#975 Airplane toilet flushes

Cocoon like defenses

I was on a long flight not too long ago, one where they turn the lights out for most of the trip and everybody is just laying like jelly all over their seats fast asleep. Legs propped up over armrests, seats reclined into laps, and headphones, blankets, and eye masks creating cocoon-like defenses against all light, sound, and touch.

Frankly, I don’t like flights like this because I feel really uncomfortable. I think I’m going to wake people up and bother them. I feel like I’m hanging out in a nursery and I’ve finally got all the babies asleep, now I just have to sit in a rocking chair in the corner taking quiet, calculated breaths until the sun rises.

It’s very stressful.

I have always been paranoid about waking people up. When I was younger and would come home late I would take about twenty minutes to get from the driveway into my bed. I tiptoed up the walk, slid my house key in the door very slowly, took my shoes off outside, and tiptoed up the stairs to the bathroom. Often I wouldn’t even flush until morning, preferring to let my business simmer overnight rather than wake somebody up with the sound of excrement zooming through the walls on it’s way out of the house.

On the airplane I don’t tilt my seat back too far because I think I might crowd the person behind me. I walk down the aisle slowly and analytically, quickly grabbing chairs and overhead compartments for support so that a sudden jolt of turbulence doesn’t knock me into a sleeping grandma’s lap. I have brief visions of shattering her hip and sending her dentures flying into someone’s glass of wine.

Take her away

It is because of my attempts to keep really quiet on these Voyages of the Subconscious that I am fascinated by the toilets in the airplane.

First of all, they exist! The fact that you can go to the bathroom on an airplane is pretty novelty. I bet nobody expected that a hundred years ago. Can you imagine two sailors looking over the front rails of their massive ocean liner in 1908, one of them pointing way up in the clouds and whispering to the other “One day a man will take a dump up there.” No, me neither.

Anyway, after we get over the fact that these bathrooms exist, let’s talk about that amazing flush. You do your thing, close that lid, hit that little plastic button, and a second later there’s a full five seconds of giant, full-force, vacuum-sucking noises. It’s so loud it’s unbelievable — like a transport truck full of silverware flipping over on the dirt patch between two World War I trenches.

I used to think that the airplane toilet was a little hole that opened up right to the outside of the plane. I looked down when I flushed expecting to see clouds or little cities below maybe, and figured someone had just done the math and proven that dropping dirt bombs from thirty-thousand feet didn’t actually hurt anybody. It was just a matter of gravity, distance, and atmospheric pressure or something.

Turns out I was dead wrong about that.

See, according to the Internet’s geek patrol, regular ol’ house toilets just don’t do the job in the airplane world. The combination of toilet bowl water and rough landings tend to leave splotchy autumn-colored rainbows all over the plastiform vanity and walls. For this reason airplanes use a whole new type of toilet called vacuum toilets. I guess these vacuum toilets are perfect for the job because they don’t use much water and are fairly low maintenance. Just one little side-effect, though: When you flush them it sounds like somebody’s making a smoothie out of rocks.

Now personally, I love that beautifully loud airplane toilet flush. I can’t very well leave a gift bowl for the next passenger, so I’m forced to press the button. The power and noise of that flush undoubtedly wakes up the last few rows on the airplane every time so I have no choice but to confront my fears.

So I say thanks, airplane toilet flush. Your whooshing, vacuum-packed boomflush wakes the whole world up.

AWESOME!

68 Comments

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68 responses to “#975 Airplane toilet flushes

  1. I do indeed bow to the awesome power of an airplane flush. Especially during an international flight (China or New Zealand, usually. Sometimes Western Europe) and I’ve been consuming gin, Jagermeister, and single malted scotch for a few hours. I top that off with airline food and I’m out like a light.

    Somewhere over the ocean I wake up with the dire need to empty my bowels. The combination of enough preservatives and alcohol to save Estelle Getty for future generations produces a dump that no mere mortal toilet can handle. But the 767′s does the job nicely.

    I’ve clogged up toilets on buses, cruise ships and at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Tennessee during American Idol auditions. But I defy anybody to clog an airplane toilet.

  2. Entire article worth it for the word “boomflush”

  3. xcharliemx

    So what happens if you flush while sitting on it?

  4. The Internet

    Please no more posts that describe your post-drinking poo.

    The Internet

  5. So what happens if you flush while sitting on it?

    You get stuck and have to call for a stewardess to come “give you a hand”. How’d you think the Mile High Club started?

  6. Tom

    ” Can you imagine two sailors looking over the front rails of their massive ocean liner in 1908, one of them pointing way up in the clouds and whispering to the other “One day a man will take a dump up there.” ”

    Just think, 100 years from now, people will probably be shitting directly into their computer and all life functions will be taken care of by the computer, including sex.

