A Septic Inspector Shares His Theories On Government Regulation

Yesterday, I had to take an hour out of my morning (read: writing time) to talk about poop. For me, this would normally be a win, but this was altogether more academic. Since our new home is not privy to township sewer and water, we have our own septic system (big ol’ grass-covered sand mound). Thus, prior to moving in, it was important to procure the eagle eyes of a vigilant septic inspector.

Somewhat unusually, the pump actually went bad, and it seems to have done it only the day before. Unlucky for the seller, lucky for the buyer (read: us). I told the agent and inspector that the night prior I donned ninja garb and descended into the concrete pit to break the pump with my ninja weapons.

They were not amused.

Regardless, everything else was good to go and the lovely seller is fixing it and getting the system pumped and all that. The interesting part of the morning happened after, when we were standing in the driveway.

This inspector, an older gent, had seen the 60s and 70s when building houses and getting them up to code was essentially the Wild West (and our previous inspector told us similarly — they don’t like inspecting houses built in that era because you just never knew what some self-spun “contractor” did to the house — “I ran a plumbing line right to your toilet, so whenever you flush, the water goes right into your washing machine! See? I’m helping! It’s up to code because there is no code! Ha ha ha ha!”).

Now, of course, everybody is host to an unholy host of regulations, and that slows everything down.

The inspector then started in with, paraphrased, “When our Founding Fathers made this country…”

By the way, whenever anybody says this, get worried. People have all sorts of crazy ideas about the Founding Fathers (and true or not are irrelevant to this modern era). “They were Socialists!” “They owned slaves, why can’t we?” “Benjamin Franklin hunted trannies with a speargun from a moving ornithopter!”

Anyway, he said, “When our Founding Fathers made this country, they intended it so that government would stay out of people’s lives, to preserve liberty.”

I almost tuned out. I mean, c’mon. We know where this is going. It’s going to turn into some kind of anti-government pro-GOP chat, which is fine, that’s all good (provided it doesn’t slide suddenly straight into the sewer system, by which I mean into Tea Party territory). So, he continued on:

“And that worked for a while. But eventually, you get people who do bad things, and that’s why you need regulations. If people would build their houses right always, nobody would need to check their work.”

I added, “So, a bad apple spoils the bunch?”

And he said, “Yup. In a perfect world, everybody would do the right thing. But since they don’t, the government has to keep an eye out.”

Blink, blink. Boy. That did not go where I expected it.  It turned into an alarmingly practical discussion of the realities of government and liberty. Well-said, Mister Septic Inspector. By the way, this lines up pretty nicely with my own thoughts on regulation: regulations are not an automatic answer, and sure, you can have bad regulations which could do as much harm or worse than no regulations at all. But even still, the “deregulate!” crowd always seems to put trust in some kind of mythical, mystic system of humanity, a trust that frankly hasn’t been earned. It’s like giving a gun to a four-year-old. “Oh, I trust he’ll not shoot me or himself.” And what evidence do you have? “Well, I’ve done it three times before, and nobody’s dead yet! Well. The living room lamp. And the neighbor’s pet sugar glider. But no humans!”

And yes, the government itself needs regulations. Regulations on lobbyists and campaign funding, for instance. Regulations that enforce, not defeat, the balance of power between the branches.

Anywho. Just thought that interesting. I figure he should go down and tell the fine feathered fuckheads of BP this particular theory of regulatory practice. One bad apple spoils the bunch, you oil-vomiting bastards.

Bonus Content!

Prior to this, we were standing by the sand mound discussing how the seller had removed the “water-saving” feature from the showerhead in the master bath — apparently, it was not a higher-end showerhead, and if you buy a cheaper-side water-saving showerhead your water pressure drops. So, the inspector said to the selling agent, “Water-saving fixtures cut the stress on your sewer system significantly. Why the heck did she remove that feature?”

To which the selling agent replied, “You know women. They just like to get pounded hard in the shower.”

The inspector then said, “Well, as long as you get a good head, pressure shouldn’t be a problem.”

Pounded hard in the shower.

Good head.

Pounded hard in the shower.

Good head.

And neither of them said any of this with even an inkling of a smile. Nary a wink. No tongue in cheek. They were not saying any of this to have a randy play on words, oh no. I don’t even think they got it.

Man, I wish my wife was at the inspection with me, because I felt like, “Damn, they’re throwing their own pearls before swine, here. Is nobody getting this? Is nobody enjoying this?”

Hilarious. Nice guys, didn’t mean anything by it, but damn if I didn’t almost lose my shit.


  • Oh man. I am right there with him on building regulations. I live in a house that was built in the 1930s by well-meaning people.
    And then it was renovated in the 60s by people who thought that it’s a good idea to patch holes in your plaster with cement. Or steel. Or carpet. Or a leather watch band. Or to hide bottles of whiskey in the walls. (Actually, we see eye-to-eye on that last one) And they loved trees, so they used as few of them as possible to hold up the floors. And they knew that electrons are tiny scared little particles, alone in the universe, who just want to be one big happy subatomic family, and so the renovators granted them this dream by managing to put most of the house on a single circuit. (I don’t know how the aluminum wires enter into it, but fuck. Aluminum wires!)
    And then it was added onto in the 90s by people who evidently thought that the 60s people had some pretty good ideas.


  • Great, now I’ll be thinking about a Clockwork Ben Franklin pimping around Paris on his ornithopter with his lady friends all day. I’ll take out the trannies, though. Replace them with the BP execs. Thanks, Chuck! :D

  • I always wonder what I’m going to get when I find myself in conversation with people in the trades, especially the older guys. I’ve had great experiences and awful ones, but it’s almost always worth the effort to get a little conversation going.

    My dad recently put up a new little shop on their property. He lives out in the hills, and is from an era where a guy could just do whatever on private property, but got wrapped up this time around with codes and inspections and all that. Me, I understand the necessity of it. But to him it is The Affront to end all affronts. It’s one of those things where any subject that comes up that is anywhere in the orbit of his shop building experience will set him off in an ornery rant, meanwhile the rest of the family commences to eye roll.

    Last year I was having dinner at a friends’ house and he had a run-in with a washing machine repairman. He wrote a little blog about it, which is about half as amusing as the event actually was: http://tinyurl.com/24dgpjd.

    Finally, re: the bonus content, I don’t know that I could have kept a straight face, because I am just that juvenile. I was interviewing a wolf biologist one time, and he was talking about how a wolf pack will typically stick to food sources they were introduced to while young. So if they live in an area with a large beaver population, they will mostly eat beaver as long as it remains available to them. 10 minutes of talk about “eating beaver” almost made me have to excuse myself. Luckily I was much younger then, and more mature than I am now. But it was touch and go, believe me.

  • @Stoney,

    You’re me aren’t you lol. I might have added a more juvenile bow chiki wow wow lol.


    People will always screw other people for money, BP, Wall Street, Utilities, the guy who sells stale hotdogs near my neighborhood, regulate em all, probe them with bulky instruments.

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