We have a sump pump in a pit in the crawlspace under our house. Several of the downspouts on our house lead into this pit so it is fairly important that the pump be in running condition. Should it stop running and a heavy rain come along (such as what we usually get in the Spring in these parts), the last you may see of the Miller family will be us waving from our house as we float down the Great Miami River, headed eventually for the Ohio River followed by the mighty Mississippi. Now, I am all for adventure but Evan would have a whole lot of homework to make up after we'd be fished out of the Gulf of Mexico so I have always figured it would be best if we keep the sump pump running.
We've had a dry summer in our part of Ohio, though, so the sump pump hasn't needed to run much. However, on the rare occasions when it has rained, I started to notice a couple of months ago that the pump never seemed to run. When it rained a few days ago, I listened very intently and, sure enough, it was not running.
Now, I did not like this. I really wanted to hear that pump run. I listened and listened but, no doubt about it, the pump was not running. The reason I wanted to hear it run was because I have made the dark crawlspace trip to the pump a few times before and it's not something I relish. I'd rather have hot pokers stuck in my eyes in fact.
I waited a few days for the crawlspace to dry out after the recent rains but, today, I had to face the inevitable. I had to go into the crawlspace. Now, certainly, one of my options was to just call a plumber but my plumber, Joe, is pretty busy with a lot of national attention these days so I figured I'd better check on it myself.
Besides, a couple of years ago when the pump quit working, I was able to fix it quite readily by removing a piece of mulch that had gotten into the pit and wedged itself precariously in the float valve that causes the pump to start working when the water hits a certain level. It would be embarrassing to call Joe just to remove a piece of mulch, I figured.
Getting into the crawlspace was not easy when I weighed 170 pounds. That was awhile ago. It definitely isn't any easier now. And, as luck would have it, the sump pump pit is on the northeast corner of our rambler while the entry into the crawlspace is on the southwest corner.
I lowered myself into the crawlspace. Gravity was on my side even though the small entry way was not. With a flashlight in one hand, I began to crawl commando-style through the stony, dark, damp space. (No, by "commando-style", I do not mean naked -- but rather just sort of sprawled out on all fours so I could make my way over wires and pipes but below I-beams and ductwork.)
After passing out a few times and stopping for a few breathers and thinking that maybe I should take up drinking when I was done, I eventually made it to the sump pump pit. I was starting to panic, though, convinced that my flashlight battery was not as strong as I'd hoped, and wondering what I would do if it died.
I flattened myself on my stomach and, as I leaned my face into the sump pump pit and shined my light so I could peer down into it, a fly came out of the pit. That was odd.
And, then, I saw it. The problem of our pump and the source of the fly and many of his friends. Sprawled out on top of the float on the pump was a dead animal. My first reaction was to jerk my head upward (at which time I was reminded of the floor joists.)
It was not a large animal but, nonetheless, there I was in close quarters with a dimming flashing, sore knees, an aching back, and this critter that was keeping our pump from working. I figured I had several options, all of which I considered.
1) Scream until I passed out and the paramedics would have to drag me out of the crawlspace. (Not exactly manly, I'll admit, but it was tempting. The biggest downfall of this was that it would not fix the problem, unless Joe has had to take on a second job as a paramedic.)
2) Get out of the crawlspace as quickly as possible, seal up the entry way, put the house up for sale and move. (This also merited serious consideration but the housing market is pretty slow around these parts right now.)
3) Just ignore it and hope the critter would lose enough weight through evaporation that the float would rise up and start working again before the spring rains come.
4) Exit the crawlspace, tell Lisa I didn't have a clue what the problem was, and call Joe. (A long shot as he is pretty busy wondering how Obama will be redistributing his wealth.)
5) Go ahead and plan for our trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
And then there were two more options:
6) Calmly back out of the crawlspace and return with the proper equipment (gloves, paper towels, trowel, bucket, and face mask) for dead and decomposed critter removal.
7) Pick at the dead animal with my bare fingers, making it shred into pieces given its state of decay, and then flicking those pieces to unknown parts of the crawlspace, eventually getting the float clean enough that it could once again float.
Admittedly, Option #6 would have been the most rational but my knees were sore, my back was aching, and no one ever has accused me of being rational. Especially not when my knees are sore and my back is aching. So, "Pick and Flick" was my option. Our crawlspace looks like a "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" show gone badly awry but the sump pump is working once again. (And, there goes that vacation in the Gulf of Mexico.)