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Saturday, December 25, 2010

BETTER LIVING WITH PLUMBING

christmas snow

Snow has fallen all afternoon. Maybe it's an inch and a half by now. It's a fine, light snow in small flakes that descend rather rapidly compared to bigger flakes that tend to float. It sticks to branches, but not with a passion, meaning may not be the kind of snow to break tree limbs. The Christmas trees planted in rows are catching the snow, looking like we tried to get the Christmas tree in the house to look by spraying some toxic snow stuff that came in an aerosol can in the early 50s. It was good for spraying in the windows to look like snow piled along the bottom. We sprayed it on the tree to look like snow. It was one of those items that was new and advertised to be just the thing, like draping tinsel on the tree; it's fun to put on, pretty to look at, but so expensive it couldn't be thrown away with the tree and had to be salvaged, a piece at a time by the kids, of course. Then the next year put on the used tinsel until it didn't work any more and we were tired of it anyway. Cleaning up the spray snow dampened its appeal before very long.
Seven years of working in Christmas trees I vowed to myself I would never have a Christmas tree unless it was artificial. Don't want one at all. How to dispose of them? Landfill, like everybody else. What can the landfill do with them? The best thing would be to burn them, but there are probably regulations a mile long against that and punishment articulated in detail. Maybe the best thing would be to get some guys with community service to run them through a chipper and sell the mulch. There would be tons of it from one county. But that seems a little sensible, and government, fed-state-county, doesn't do sensible. They do money. What costs the least? Whatever they do with them is obviously sensible as old Christmas trees disappear immediately every year. One of those things we never think about, like wastewater treatment plants.
Sparta has a really interesting plant that functions on an aerobic principle. The mess from the sewers goes into a big container that has air pumping into it so much and so fast it looks like it's boiling. The micro-organisms in the doo-doo (presidential for shit) multiply rapidly when given the air, and consume it, transforming it into their own dookie that is tiny pellets like grains of beach sand that sink to the bottom. The waste runs through three vats pumping the air to it until it reaches the final vat where the water is clean hypothetically of all impurities. It wasn't prepared, however, for all the chemical waste from the factories. Anyway, it's better than pumping it straight into the river without doing something. It's an ingenious system of containment to let the stuff nobody wants take care of itself and return to water. Out of sight, out of mind.
To all the rest of us, letting the dish water down the drain, flushing the throne is the end of it. It's gone. But it's not. Without drains and pipes and containment facilities, it's back to outhouses in winter when it's 5 degrees with wind, or in summer with a wasp nest under the seat you don't know about for awhile. Thanks to the discovery of plumbing and the discovery of microbes, we don't have to smell it or see it. Gone, out of sight. What a great advance in civilization. Major great advance. But if civilization can't maintain itself, in the words of Papa Bush, we're in deep shit (doo-doo). When you're looking for something to be thankful for, plumbing is a good one to throw into the list. I like plumbing a lot. This is why I don't like to think about going to someplace like India, Nepal, Indonesia, certainly not anywhere in Africa or the Arab world or nearly all of Asia. I'm partial to plumbing. I like it a lot.
The landfill depot will be busy starting Monday disposing of the Christmas trash. Our disposal system in the "advanced" part of the world is exemplary. In the western world, we take care of it well. The rest of the world will follow until one day there will be plumbing everywhere. It's too easy not to do. When it comes to what our time has done for the future of humanity, plumbing is right up there with electricity. Good plumbing keeps disease down. It's so incredibly handy that it gets taken for granted right away.
I don't know what led me through writing this. It was not my intent to write on Christmas about the joys of plumbing. But why not? Looking back over what I've done, it appears I associate Christmas with trash. More than likely the people working at the "landfill" do too. Christmas is Jesus's part in keeping the economy going. That's a pretty good miracle, a heart that beats once a year. There is so much I don't understand, it's absurd to think I understand anything. An attempt to understand is about the best I'm able. The economy is a living thing like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean is a living thing. If the Gulf Stream were to stop, the ocean would die before very long. If the economy were to stop, civilization would crumble. Like when our blood stream stops, we die. Christmas is like an annual paddle in the water keeping the economy in motion. Stuff for sale. Keeping the numbers in motion. Making trash.

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