Tag Archives: toilet

Where’s the flashlight?

This story related at 53rd WBCCI International Rally from friends, Richard and Julie:


Arriving home after the evening WBCCI program, Julie visited the Airstream’s lavatory. While taking care of necessities, she removed her jewelry and placed them on the cabinet. The jewelry included one of her very nicest, an Italian charm bracelet completely filled with very special charms. When it came time to flush, she incredibly managed to drop the bracelet into the bowl at just the worst moment.

The bracelet cleared the flush valve perfectly and fell straight into the holding tank. Richard heard the panicked, “Oh, No!”
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, but my bracelet went down the toilet!”
“That’s your problem, let me know if you need any help.”
“Turn off the water, so I can hold the trap open.”

Taking a flashlight and kneeling on the trap valve, Julie could see the bracelet directly below the bowl-opening. Thank goodness we had recently dumped. First she tried reaching it with her hand. It could go through, but her arm was not long enough. Then she went through the arsenal of kitchen utensils; spaghetti fork, tongs, etc. None of them worked. Richard suggested she just let it go. But, after her rehearsal of the value of the bracelet, she got his attention and more direct help.

Richard’s answer was to fashion a coat hanger into a long hook. On the second try, he managed to snag the bracelet and draw it back up through the flush valve. Just as Julie grabbed the precious bracelet, Richard accidentally loosened his grip on the flashlight. Of course, it didn’t fall outside the bowl. Down it went, before he could get his knee off the valve pedal.

The round flashlight rolled away from the “drop zone” below the flush valve. Richard claims he could “see the light,” but lacked any means of hooking the smooth flashlight.

On telling about it to the group, we had a lot of fun suggesting ways he might recapture the light. It didn’t help that Richard told Julie that the ingredients in flashlight batteries, when mixed with urine, formed an explosive and could blow up at any moment (it won’t). Murphy’s Law would dictate the light would never exit the tank unless it get sideways in the dump valve. Worse case scenario: it would damage the valve, and should be removed by cutting through the bottom of the Airstream.

Most agreed that the first attempt should be to fill the tank with water, dump at the next stop, and hope for the best. Two stops later, Richard reports, it just fell out of the hose. It was the freebie flashlight given to participants in the WBCCI Region 8 rally. Richard did not restore the flashlight for active service, although they considered sending it to me for my birthday.

Debbie dropped an earring the other day while standing in front of our vanity mirror. Of course, the lavatory drain was open. And I had only the day before I secured the p-trap nut with “rescue tape” to prevent accidental loosening during travels. The tape cuts easily, the p-trap opened up without incident, and I readily rescued the earring. Not too bad, considering how it could have gone.

Some of you might recall our post last year with an accidental waste story, involving a kitchen utensil? Again, good recovery.

But when something goes down the drain, our expectations are so low that any sort of recovery at all is better than we might expect. A flashlight lost to recover a cherished charm bracelet is a good deal, so long as the flashlight doesn’t jam the dump valve.

Today I realized I have lost my wedding band. We were going to town today to have the ring re-sized, had already checked out the jeweler and were ready to go. Only then, just before heading out the door, did I realize the ring is not on my finger.

The ring became uncomfortably tight on my left hand ring finger during the Southwest Caravan in early June. I had stored the ring in my dopp kit until yesterday, when I placed it with a comfortably snug fit on my right hand pinky. Yesterday late evening, I remember, it was there when we walked a few laps around this campground.

Most ironically, I stayed up until just before midnight to finish reading Dan Brown’s thriller, Digital Fortress. The story more or less centers on locating another very important ring and the protagonist’s and hero’s adventures therein. All I can imagine is I lost the ring in a pitched battle sometime after midnight, and I’ll be watching my back.

Or, I might check the blackwater holding tank for the ring, in case I dropped it at just the exact wrong moment and didn’t even hear it ‘clink’ on its way down. I should tie a string around the flashlight before looking down there, eh?

Jim and Debbie
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Plumber’s helper or a push rod?

Last summer while at Bozeman, MT, a call came on our club’s radio net asking for a toilet plunger. It seems the caller, who shall remain unnamed, had a blocked toilet in his RV. He asked the other listeners on the morning net if anyone could loan him a plunger. They offered him a stick instead. A stick?

If you’ve seen most RV’s toilets, they are gravity flush from the bowl through a neck and straight down into the holding tank. This arrangement is inexpensive, extremely simple, and darned reliable. But accidents do happen. Oh crap! Yeah, sometimes movements stop on the way down, wedged in the narrow neck between the toilet dump valve and the tank.

Who hasn’t heard of, or used, a plumber’s helper? Many, if not most, Americans have indoor plumbing. Almost all residential indoor plumbing includes a siphon flush toilet. The siphon refers to a means of creating a trap for water to separate sewer gases from our indoor environment, while still allowing body waste (and whatever else your family throws into the toilet) to flush from the bowl into the sewer drain piping. And the siphon, depending upon specific design, can sometimes be just a little too curvy or small for the job.

What then? Most households have a plumber’s helper somewhere in, or near, the bathroom. A plumber’s helper hardly has an equal for the job of clearing a blockage from the bottom of the bowl at the siphon’s mouth. A push or three of the plumber’s helper will almost always clear the blockage and allow the bowl to flush and refill. This works because the plunger uses hydraulic force of water displaced from the plunger cup, as you push the handle, to clear the siphon of obstructions.

Okay, back to the RVs. Without a siphon trap between the bowl and the waste piping, waste and water dump straight down to the holding tank. Well, this is usually what happens. What if it doesn’t? The blockage is in the neck, or pipe, below the bowl. A plunger is not the tool of choice, unless one wants to turn it around and use the cup as a handle. A plunger won’t help because there is not water to capture in the cup and force downward.

Now what? The unfortunate RVer last summer quickly received at least a half-dozen offers of “a stick” to clear the blockage. A small diameter toilet brush would work, or any sort of stick of approximately 18 to 24 inches length will work fine. The remedy is simply to push the obstructing waste down through the neck. The waste will then fall into the tank.

A push stick would be a one trick stick, and where could I store it? I’ll just use the johnny mop, and clean the brush and bowl when I’ve cleared the blocked toilet pipe. Sticks and bricks houses have plumber’s helpers, we have a johnny mop in the bathroom. Luckily our johnny mop almost exclusively serves as a bowl cleaning tool. And only rarely, we may use it as a push rod.