By Wolfe Rose
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
This past holiday weekend I went camping at a dump station. At least, two hours into waiting in line for my trailer to do its business I felt like I had added an extra day to my stay. As we lurched forward, I was reminded of several reasons I usually use a macerator at home instead of waiting in line like this. This is the part of camping that I’ve never heard anyone say they enjoy because it’s gross, it stinks, it’s slow. Wait a minute, no it isn’t. At least, it shouldn’t be … and what was taking everyone so long?
I got to watch the last several rigs ahead of mine, and the owner of a very shiny one typified the problem as he carefully opened his storage compartment, changed his shoes for rubber ones, gloved up to the elbows, put on a welders apron, and finally laboratory goggles. Are you kidding me? I was waiting for him to add hip-waders and a snorkel.
Thus surgically prepared, he reached into storage again and retrieved the Stinky Slinky of The One True Dumpsite. It didn’t have a brass nameplate, but he carried it reverently at arms’ length and face level until he reached his connection, bowed before the valves and … stared as if he’d never seen this end of his rig before. Setting the Slinky on the ground (baptized in the “ick zone” — so much for reverence), he finally proceeded to uncap, reach for what seemed the gray valve, remembered to actually connect his Slinky first, and bumbled his way through, albeit a total of 25 minutes before he rolled forward again.
The rig right before mine had a Slinky that disconnected when the black valve was released. Yeah, I was wondering if I could still borrow the rubber shoes when it was my turn. This guy also wore elbow length gloves, and after pretty well covering them when his Slinky exploded, he wiped them off … on his pants … and then drove away.
WHAT I DO (AND WHY)
And then it was finally my turn. Just for curiosity (since I wonder about really gross things), I timed myself from hopping out to hopping back in. I swear I couldn’t take that long. Here’s the procedure I followed:
1. Opened my driver side storage and removed my leak-proof tray containing my Slinky, setting it open on the grass away from the puddle of ick. This keeps the container uncontaminated outside; I occasionally wash the inside with bleach.
2. Grabbed the dump end of the Slinky and lodged it in the hole, right-handed. Only my right hand will get contaminated.
3. Removed the cap and connected the RV end of the Slinky, right-handed. Park close and only stretch the Slinky as far as needed, minimizing contamination and maximizing flow rate.
4. Pulled the black tank release left-handed. My left hand isn’t contaminated, so neither is the handle.
5. Opened the RV door left-handed, filled the toilet to the rim and then released it fast. I don’t have a tank rinser, so this final surge helps. I’m just waiting around anyway!
6. Returned to the Slinky. I have a clear section so I can enjoy the show, just winding down again and free of “traffic” on the river. Gravity won’t empty perfectly anyway, but no more black tank “boats” is enough.
7. Before the river dried up, I closed the black valve, left-handed. No, the tank is NOT empty. I don’t want it dry, so no reason to trickle for 10 minutes only to add more water.
8. Pulled the gray tank release, left-handed. Right is still contaminated, handles are still clean.
9. When the stream mostly slowed, I closed the gray valve. Again, I don’t want totally dry.
10. Right hand released the Slinky from the RV, and lifted that end to drain the Slinky. The inside of the Slinky may be damp, but it’s not dribbling. And it actually shouldn’t smell too much, either, because the soapy gray water washed out any black “ick.” Never dump only black, and never dump it last.
11. Right hand coiled Slinky back in it’s tray. This is the trickiest part, but my tray’s sides resist enough to accordion the Slinky one-handed. Left hand stowed tray.
12. Left hand replaced the cap, which hangs away from the pipe and was dry. I don’t touch the inside anyway, but this is the first time my left hand even COULD get contaminated.
13. Returned to RV, and washed my hands with good antibacterial soap. Unsettling that no one else I saw washed.
14, Drove away … all of 4 minutes later and up to 90 gallons lighter, and I wasn’t racing.
WHAT I DON’T DO (AND WHY)
Now, you may have noticed several normally lauded things I did NOT do. I didn’t skip them because of rushing; I always skip them:
• I didn’t wear goggles and a Tyvek suit – because there shouldn’t be a reason to. I’m not splashing around in puddles, and my Slinky connects securely and doesn’t leak.
• I didn’t wear booties – I stood uphill from the dampness, so even if my soles got damp, that’s no worse than walking into the men’s room. I did scuff my shoes in the grass walking back to the truck.
• I didn’t even wear gloves – My Slinky is stored in a leak-proof container and is generally bone-dry on the outside. At no point was either hand wet until I washed them, and dumping shouldn’t be any worse than going to the bathroom yourself – which you usually wash after, right?!
• I didn’t wait for the very last trickles – Besides causing an absurd delay, you should never leave your tanks dry unless you’ve seriously cleaned them (e.g., with a pressure washer). This is because gravity (and most tank rinsers) actually cannot empty all the solids (black tank solids or gray food waste) from your tanks, and letting them dry out will glue those solids in place. This is a corollary of why you never, ever (!) leave your valves open when you have full connections (because almost none of your solids follow the water out of the tanks). The “official” procedure would have you immediately re-add water after dumping 99%, but that’s just adding insult over only draining the faster 95% in the first place.
• I didn’t rinse the Slinky with a rinse hose – If 40 gallons of soapy gray water hasn’t cleaned out the Slinky, I have little faith a couple gallons of plain water will. Meanwhile, you’re almost certainly contaminating yourself by touching the maltreated rinse spigot and hose.
• Some recommend wipes for questionable surfaces, but I’m towing a sink with hot water, so I use that for hands instead of wipes or gel sanitizer.
Do you think I’m Dumping Dangerously? In the hundreds of dumpings I’ve done as above, I’ve never had reason to believe I’ve contaminated myself. If you feel safer at least wearing gloves, go with them and remove them properly … but save your pants. That was just nasty.