I do not take my civic duties seriously. It gives me no pleasure to admit I’m neither a joiner or an active member of my community. Yes, I will moan about the amount of traffic clogging our roads while sitting in the car clogging the road, I’ll roll my eyes while reading another story in the local paper about a reactionary councillor’s views on recycling, I’ll loudly sound an internal “Tsk” at some idiot dropping their rubbish in the street rather than putting it in a bin less than five feet away. But I would never dream of confronting the litterer.
Like the crew of the Starship Enterprise who have sworn to uphold the principle of the Prime Directive, I only observe, never intefere.
However, somewhat late in life, fate has thrust a role upon me. Like a character from myth, the gods looked down from Mt. Olympus one drowsy afternoon, squinted through the clouds and said, “Why isn’t that guy contributing anything?” I assumed it was Phil shouting down the stairs at me, but apparently it was the gods.
Hercules had his hydras, boars, bulls and lions. My labour (singular, let’s not get carried away here) is of an altogether different sort.
Fate has decided that I am the Drain Man.
Whenever there’s a torrential downpour it is up to me to dash outside wearing my wife’s mackintosh with the arms that only reach my elbows. The neighbours look on bemused as I violently stab the detritus that’s blocking the drain with a broom handle all while getting absolutely soaking wet. I must look like an incompetent cosplayer or a deranged LARPer.
Eventually, after much vigorous poking and swearing, I clear the leaves, crisp packets and butt ends obstructing the drain. With great satisfaction I watch the water that had pooled close to our front door now flow freely away.
True, it’s not an entirely selfless act. I don’t want rainwater flooding our house but I’m also helping my neighbours, serving my community. Making a contribution. No one else seems to want to bear this heavy responsibility. It reminds of the quote by Raymond Chandler:
“down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor
After the last downpour a neighbour popped his head out of his front door and asked if I was from the council.
No, I replied, water dripping from the end of my nose, I’m Drain Man.
Outside of drains news: I’ve been working on a script for a graphic novel for adults that I’ve been wrestling with for months. A sort of follow up to The Book Tour (out later this year from Top Shelf “A page-turning, Kafkaesque dark comedy in brilliant retro style.”) Some day I hope it will be an ever growing pile of finished pages. At the moment it‘s to an ever growing pile of A4 sheets with scribbled notes on them.