I wrote this a few years ago while working as an Able Seaman on an old oil tanker.
Head-Aches, a retrospective.
You might have noticed a certain lack of content on this blog for the past two weeks. The quality control people are out to lunch, here at HAWSEPIPER. You see, I’m in the Doldrums, the Horse Latitudes of my 120-day stay here on the S.S. Bucket O’ Blood. Progress is minimal, the days seemingly stretch out into forever. 74 days on board, 46 days to go. The days have run by in a blur, only to come into a screeching halt these past two weeks, and so it will go for two weeks more before I start the home stretch.
So, yeah, I am… uninspired. Things are going well at home, there’s plenty of peace and goodwill on board, nothing to bitch about… well, except for this one thing… naturally.
Consider, then, ye dogs, the impervious horror more pervasive than that of a lee shore. I’m talking about… the communal head, the shared toilet, the seat of ease for six well-fed men who don’t get enough fiber or exercise.
Yeah, I share a bathroom with six guys. Two working toilets, most of the time.
But lets go a little deeper into this: a 48-year old men’s room. Consider that. The ghosts of 48 Christmases, Thanksgiving Dinners, not to mention A Hundred Thousand Gallons of chile con carne.
Sailors are, for the most part, fairly fastidious. We clean the head regularly. There’s always at least one slob bachelor on board, of course, which makes the place… well, unsanitary, at times, and this is a misery that must be dealt with.
Feel free to comment or correct me here, but I believe that there are some unwritten rules to keeping the peace when it’s a 1:3 toilet: man-who-ain’t-family ratio. Number one, of course is, if there’s a pair of shoes with the toes pointing out, come back later. There might be a seat available, but leave a man in peace. It might be the only 3-minute block he has to himself all day. There is Nothing, NOTHING worse than having to sit in shared discomfort with only a ½ inch wall between you and another man attempting to launch the Brown October.
Rule Number two (heh), is don’t dribble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my coveralls back on, and realized that the cuff or a spot on the shoulder is wet. That’s another man’s pee. That’s not right. Believe me, if I could identify the culprit, I’d knife ‘em. I gotta change, or worse, if I'm running late, walk back on deck with that shit on. No wonder I get rashes.
Anyhow, you get the idea.
While I’m here, however, I have a question. Why is it that old men can completely blow up the bathroom with apparent ease? Always, every time, the old guys beat the bathroom into submission. There is no misidentification of these phenomena. First off, The hallway outside the bathroom smells like a bible story from 50 feet away. Also, the head itself has an aura more than a stink, and covering up the horrors requires more than just Lysol. You’re going to need an old priest, a young priest and an exorcism. And it always happens when you’re making a gear-up landing, with no chance that you’ll be able to wait. You rush into the stall, which smells like a miscarriage, and worst of all, dear God, the seat is warm.
When the weather is rough, taking a leak, or worse, requires acrobatics, planning, and quite possibly a good pair or workboots. Thing about it: ship rolling, weight shifting… that’s all it takes to lift the whole can off of the wax seal in the floor, just a bit. No one wants to see that happen, so a sitting man has to set his feet in the clamdigger pose, 5 feet apart. Use one hand to brace against the downhill stall wall, and be ready to change hands and leaning walls, fast. Peeing is, of course, simpler. Lean against a wall at the shoulder, forming a triangle, with feet splayed against the other wall, and have at it.
Well, now you’re informed, and when you take that next cruise and the weather turns foul, your wife and kids will thank you, and so will the maid.