as I alternated between using a 25’ snake and then a plunger on the clog that was somewhere beyond my reach. With every flush of the toilet the water in the grease trap would churn and even with heavy rubber gloves on I could feel the water become colder and I would think, more than once, that if I got hepatitis from this shit (pun not intended) after years of work that exposed me to other peoples body fluids on a regular basis, I was going to punch God in the head.
Finally, the professionals arrived, wheeling in a big smelly snake that plugged into the wall and made a menacing growl as it made short work of the clog. Then they went ahead and pumped out the grease trap even though by then with all the plunging and bailing of overflows it was pretty much clear.
“Well, you are due,” the guy explained.
Yeah, I’m due all right.
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