Biological Abyss

The following event actually happened a few days ago.  After discussing the issue, we decided to include it in this triplog since it is uniquely part of the travel experience.  What you are about to read is true and confirms the the old adage that most problems in life are self-inflicted. 

We woke a little earlier than usual.  the morning air was warm and the sky was clear and bright.  Jeanne decided to skip the workout, but after two cups of coffee, I got on with the weights, Pilates and run.

Returning to the coach I expected to take a quick shower before heading for town.  But disaster struck while I was running, Jeanne had dropped a plastic bottle into the Black Tank.

Here’s the situation:  The waste from the toilet empties into the Black Tank before it is dumped to the sewer about once a week.  A non-biodegradable plastic bottle would probably block the drain and repair would be messy and expensive.  Very messy and very expensive.  The plastic bottle had to be fished out.  I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination what sort of biology goes on inside the Black Tank; this is not the place you would want to go fishing for anything.

The toilet is a modern marvel.  At the press of a button, a door slides back and any material in the bowl drops about four feet into the Black Tank below.  A pump swishes water into the bowl, the trap closes and the fixture is ready for the next use.  This is similar to toilets on airplanes, but without the giant sucking sound.

We are usually very careful about what goes into the Black Tank, but on this occasion, Jeanne was opening the cabinet above the toilet at the moment the trap door was open for flushing.  At that instant, a plastic bottle rolled out of the cabinet and down the drain, so to speak.  When I returned from running, Jeanne had the trap door open and was carefully inspecting the inside of the Black Tank with a flashlight securely attached to her wrist.  There the bottle was, standing upright and held in place by the contents of the Black Tank.  All we needed to do was fish it out.

But how?  We didn’t have a four-foot grabber handy and the pipe was probably too narrow anyway.  It was way too far to reach and you wouldn’t want to get your arm stuck in the narrow passage trying.  The bottle was slowly sinking into the biological abyss and something needed to be done, now. 

The situation reminded me of the movie Apollo XIII, where the astronauts had to construct an carbon dioxide scrubber from the materials at hand.  We weren’t about to asphyxiate, but we needed to come up with something fast.  There were only minutes to spare and it was important for us to keep our cool.

I remember we had some double-sided sticky tape; the kind that is spongy in the middle and sticks like crazy.  While Jeanne looked for the tape, I got the telescoping rod we use for cleaning the coach windows and unscrewed the sponge/squeegee from the end.  I carefully wrapped the end of the rod with the double-sided sticky tape and secured it with a wrap of duct tape just to make sure it wouldn’t come loose.  We were ready for the big moment.

With the skill of a surgeon performing a colonoscopy,  I lowered the rod into the Black Tank and made contact with the top of the bottle.  It worked, the bottle stuck and slowly it slipped free from the muck.  Slowly, slowly it came up through the pipe, inching its way to salvation.  Finally, it was out far enough and I grabbed it with my bare hands.  Yuck!  We’re saved!  Yuck!  Quick, close the toilet and let me get this s— off my hands!

In a few minutes, all was back to normal.  The bottle was cleaned and quietly resting in the cabinet, the rod was cleaned and stored, my hands were scrubbed with antibacterial soap and the Black Tank was sealed.  Problem solved.

The rest of the day was uneventful in comparison.  Somehow updating the computers, visiting with family and preparing dinner just didn’t provide the same sort of excitement.

We slept soundly that night, knowing all was well in the Black Tank.