Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Proud Pump Retires

For about the past 10 years the water in our fish pond has been circulating for 24 hours a day (not counting a few power outages), all thanks to a little electric motor and a pump. But yesterday that impressive record of service came to an end.

I called my brother, who is an expert in pumps and, coincidentally, an undercover agent for the CIA (so I'll call him Hector in this entry). Hector attempted to explain the concepts of a water pump--how, by balancing the pressure on both sides of the pump, the movement of such great quantities of water (which is awfully heavy, by the way) can be done with such little effort (in this case, a 0.10 horsepower motor).

The motor is on the left in this picture, and the pump (with a darker color) is on the right and with a pipe coming out of its top side. Water goes into the hole on the right and is pushed up the pipe. The motor is still OK--it hums away and turns the pump--but the pump (also known as the wet end) just doesn't propel water anymore.

More than once I've wondered: what else can run for 10 years non-stop, day and night, and outside in the Florida weather? This pump is a relic, really, a throwback to a time when people worked their entire lives for single company, with a sense of balance and permanence, with an expectation of work and an ethic to provide it, at a time when job security was taken for granted in return for good job performance? Now we expect things to break after two of three years, and our careers often have the same event horizon. In any case, the pump provides a good example--we do best when the forces around us are in balance.

I've ordered a new pump from the same company ( And I'll run the Emerson motor until it gives out. Hector reminded me that Emerson is the company that makes ceiling fans. Years ago, he and I lived in an old house with a working Emerson fan that had been in the house since about 1910, and I'll bet that fan is still running.

When the new pump arrives I'll attach it to the motor and hopefully all will be well. Then I'll take the old pump and set it on a rock in the shade where it can see the pond and have a nice retirement. Job well done, my friend.