When living full time in an RV, there is the occasional need (like every 3 days) to empty the tanks, a gray one that holds water from the sinks and shower, and the black one that holds – well – the waste and sewage from the toilet.
See, I knew you were too dainty. Several of you just gasped. One of you put your hand over your eyes, and one just turned away from the screen.
A few days ago I was down in a crouch making the necessary connections to empty our tanks and get on to the next town. It’s something we’ve done more than 50 times, so it’s not some great technological challenge. There’s a big hose, a big spout, and a big hole in the ground (usually called a dump station – love that terminology). There are two handles down there, one for the black tank and one for the gray, and while emptying the black tank, I could tell there was something wrong. The flow was not satisfying. I didn’t hear the pleasant “whoosh” that lets you know that matter is running freely.
What was worse was that when I tried to close the black tank, the handle would not close. It would almost close, but when dealing with raw sewage, almost isn’t enough.
As in every thing we’ve done these past months, my wife and I each have our duties in any particular task. I buy the groceries, but she did all the cooking. I drove a lot more than she did, but nobody could have navigated us better. I held the remote control to our DirecTV system, but she told me which numbers to press. She will hate me for this, and I am sure to suffer punishments unknown, but in this particular job – the emptying of the tanks – my wife’s duties are to put things away once I have done the dirty work. Sure, she rinses the hose as well, but you know what? I wouldn’t mind running some clear spring water on a hose every once in a while, and then placing the hose in a bin. That sounds like a little slice of heaven, a walk in the park, an ice cream cone on a summer day. Especially to a guy who handles human waste and pulls the black handle!
Anyway, my wife was behind me, waiting with her little water hose when I made an executive decision. Because the waste wouldn’t come to me, because the black tank would not empty, I decided to investigate.
Sure, turn away. This may be too rough for you. Maybe you’re all a little squeamish. Go back to your pleasant thoughts and rose gardens. Run, if you must, but this was not an option for me.
I unhooked the sewer hose and the rest of the tale is too horrible to tell. Suffice it to say, when the black tank did “loosen” up, there was a mighty roar and a mighty suffering that befell us. Those clothes I was wearing that day are gone, left in a dumpster in a rest area many miles away. Those shoes. My coat. All victims of my hubris, my stupidity, my desire to tempt the RV God Winnebagus.
Most nights now I still wake in fright, still hearing the sound of the explosions, my own girlish screaming, the smell, the horrible realization that it was too late, that no rinsing would ever get me clean.
This is an unpublished section from W.T. Pfefferle’s Poets on Place.