Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Pump Out

By Julie Rahm                                                     
We were spending vacation time on our sailboat. We had been aboard for a few weeks and it was time to pump out our holding tank. As you may know, sewage generated onboard a boat is held in a tank and pumped out at a marina. Our holding tank was full. So, we pulled up to a marina pump out dock. The attendant handed my husband, John the business end of the pump out hose. When the pump out hose is pressed into a boat’s deck fitting, it vacuums the waste out of the holding tank. In our case, the hose wasn’t sucking properly.  The pump out attendant directed John to break the vacuum seal and re-seat the end of the hose back into our boat’s deck fitting. John, very obediently and without thought, broke the seal on the apparatus. Instantly, “Old Faithful” erupted from the deck fitting. In a scene reminiscent of Yellowstone, the two-week-old contents of our holding tank geysered up from the fitting. The jet fountain of filth caught John squarely in the chest with collateral damage to his face and arms. John uttered some technical language as he removed the larger chunks of toilet tissue from his hair. You can imagine the stench. John considered jumping off the boat. However, the water was cold and he did not want to create an environmental incident!
To my credit, I did not laugh (although difficult). However, I did maneuver myself upwind. My only words were, “Well, I guess “stuff” happens.” (John didn’t find that amusing until later.) I am proud of my husband. He didn’t vomit, departed the pump out dock and drove our boat to its assigned slip. I managed to work all of our dock lines while staying upwind from him. When the boat was safely tied in its slip, I made John strip down to his skivvies above deck. There was no way I was going to let him below. Everything went into a garbage bag for a triple wash with Clorox. John wished he had worn some colored boxers that day. As he walked down the pier to the marina showers, daylight was fading and his white briefs were like a beacon from a cotton lighthouse! The other marina guests tried not to notice John walking down the pier in his underwear. Some things just have to be done.
Ultimately, both John and our boat cleaned up nicely. I closely monitored John’s health for the next couple of weeks for signs of strange infections. John received kudos for parking our boat while covered in two-week-old excrement and not vomiting. He says it wasn’t that bad once he got the large chucks of toilet tissue off! There is no substitute for fortitude and a strong stomach.
So, I tell you this story to tell you this. Often, it’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it. For help with handling your life’s incidents, visit my website at

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