Sparring With the Sump Pump

“Sump pump is acting weird.”

This is not what one wants to hear after a day at work. Me especially, with my fear of a flooding basement. “How so?” I ask. My wife replies, “It runs long and loud.” It is a 1/3 HP pedestal sump pump. When I first installed it 14 years ago it replaced a 1/4 HP submersed sump pump. The noise, deafening whilst standing in the furnace room, was atrocious on the second floor. Our eldest, under 2 at the time, screamed in terror. For me it became a complicated affair of jury-rigging something to make it not reverberate throughout the house.

As I thought of my past sump pump experience and of how it failed and I had to bucket water for two hours, my wife made demands. “Can it be a submersible one that’s quiet?”

“We get what we get,” I replied tersely. I already felt out of my element. For you see, I’m not a handy, Mr. Fixit person around the house. This was reinforced several times by our former neighbour, who was an electrical engineer. I part regret and part fondly remember when I once asked him for help. It was for the phone line and the modem. He fixed it, easily. I believe it was at this time he learned I was completely incompetent.

When I asked to borrow his ladder to fix some siding that had come loose as a result of a windstorm, he refused to let me touch, carry or climb the ladder. He fixed the issue himself. When I asked him to help carry the new BBQ I bought to the back deck he, after I dropped a screw, went and got his superior tools and put the BBQ together with me watching, impotently from the deck. Sure, I handed him the next piece, critical that, but that’s all. He even mowed my lawn and shovelled my sidewalk. In the neighbour helping neighbour balance sheet I was in a severe deficit. I wonder if he hated his family or wanted to be near me.

At any rate, I went down the stairs into the furnace room and tested the sump pump. Indeed, it just swirled the water in the sump. Fuck. I walked, as a man to the gallows, to the car and drove to the nearest hardware store.

Whilst there, looking at all the possibilities of sump pump technology, the height of civilization, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. Sweat gathered at my core as my own sauna of indecisiveness gained heat. Another man stood with me and I turned to him. “Sump pump fun.”
“Yeah,” was all he said. His voice meek and on the verge of quivering. He didn’t even look at me. Perhaps he was even more overwhelmed than I.

Dutifully, I considered only submersible pumps and found one easy to install. How do I know? It said ‘Easy to Install.’ That, and it had more strength: 1/2 HP. I picked it up and walked to the cash. My sweating intensified with the fear I had made a huge mistake and chosen the wrong pump. I carried it half way to the cash only to turn back to the pump section to re-assure myself it was, indeed, the one that claimed to be easiest to install.

Why did I want the easiest? When the dishwasher failed I, as is the husband’s duty, watched a couple of videos and took the beast apart. I quickly learned I shouldn’t have. When the repairman saw the state of the dishwasher, its guts all over the place, his only response was “ow, ow, ow, ow” as if I had caused him physical pain.

In the case of the new sump pump, it was easy. I cut a pipe, fitted it together and got it into the sump pit. I then poured a few buckets of water into the sump to test the pump. It started quietly enough. Then, like the pipes in the submarine in Das Boot fleeing exploding depth charges, the rattling started. A single, small jet of water shot out from one of the joints. In no time at all the pipe came loose and water shot everywhere. All I could do was sit and watch the display, getting soaked in the process.

After reattaching the pipe and tightening all sections I tried again. It worked perfectly. I stood up and stretched, then started to clean, and remove my soaked clothes. It was at that time I noticed that, somehow, I had only read the second side to the directions. I needed to set the pump on bricks. More cutting, cursing and voila: new pump installed.

Looking ahead I know what’s going to happen. I had become used to the noise of the old pump. I would lay in bed, two stories up, and hear it go off in the middle of the night. It’s pulsing reverberations of assurance let me go back to sleep, knowing my basement was not flooding. Now during intense night rain storms I’ll wonder if the new pump is working.

I’ll be getting a lot more exercise.

Photo by Yucel Tellici from FreeImages

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