“Indoor Plumbing”, or the peculiar habit of shitting in water, seems much more bizarre and incredibly inconvenient when brought to your attention on a daily basis, in the context of dealing with it yourself.
Needless to say most of us never think twice about waste water. You have drains in your home, and, with minimal proper care (like, not flushing your clothes down the toilet), all the yucky used water just goes down a hole. And fresh clean water comes out of faucets.
In this post, obviously I am going to be talking a bit about poop. We don’t usually talk about our poop, since most of us poop the same way, into a porcelain pot full of water, to be washed away by gallons of drinking water and “processed” some way or another, or in some cases, just washed into a big tank underground. Every once in a while, our poop will come back to haunt us, requiring us to involve another party, and how embarrassing and awful is that? Backed-up toilets, overflow, sick septic systems, storm water causing chaos… oh, many are the ways our seemingly streamlined poop-water system can be disturbed.
So, most of us tenuously cling to an ideal, that we won’t have to deal with our own poops, that we can just flush them away where we never really need to see or hear from them again. Nice enough. This won’t work forever and it’s not good for us, and instinctively I think we all know this, or at least I hope we do.
Now, living in an RV park, at least this one – I have had to become much more intimate with our waste water. I have been using a sewage… hole, more or less, that a flexible pipe from the bottom of the waste tank extends to. What I’ve learned about all that – there are two tanks, each with their own valves and pull-thingers, the gray tank and The Black Tank. Both tanks should be in the “closed” position (not draining) by default. When traveling, the single outlet is covered by a cap. When parked, or emptying, the cap comes off, a slinky hose is attached, and the valves are opened – first the black valve, and then after all 20 gallons of blackwater are drained, the gray valve is opened, as a sort of mucky chaser to rinse out the slinky hose. Then both valves are closed.
These tanks fill rather rapidly in a house of four, and no, you can’t just leave them open to run out like you’d think. Or hope. It’s something about not enough water volume to prevent “buildup” and I’ll leave it at that. Funny thing, I only recently learned that you Just Can’t Do That, so I actually have no realistic concept of how often one would actually need to empty said tanks. I’m going to assume, though, that a total of 40 gallons worth of tanks (20 each, black and gray) won’t take long to fill what with having three messy children and all – Washing dishes, washing hands, washing faces, rinsing wash cloths, rinsing diapers, taking baths, rinsing butts, rinsing feets, rinsing potties, rinsing toys, washing toys, everyone using the potty… It’s going to fill up quickly.
So this reminds me of the time I lived in the woods, in a cabin, in a shack. In a tent, in a van, in a car… One time there was an outhouse – a real, fine, classy shitter. A hole in the ground with a bench built over it, and a house built around it. I just described most houses in our country. Anyways. I got something of a crash-course in proper shitting. You poop in the hole. Yes. You don’t pee in it. No, you do pee in it, something about nitrates and breaking down solids. You cover it. With dirt. No, not with dirt, it can’t breathe. With leaves. You can put your food scraps down it, like a compost. No, that’s gross. No one seems to agree on technique, except for one. Everyone agrees that ashes from the fire are necessary to keep it clean, keep odors down, and keep bugs away. That’s a promise! You *will* put ashes in your potty.
Then of course, if you’re out deep camping in the woods, you’re going to dig a little shitter. A “single use” potty, if you will. Remembering that “shit rolls downhill” and trying not to contaminate any water sources! Pooping in little holes and covering them over with dirt and leaves. Little presents to the Mother, packed with nitrates and proteins. You’re welcome, Mother Earth, Trees, and so on.
So when we think of pooping in the wild, we instinctively know not to shit near the water. Which is probably why it bothers me to be pooping in a ten gallon porcelain pot full of drinking water in a house, but I digress.
In an RV, these pots are just… pots, that use water as a rinsing agent, rather than a suspension. By its very nature, the RV employs water conservation: using gray water to rinse down black water, extremely low-flow toilets. And since the tanks have to be emptied manually, more or less, I think twice about long showers (heating water is a whole other scenario, one I’ve mentioned before), about cleaning house, about washing dishes and so on. I certainly don’t leave the water running while brushing teeth.
So this is “living consciously” I guess. I’m all right with this…
After this experience runs its course, I fully intend to build a composting potty-box to travel with. At least if we’re going to be handling shit it should be getting properly neutralized and going to good use instead of just being washed into our water supply.
And one last thing, adding water to shit is also increasing its volume, and increasing its magnitude also proportionately increases its ick factor.