Warning: the following column contains subject matter of a highly sensitive nature. Unless you are a regular listener of the Howard Stern Show, you will probably be offended by the contents therein. And, furthermore, if you are a guy, stop reading this right now, because even if you don’t get grossed out, you won’t get it anyway.
Now that we’re alone, girls, can we talk? It’s about cruise ship toilets. With cruising becoming an increasingly popular vacation choice, chances are good that you will one day find yourself embarking on a journey aboard an ocean liner. And when that day finally arrives, whether you have waited 30 or 40 or even 50 years to experience perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime ocean voyage, there is about a 100% chance that the instant you board the gangway, you will (guys, I warned you) get your period. Your monthly visitor. Your curse.
Yes, this is the unspoken burden of vacationing women all over the world. In fact, here’s a little trick I’ve learned over the years – if you’re late, and afraid you might be pregnant, just pack your suitcase and, voila! (I never leave home without it.)
In most cases, it’s simply an annoyance. You simply have to pack a few extra items – heating pads, Motrin, and, of course, sanitary products. But, one thing I didn’t know until recently is that while aboard a cruise ship, a woman with her period has the potential to shut down the entire plumbing system.
My husband believes that this is what I did on our recent ill-fated cruise from San Diego to Vancouver.
As you might recall in last week’s column, I met my queasy-looking husband on the Lido deck our first morning on ship after a night of high seas when he first uttered the words, “The toilet wont’ flush.” It would be the first of so many times I would hear that phrase over the next five days of suspenseful hit-and-miss flushing that by the second day I contemplated jumping overboard just to never hear it again. Because it wasn’t just an informational announcement. The tone of the phrase implied that somehow I had played a role in the causing the clogged crapper.
“You know,” my husband said in an instructional tone, “you’re not supposed to flush sanitary napkins down that toilet.”
“I’m not flushing sanitary napkins down the toilet,” I replied defensively.
“There’s a sign on the wall that says, ‘Do not flush sanitary napkins of any kind down the toilet.'”
“I saw the sign, and it shows a picture of a hand tossing a pop bottle into the toilet! Besides, I’m not flushing napkins, I’m flushing Tampons.”
“See?” he sputtered. “I don’t think you’re supposed to flush those, either.”
A sign on the wall close to the sign with the picture of a hand throwing a bottle into the toilet with a red circle and a line through it stated, roughly: Flushing anything other than toilet paper down this toilet will likely result in clogging up the system which may result in costing the flushee money if we have to come and unclog it.”
Anything? Bottles I could see. Napkins, ditto. But could that include the harmless and highly dissolvable Tampon? If so, why didn’t Tampons get their own sign, like the napkins? Didn’t anyone ever see that famous Tampon-dissolving-in-a-glass-of-water commercial? Obviously my husband hadn’t.
And so it would go, over the course if five long days at sea, with nothing on the horizon but the inevitable question as to whether our loo would flush, and whether, indeed, my sanitary product of choice was lethal to the ultra-sensitive stateroom privy. It didn’t help matters when our diningroom companions, who resided on the same deck as us, casually made mention that they’d had occasional bouts of latrine malaise themselves. I saw it as a self-redeeming piece of information, (See? It’s not just us! Other people are having plumbing problems, too!) but it only made my husband more convinced that I had succeeded in clogging up not only our own but an entire decks’s worth of commodes.
I always knew when there had been a flushing malfunction – an accusatory “Were you just in here?” would come bellowing from the tiny stateroom water closet.
Our days at sea began to revolve around finding a working toilet. We became experts at where all of the heads were located on every deck, and even prided ourselves on being able to rattle off directions to little old ladies desperately looking for a powder room: “Keep going through the Ocean Bar, past the Explorations Café, and it’s at the front of the ship in a small enclave on your left just before the Main Dining Room. It’s a very nice two-seater with peach-colored wallpaper.”
Sure, I got some funny looks now and then. But no funnier than some of the looks we got from the daily parade of maintenance engineers in and out of our stateroom privy.
Yep, there’s one bill that could rival our Ocean Bar bill.