* Special thanks to Scott Arrants for the title of this entry. I solicited ideas on Facebook, and Scott’s was the big winner. Next time I see you, drinks are on me, buddy!
Channel surfing in bed a couple of weeks ago, I happened upon the movie “RV” starring Robin Williams. If you have seen it, you are familiar with the part when Robin attempts to empty the RV “black water,” or sewage, holding tank, for the first time. The bumpkins in the RV park grab their folding chairs and snacks and line up to watch the entertainment. And that shit is funny. Shit is always funny, as I noted in The Excrement Files. Robin is assaulted by a crap geyser the size of Old Faithful.
Remote in hand, I was disappointed that I caught the movie in the middle, and I missed the black water bit.
As Johnny Mercer penned in the song “Something’s Gotta Give,” “So en garde, who knows what the fates might have in store from their vast mysterious sky.” My mild disappointment wafted into the night air and up into the atmosphere, and somewhere at that moment it was cosmically decreed that personal experience was far superior to a comedic fiction. Yes, the universe has a way of granting wishes and desires via a garbled game of “Telephone.”
One of my biggest fears in owning a motorhome has been encountering sewage. When I owned FiFi I bragged that she did not have a toilet, and I would never deal with such a thing. I am already so shit-focused due to my medical condition; it is traumatic enough to face my waste once. Anything more than that is just cosmic cruelty.
Armed with fear and disgust, I turned to my friend Trudy for advice and wisdom on draining Nellie’s black water tank. She even met me at the dump station in Port Orchard the first time it was necessary. She showed me how to attach the hose, how to flush the black water tank, and how to follow by flushing the gray water tank to cleanse the hose. Sure, it was a bit smelly, but all in all it was a positive experience with no mishaps. I purged the tanks on my own the second time, and all went well.
They say the third time is a charm. It was 5:45 in the morning, and I was at the dump station in Port Orchard, emptying the tanks before taking the ferry to Seattle for RV and toad work. Sure, I was a bit bleary-eyed. Yes, it was still a little dark, and I confirmed the hose was on securely by feel only and not by sight.
RV tanks pour out with the help of gravity, and therefore it is recommended that they be as full as possible before dumping. The more full they are, the greater the speed and pressure with which they run out, hopefully resulting in a thoroughly clean tank. Particularly with black water, the goal is to flush any solids such as poo or toilet paper which have not been broken down by the additives in the tank. I know – eww.
The hose secured, I opened the valve to the black water tank. The refuse began flowing rapidly and with great force, which lasted for about 20 seconds. That’s when the hose came loose, and a putrid yellow-brown liquid began spewing all over the bay, the items stored in the bay, the ground, and my feet and legs.
I stood there for a bit, completely paralyzed by the spectacle before me. The foul liquid continued to escape – my own personal excrement Exxon Valdez. It finally dawned on me to close the valve, which I did with my bare hands, resulting in even more spillage on my clothes and person.
The stench was mind-numbing. I mumbled, “Well that just happened.” I began talking out loud to myself, telling myself to grab the hose provided at the dumping station and wash away the revolting evidence.
The hose was broken. It no longer had a metal coupler attaching it to the spigot.
“That’s OK,” I said. “I have a hose.” That hose was in the bay full of filth.
I didn’t bother to glove up. I figured my hands were already covered in liquified defecation, and putting gloves on them would just seal in the germs and bacteria. I held my breath and grabbed the once white, now brown, hose. I rinsed it under the open spigot first, then attached it to the spigot and began the horrific process of spraying out the bay. The malodorous mixture made its way down the parking lot to the storm drain. I shuddered to think of raw sewage in there, but there was no other viable option.
The bay and the pavement thoroughly hosed down, I turned my attention to all the items that had been stored in the bay. Take my advice and do not store anything of importance or value in the bay containing the black water valve. If you do, get in the habit of removing everything before dumping. I threw every single item into the garbage at the gas station. No amount of cleaning would ever convince me those things were sanitary.
Crisis nearly contained, I entered the RV to look for a bottle of bleach for the final cleanse. I did not expect what I encountered next. The entire coach smelled like raw sewage. At first I was concerned that the spill had not been limited to one bay, because the stench was so strong. But, I knew that bay was made of plastic and rubber and designed not to leak into other areas.
I opened the windows and turned on the exhaust fans, then noticed the cat and dog sitting on the sofa. They both looked as if they had been hit across the face with a two-by-four. They were as stiff as statues. Olive’s nostrils flared. Boss Tweed was doing that weird open-mouth breathing thing that cats do when they want a really good sniff. Animals are compelled by smell and by the messages contained in pee and poop – I knew I had to eliminate the smell quickly before they both took a dump right where they sat!
I poured two more bottles of bleach in and around the bay, which made the interior of the coach smell comfortingly like Clorox. I then returned to my friend’s house where I stripped down, scrubbed myself raw, and bagged my clothes and shoes for disposal. I felt like I had just committed a murder. The bag of clothes I threw in a commercial dumpster in town, so as not to infect my friend’s garbage can.
In the future, to ensure that the hose is secured properly, I will begin my dumping process by opening the gray water valve for 10 to 20 seconds. If the hose comes off during the dumping of laundry, dish and shower water, no harm no foul … odor. You may want to take my advice and do the same. Don’t dump all the gray water first, though. Once you have confirmed the hose is secure, dump the black water, then use the remaining gray water to flush out the hose.