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Editor's notes: Learning something new in Pembroke
Jeff Whitten

I learned something I never intended to learn while visiting my buddy Dave Williams on Monday in Pembroke at the Bryan County Family Connections North Bryan Service Center.

His office there is right next to what what I’ve since learned from Google is a sewage grinder pump, or bathroom blender, or something close to it. Now, call me a hick from Upstate South Carolina, but I’d gotten to Monday being blissfully unaware of such things, even though I own a septic tank (which has no grinder or I would have had to spend thousands of dollars I don’t have getting it fixed over the years).

I also have been flushing toilets and similar equipment since I was potty trained. That was back when the Beatles were still together, and I have also been around the world, all without once having heard about these contraptions.

Here’s how I got enlightened, which is proof you never know what a day will hold in this business.

“What’s that racket,” I asked, after about the fifth time I heard that racket.

It at first sounded like a less expressive version of what takes place at the Bryan County High School gym when the air kicks on and puffs out the giant cooling or heating-air-tunnel-duct hose things that hang from the rafter.

Except, it wasn’t near that loud, and as I got more used ot it reminded me of what happens when a garbage disposal gets hold of something that won’t go down without a fight. You know. Whrrrrgrrrrr. Yeah, that racket.

Dave shook his head.

“That’s someone using the bathroom,” he might’ve said.

“Huh?” I did say.

That led Dave into an explanation he probably didn’t want to give, but we go back a ways.

At any rate, I’m paraphrasing most of it, but it turns out that whenever someone flushes a toilet in the Bryan County Family Connection North Bryan Service Center, the grinder pump leaps into action, chewing up toilet paper and whatever other solids might be headed into what I hope is only a temporary way station before they become one again with the universe, What’s more, the actual grinder was within about eight feet of me as I sat in Dave’s office.

It was hidden and yet unhidden, and kind of in the middle of a pipe which comes from somewhere, goes down into the floor and then runs underground and out the building over to a yellow stake somewhere else.

I know it’s either before or after a ditch and road between the North Bryan Service Center and Liberty Auction.

What’s also more, the you-knowwhat grinder went off about a dozen times while I was talking with Dave, and after I learned what it was I had this mental image I couldn’t shake of all the (flotsam and jetsam) being pureed on its way as I set there talking to Dave, who seemed somewhat bemused by my interest in this marvel of wastewater engineering.

Dave said at one point back in the day there were several more bathrooms in use in the building, and “it would run almost nonstop all day,” or something like that. Dave said they eventually shut down most of the bathrooms, limiting the North Bryan Service Center to two, I think. That’s cut down somewhat on the noise by Dave’s office.

“One thing about it, though,” he said. “You definitely know when somebody’s used the bathroom.”

That’s because the grinder turns itself on automatically every time there’s a flush in the North Bryan Service Center. And it then shuts itself off.

But sometimes it tends to run for a while, because “people forget to jiggle the handle in the bathroom down the hall,” Dave said.

I assume it can make conversation difficult, sometimes, but it is what it is.

Anyway, if you’re ever up in the North Bryan Service Center next to Dave’s office and you hear something in the hallway, it’s the grinder pump doing its level best to make sure the wastewater system there is safe from clogs, though I hear it doesn’t always work.

And if you ever need to use the bathroom down the hall, be nice to Dave and please jiggle the handle when you’re done.

Whitten is editor of the Bryan County News. He is easily distracted by noise and shiny things.

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