Ooops! Chapter 1

The last day of a trip is a dreaded day for all travelers The fun is over, reality returns, memories are fresh in the mind, and you begin your journey home. But as the captain of an RV, the day when you pack up your ship and prepare to hit the highway is guaranteed to be exceedingly stressful…for it is the day (morning usually) when you have to empty your black water tank.

LOL…”black water”…it’s a misnomer for sure. As you may have guessed, there’s nothing black in the water in that tank…truth be told its color varies from dark brown to light brown to corn kernel yellow.

So there I was, 9:00 am on a bright sun-filled morning, with checkout time a mere 2-hours away…and I approached the sewer system control with confidence. Yes, confidence! I was ready to get ‘er done. After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo. While I didn’t consider myself a seasoned veteran, I did have about 15 successful purges under my belt…that’s 15 for 15 by the way. You can say I was batting 1000…and I thought I had defeated the law of averages. I thought I was invincible.

Time was my enemy as I hurried about my critical tasks. I could feel the air temperature around me rise as the sun pushed upward, along its ancient path. In Wilmington NC in early September, the atmosphere can quickly become sauna-like…and today was no exception. I’m glad beyond words to note that the RV itself was providing shade from the rays of the low morning sun. Had misfortune put me on the east (sun-kissed side) of the RV, I would’ve been a facing heat exhaustion or stroke for sure. As it was, even in the long shadows of my 14’ tall home, I felt a good amount of sweat trickle down my back, and a drop of dew form on my nose. I realized I needed to get this job done and done quick…for beyond this ignoble job awaited the cool air-conditioned comfort of my pickup truck.

My “stinky slinky” sewer hose was in place, so I dashed to the valve controls and yanked on the “black” water valve that was engineered to unleash the mighty brown-river.

At this point, I would normally hear the rushing torrent of the evacuation…but what did I hear instead? Silence. I moved to the hose itself and lifted it gently…I should’ve felt the rushing torrent…but what did I feel instead? Relative calm. Where is the flow? Has gravity failed me at this most critical hour? The sun continues to rise, the temperature presses in.

Sweat from the heat is now intermingled with sweat from a foreboding fear and both push through my t-shirt and jeans (yes, jeans…I don’t know what I was thinking wearing jeans to this event). My eyeglasses began to slowly slip down my nose as I hung my head low. The unthinkable happened. My RV is either oddly constipated, or there simply isn’t anything in the black water tank. I feared the former and hoped for the latter. And I panicked.

I know! Maybe my hearing and my sense of touch has failed me…what I need is visual confirmation of the issue…so I removed the sewer hose from the pipe on the underside of my vehicle. I needed to see if anything, anything at all, was coming out of my baby. And to my surprise there was precious little. Just a trickle of light brown. Perhaps my assessment was wrong…perhaps the tank was empty! That would’ve solved all of my problems for sure! My panic turned to rejoicing! Perhaps this was a complete non-issue and I had worried myself for nothing. A smile formed on my glistening face.

There’s only one way to be sure in this situation…I needed to add pure water to the black tank. Thankfully my RV has such a feature. You simply hook up a garden hose to the Black Flush port on the mechanicals panel and turn on the water. So that’s what I did, and in no time at all a sizeable force of clean water poured into my baby’s intestines. I was using the scientific method to ensure that the tank was empty…and I was instantly proud of myself having relied on my extensive training. I knew at any moment I would see clear water coming out of the open sewer pipe…

…any moment now I should see clear water…

…should be coming out…I’ll just give it another couple more seconds…

…any moment…clean, clear water coming right out of that pipe…

…any moment…

Wait a minute…did I say “Open” sewer pipe? Hmmm…that doesn’t look right…I never have left the sewer pipe unattached during this phase of the operation. You don’t rely on visual confirmation of anything at this stage of the game.

GASP!

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I forgot to put the stinky slinky back on the sewer pipe!!! And all this with water flushing into the black tank at a feverish pace…without it coming out, that means the worst is about to happen…the tank is NOT empty…it’s BLOCKED!!!!

Before I could move a muscle…and long before I could get near the sewer pipe to connect the slinky hose again…gravity and water pressure won the day, and out dropped a wretched, semi-solid broth of biological indignities…and the sun was unrelenting…the temperature accelerated…and the glasses continued to slide.

I regret to say that my “batting average” changed for the worse on Sept 2, 2014. While 15 for 16 is excellent for baseball, it’s not so good for the captain of an RV on moving day.

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