I had to park my car at the neighbor's today when I arrived home from work. Why? Because there is a 6-ft long, 2-ft wide, 4-ft deep trench running from my parking bay and all along the front entrance to my house.
I've seen this trench before. Not quite two years ago. It's familiar to me. It almost doesn't phase me.
The trench was dug three days ago. It was dug as a result of us calling our compound's Maintenance on an almost daily basis for the last two weeks because of a leaky toilet. As a result of the plumber coming in with a pipe wrench on an almost daily basis and tightening first one bolt, then another, loosening another bolt, then tightening it again. Every day would bring about the thrill of anticipation ... would today's big event be a twist, a turn, a tightening, a loosening?
And every day I would explain to the plumber that "I know very little about waterworks and plumbing, and I'm most definitely not questioning your expertise, but this has happened before, and it had nothing to do with the actual toilet. The cause was a root system on steroids that had entrenched itself in the drain pipes in front of the house. The punctured pipes caused a continuous flow of water from this very toilet. You might want to check that."
This would be met by nods of agreement, a slight left-to-right bobble of the head common in these parts, repeated "yes maam's", and a faraway, glazed look that signifies total and complete incomprehension (I've come to recognize that look, having encountered it on an almost daily basis over the last six plus years in the ME).
Anyhow, at some point it seems I either got through to the plumber or he arrived at the same hypothesis as me through deduction and sheer luck. So the trench was dug. And about 4 ft of sopping twisted root and fecal matter was extracted from the pipe that sits at the bottom of that trench. It appeared to be quite weighty poo, as there were at least six maintenance workers occupied with extracting it on New Year's Eve. I was actually a little disheartened that we weren't hosting anything this year. A smelly, treacherous crevasse at the entrance to one's house would surely have made for interesting party chatter and a most memorable way to ring in the New Year.
In fairness, the desert sun dried up the soppiness within a day. And the outhouse smell dissipated within a few hours. But I find myself most humbled by those few short hours of neighbors smelling our steamy heapy.
The pipe was replaced the next day, but the hole remains. It has been partially covered by a large orange vehicle barrier unit. If you can't make it safe, well at least think creatively, right? If entertainment is slow over the coming weeks, we might start a betting pool on how long before the hole is actually filled back in.
I actually don't mind the hole. It is a minimal inconvenience in the big scheme of things. It is a very small reflection of the mass deconstruction that goes on in the ME. You will be riding down the same road for years, and one day you will show up and the road is gone, or has been barricaded, or dug up. If you are lucky, there will be a few signs or flag bearers posted a few feet before (poor souls, they don't stand a chance) to warn you of the impending change of course. I know people who have had to park a block away from their house for months because of ongoing construction/deconstruction. It is quite common to realize that there is insufficient drainage or electrical capacity in one area, and to spend months digging and repairing. It is just as common to have someone decide that a main downtown street should be moved 2 feet to the left, resulting in intricate and convoluted maze-like traipses along side roads and through alleyways for the foreseeable future.
To a Westerner, it can seem almost farcical. The lack of planning and mitigating actions is astounding. The costs of deconstructing and reworking are astronomical; surely there are more efficient ways to achieve results? Like the root system that crushes our pipes every few years. Surely we could remove the tree and avoid future damage? But that is just not the way here; that tree in front of each house is obviously esthetically pleasing to someone ... why ruin that simply to protect the compound's infrastructure. In reality, the cost of hiring six guys to dig up our yard is much cheaper than the cost of the tree. Even if they have to dig it up every year. Either way, money's not the issue here. Why invest loads in urban planning and delay construction on a project we want built now? Which is likely why mere months after seeing major roadworks completed, we wake up to see them deconstructed and retrofitted. Build now, think later seems to be the motto.
Or maybe it's just that someone takes great pleasure in knowing that every couple of years or so, they can dig a crater in our yard and show the world that our poo stinks too!