The Irish settled Almost Iowa, so many of my neighbors have Irish names – both first and last. It makes life easy because whenever I run into a familiar looking fellow and don’t know his name, it is safe to say, “Hey Pat, how is it going?”
Most of the time it works and when it doesn’t, they’ll say, “You have me confused with my brother, I’m Tim.”
It is how my phone conversation began with Tim, the plumber. I called him Pat but he set me straight. Then I told him what I wanted.
“You want a what?” he exclaimed.
“I need you to install a water meter,” I told him, “by next Thursday…”
His end of the line went dead as he scratched his head in befuddlement..
“Let me get this straight,” he said, using that tone people use when they are talking to a complete idiot, “you want me to put a water meter on a private well?”
“Because the county septic system coordinator said I had to.”
“Oh crap…..,” he said, “you mean Fiona.”
I never thought I would hear a grown man shudder over the phone – until then. I couldn’t blame him. I shuddered whenever I think of Fiona too.
I also shudder whenever I think of anything related to our costly, temperamental septic mound.
For those of you unfamiliar with country living, a septic system is what replaced the outhouse. It is a mound or a drain-field connected to your toilet and it is where all the nasty stuff goes to decompose. Because our mound is the third highest point in four counties, we call it Mount Schiller, the mountain of troubles.
I told Tim that Fiona had flunked our last inspection after our output monitor failed. You see, our county is obsessed with the number of times we flush our toilets and Fiona said that if we can’t monitor the output, we’d have to monitor the input at the well.
“So can you help me meet her deadline of next Thursday?” I pleaded.
“Fiona is first my cousin,” he said, veering off the topic. “That side of the family has another Fiona. She is a lot older and a nun. We used to call her Sister Mary Yardstick. She got that name from smacking kids with a stick for even the slightest infraction of the rules.”
“Where are you going with this,” I asked.
“It runs in the family,” he said.
“It’s like they are drawn to rules, so they can torment people with them.”
“Yeah,” I told him, “I can’t see how Mount Schiller might be causing any pollution – but hey, you got to do what you got to do…”
“You have to understand,” he said, “Fiona is a zealot the same way her cousin is a religious fanatic. It is not just a job for them – it’s a sacred crusade.”
“Oops, hold on a second..” I said, interrupting his thought..
A few minutes later, I came back on the line. “I had to close the windows because my neighbor, your cousin Pat, is spreading hog manure on the field next to my house….”
“That’s country living..” Tim said.
“Yeah,” I told him, “it’s crazy, one of your cousins goes apoplectic because a brand new septic mound might not conform to the letter of the law while another cousin pumps millions gallons of pig poop onto the ground up-wind of my house…”
Tim laughed. “You are right about one thing and wrong about another,” he said.
“How so?” I asked.
“You are right about the guy working that field being my cousin, but he’s a Tim also.”