This post comes with a warning; it’s toilet talk!
2nd November 2001
At some point it is inevitable that the conversation comes down to poo. I am only surprised it has taken until Day 16.
This trip has provided a wealth of new experiences, and among them are some new toileting tales. It began on Day 2 during the flight, sitting on the pan it struck me that I’d never had a poo in the air before, and faced with the new experience I began to wonder if I was doing it all correctly. Had I missed part of the pre-flight safety briefing, just after the oxygen mask demonstration when the cabin crew explained how to use the toilet?
I vaguely wondered if like on trains, you weren’t supposed to use the toilet at the station (or in this case over land) for fear of fouling the platform. I quickly dismissed this worry, and anyway, by now we were mid-Atlantic and safely away from the ‘station’.
I knew that it many countries it was the custom not to flush the toilet paper but to put it in the bin. Did the same customs apply to air space? In my limited experience of air travel I certainly had never heard an announcement made to the effect of “We will soon be entering French air space and so from now on we ask passengers to observe the ‘bin don’t flush’ rule.” I pushed the button and with a slightly alarming sucking noise and a sense of relief, all of the toilet contents were evacuated in a blur. I made a mental note to never press the button when sitting on the pan for fear of being turned inside out.
Day 3 brought it’s own maritime toileting experience. There were four toilets or ‘heads’ on the Kommandor Amalie, two for our use, and another two for the officers. I thought it strange that such a distinction should be made, but I guess every job needs it’s perks. Over one toilet hung a sign politely stating “NO SHITTING” in Glaswegian George’s best handwriting. He’d even gone to the trouble of laminating it to preserve its longevity. You could see the logic as the pan was such a shape that anything falling inside would hit ceramic rather than sliding cleanly away. Why would anybody designed such a toilet?
The other toilet didn’t have a sign, and so by its absence I assumed it was safe to use in which ever way nature had determined. This toilet had it’s own particular quirk, it was so tall that your feet dangled aloft when you perched on it, but worst still the flush was a useless gentle trickle. I stood for an eternity with the button depressed but to no avail; it just stirred the contents of the bowl and nothing was being washed away. It was like some terrible garden centre water feature. Mortified and feeling both violated and like a violater, I waited until I couldn’t hear anybody around and snuck out, leaving the evidence gently swirling in the bowl while I sought out George to ask for a bucket of water. It brought to mind the time when my 3 year old nephew used the toilet in B&Q – in the showroom.
The next day I decided to use the officer’s toilet. Such a rebel. I snuck in and was pleased to see a low comfortable seat and ample flow to sweep away all but the most stubborn of floaters. Now I could better understand the perk.
And so this brings me to the Santa Maria. Unfortunately the ‘bin, don’t flush’ custom is observed on board, and the officers toilet which I use has the same weird shaped bowl as I saw on the KA, but mercifully there is sufficient flow to deal with the problem. The crew are not so lucky. There are two launch pads to stand on and a hole in the middle to squat over. The theory is that if your feet are aligned with the pads, the hole is aligned with your…well, you can work it out. However, there was evidence to suggest this was not always the case, and not surprising on a moving ship.