If you've never watched the BBC show Top Gear, you're missing out. It's a car show, sort of, where they recently road-tested the new Ford Festiva by driving it in a shopping mall while being chased by baddies in black sedans. The hosts are frequently given challenges, like build a car that floats, or make a minivan into a convertible, which are then put to a series of tests.
I love it. In fact, I hope for wicked sales success for The Portable Dad so one day I can appear on the show and drive their reasonably priced car with The Stig. (He's the guy in the helmet.)
I mention all of this because the other day my septic tank stopped working.
When the tank gets to a certain level, two floats inside the thing are supposed to turn on the pump and push the water uphill to the leachfield, where it returns to the Earth. If the pump doesn't kick on, another float sets off an annoying alarm so you know to turn the pump on manually. The alarm float worked. One of the others wasn't.
Here's the Top Gear connection. The most common phrase on Top Gear, uttered every time they are given another crazy challenge, is, "How hard can it be?" And as a general approach to life, I think it's a good one. Assume it's not impossible, assume you can do it and see what happens. (Of course, in all fairness, I must also point out that the second-most-common phrase on Top Gear is, "That's not gone well," often accompanied by running. I've only head "I'm on fire" once or twice...)
Anyway, I know very little about electricity, but do know that a working switch should allow electricity to flow through it when it's set one way, and not flow through it when it's set the other. That and a continuity tester (and kneeling next to an open septic tank for a while...) showed me which if the floats was bad. Had to drive 45 minutes to the nearest place that carried new ones, then had the wiring put up a bit of a struggle reinstalling it. But it works, and no one caught fire and I saved at least $100 by not having to call out a plumber or septic service.
How hard can it be? If you're looking for a good approach to life, I highly recommend it.