A few months ago the sewer department came out and put No Parking sandwich boards up and down the block. The guy in the big truck said they were going to work on the sewer line in front of my house the following day. They didn’t. The signs were up for a couple weeks and then people just started taking them down.

I figured they decided my line didn’t need any work. Or they were putting it off because the situation was just too horrible to contemplate, even for sewer workers. It depended on the state of my mind at the time.

The entire idea of sewer repair interferes with my mental well-being in a fundamental way. The whole beauty of the indoor plumbing miracle, to my way of thinking, is the way a bunch of stuff you’d rather not take care of yourself just magically goes away. Don’t care where. “Away” is good enough. Sometimes it balks, but that’s a personal nuisance that can usually be remedied with four trips to the hardware store and a youtube video. I certainly do not like to be reminded of the possibility that my bunch of stuff might still be loitering nearby, or creating a pudding situation under the pavement that will lead to a nasty sinkhole and a fragrant breach of the asphalt containment system.

But yesterday they put out the signs again and by gum if a whole convoy didn’t roll in this morning and camp in front of our house.

“Hi there!” I chirped to the worker in charge of standing over the hole and staring. “What’s going on here?”

“Well, ma’am, we’re looking into a possible broken or offset joint at the lateral to the main associated with…” he glanced up at our address…”this house.” Or something. I’ve never had a broken or offset joint but sometimes I have troubles with my laterals and a few days of exercises usually takes care of it. In any case, he wasn’t worried. He did have a question.

“Do you know where your sewer cleanout is?”

Um…don’t you?

“And do you know if you’re on a party line?”

Um…don’t you? Really, if I wanted to know that sort of thing, I’d ask the sewer department. You guys. I don’t even know what a sewer cleanout is. I thought it was all WHOOSH downhill to the big smelly pond and as long as that was far, far away, we were good. I do know what a party line is, because we had one when I was a kid, and sometimes you could pick up the phone and hear someone else’s conversation. I’m really hoping it isn’t like that in my sewer.

Anyway, ultimately the guy said everything was fine, and he assured me it was fixed and a new cleanout installed, and someone would be by at a later date to seal the asphalt patch.

“While I’ve got you here,” I said, “were you able to see anything in the sewer lateral next door? That’s our rental house, and there’s a very established rat hole right about where the sewer line is. I always figured there was a little leak there and the rats are living next to a restaurant, from their point of view.”

“Ah, rats. Well, it’s possible. But generally speaking you don’t have to worry much about rats coming up through your toilet.”

“I hadn’t even thought about…”

“Oh it happens,” my fellow went on, with some enthusiasm. “It’s just not likely. The rats get to the point where the trap is and it’s full of water and they just don’t want to go.”

Now I don’t want to go, either.