Intermittently, over the years, I’ve had problems with my house sewage system. Normally I would get out the rods and clear it myself or hire one of those drain cleaning companies.
Last year, however, the problem became more serious so I contacted Cork County Council, the relevant authority, and they cleared the system. Unfortunately, the system became blocked again last week so after failing to clear it myself I again called the council.
It usually takes about three days of phoning before contact is made with someone who actually deals with this particular problem. You know the sort of thing, passed on from office to office, promises of a call back that never happens and so on.
Today was different, today I experienced something very odd, something I’ve never experienced before in all my contacts with the civil service. Here’s the conversation.
Me: Hello, I rang yesterday about a sewage blockage, somebody was supposed to ring back but didn’t. Could you put me through to the relevant department please?
Civil Servant: I’m sorry but there’s nobody in that department today. Somebody died and they’re all at the funeral.
Me: Ok, could you ask them to ring me as soon as possible as I have sewage coming up in my garden? (This was an exaggeration but in a day or two it would be fact).
Civil Servant: Oh, that’s an emergency. I’ll give you the number of the NRA and they’ll call down today.
Me: The NRA? Do you mean the National Roads Authority?
Civil Servant: Yes.
Me: Long pause as I quickly checked the date, prodded myself with a biro to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and replied – But what possible connection could the National Roads Authority have with domestic sewage systems?
Civil Servant: Oh, they deal with this sort of problem when we have nobody else available.
I scribbled down the number but I won’t be ringing. It’s probably the phone number for the local dog pound or maybe the parish priest, I’m not falling for that old trick. No, I’ll wait a day or two until all those people return from the funeral and pretend it’s my first call.
Later on, while cooking dinner, I had a Father Ted moment – Did she say the National Roads Authority would be calling to clear my sewage?