Monday, August 24, 2009

Low Flush Toilets

One of the soaring email newsletters I subscribe to came out with something interesting the other day. The newsletter's usual content is "looks like a ridge day next Thursday," or "get a free SPOT transceiver using this code." (That one was a good one; I did it. I'll write about SPOT sometime soon.) But this issue featured an essay on low water use toilets. This is less absurd than it appears. Soaring flights tend to be long, and while toilet discussions don't happen every time I go soaring, they don't happen never, either.

I have a lot of time in King Airs, another long-legged aircraft. KAs have a relief tube up front. (Boys only, sorry.) There is a funnel with a venturi arrangement that sends liquids out the bottom of the airplane. I learned the hard way that the button to open the funnel is directly connected to air traffic control. This must be so because every time I ever tried to use it (alone on the cockpit, of course), ATC immediately called with a complicated reroute, leaving me copying my clearance in a compromised and uncomfortable state.

This essay wasn't about any of that; it was about health care reform. The gist of the argument was that the government had mandated the use of low flush toilets in a well-intentioned way; but the author went into somewhat graphic detail about how poorly his toilet handled, um, solid waste. His conclusion was that health care reform was bound to fail.

Now, this is an aviation blog, although occasionally I stray into other areas. That's because aviation is related to everything, at least in my mind. Still, I avoid writing about other aspects of my life, even though they are quite interesting to me, unless they have something to do with aviation. But since the editor of the newletter strayed into politics, I will, too. Well, not really, we are not going to discuss my position on the health care debate going on right now in the USA. We'll talk about logic, and preparation. You can appreciate what I have to say no matter which side of the health care debate you are on.

The logic of the argument is already weak, but the real problem here is lack of preparation by the author. I remember reading about these toilets in Consumer Reports. The authors of the report seemed to take great joy in their delicate description of the problems of removing solid waste, and their methods of testing a variety of toilets. Some toilets did the job much better than others.

Clearly, the author had not done his homework before buying the new toilet. The problem wasn't the government mandate, the problem was that he bought a bad toilet. This reduces his argument to "Health care reform won't work because I didn't do my homework."

And that's the problem with much of the public debate in the USA: both sides have failed to do their homework before making base accusations about the other. [As an aside, the article refered to the President of the US as "comrade Obama." That's just name-calling.]

We cannot do much to remove this behavior from public life, alas. But let's keep it out of aviation.

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