    Now, this is me completely guessing, but it is possible, right?

    • Tom

      ” Can you imagine two sailors looking over the front rails of their massive ocean liner in 1908, one of them pointing way up in the clouds and whispering to the other “One day a man will take a dump up there.” ”

      I read this and thought of ‘Family Guy’. I can imagine how they’d present that… drone of an old plane up there, farting sound… one of the sailors (Peter Griffin) sidles away… crap hits the other sailor. Sound of receding plane, and ‘Damn!’ Peter says ‘Today’s the day…’. Maybe, in the distance, the pilot parachuting down into the sea, still seated on the toilet… further off, his plane, with a big hole in the bottom, hits the water. Strips of toilet paper rain down over the ocean liner, like a ticker-tape parade..

  7. Yeah but a computer can’t snuggle afterwards.

  8. Lillian

    So to leave you all a facsinating thought just image if the business you flushed did fly directly our of the plain.

    Picture a innocent little child playing in their backyard and BAM! down comes what they might call “spacepoo” or maybe “Alien Crap” all over them. Mom and dad are disgusted, but the little tyke is still marveling over the fact that they have made the discovery ‘aliens’ can poo. Of course the people on the plane are definately NOT aliens.

  9. Georgie

    Hey you guys, just thought i would add a little question to get your brains going. What actually happens to it after the almighty flush?

  10. ana

    I used to think that the remains would be thrown off the plane too when i was little. Then I went on an airplane trip with my dad…and he has really weak stomach, so before we went in I thought to myself “man…i feel bad for the people down below us…” Turns out that when you flush, it all stays in. I know this bc once my dad went to the bathroom a few times, I felt so bad and so curious at the same time! I ended up asking the flight attendant and I think she almost laughed at my face, but she was nice to me and explained that it all remained in the plane until we landed.

  11. gedop

    I newer prefer to go airplane toilet, I dont like airplane toilets. ıhhhh

  12. Alicia

    Actually, I’ve been scared of the terrifying flushing all my life.
    I fly often, since I’ve been a kid, and every time I have to go to the bathroom the incredibly loud sound always frightens me.
    It’s awe inducing, but pretty darn scary.

  13. Adam

    When I was seven, those things scared the living shit outta me! I would always, get up, wash my hands, and then open the door halfway. Then I would stand on my tip-toes and reach for the button, when I pressed it would jump out of the washroom and slam the door shut and hurry back to my seat.

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  15. Melanie

    My method: plug ears, lean back and flush with foot… works every time

  16. Pancho

    Wanna know something funny?

    Year 2001, I think… but some years ago, in a national flight, to Santiago (Chile), a lady went to the bathroom to do her business and she flushed it, with her seating there yet. Results? Her arse got sucked up (she had to be fatty), she landed that way and a special team of people went to help her.

    …. One of a kind..

  17. EmoPrInCeSs

    I hate airplane toilets with a passion. The noise is so anoying, and the bathroom is so small. Theres no space. The toilet and the sink, and thats like…all? It’s shit scary in the night time and the light automaticaly turns on. Gives me creeps. lol =]

  18. Faze

    I remember when I was young they used to scare me also, like previous commentor Adam. First time was the worst though. There is like a 3 second delay before the boomflush and I was washing my hands, totally not expecting it, and I swear I nearly screamed! Threw water all over the mirror

  19. This article made me giggle so hard. Hahahaha. Thank you for the laughs! :D

  20. Chelsey

    Those airplane flushes actually terrify me! I hate them! I have to plug my ears because the sound is just odd and wrong and i’m really not sure why! although the invention of the airplane flush is great!

  21. RiSt

    Airplane flushes scare me.

  22. Ben

    I hate shitting in an airplane. There’s always a line for the bathroom, and I know people are thinking, “That guy is taking a shit.”

  23. Danielle

    I rode on Southwest once with an amazingly AWESOME crew. To demonstrate the power of their flush they rolled toilet paper from the toilet all the way down the airplane aisle and flushed. ZOOM! That toilet paper went so fast…much applause.

  24. J. Anders

    Questions were asked regarding the content’s destination; fun thing to look up is stories regarding when that compartment has a leak. While I havn’t been able to confirm, there are rumors of a poor soul killed by a frozen airplane poo water meteorite.

  25. Belle

    it’s = contraction of “it is”
    its = possessive pronoun

  26. Jackie

    Know what else is awesome about airplane toilets? The nice cool breeze that wafts against your privates when you sit on it.

  27. I spent alot of time in the air(somewhere around 100 flights a year) and I still get a little paranoid that the pressure difference when you flush will somehow affect the flight. I guess I never gave any thought about waking others up. I guess I’m just inconsiderate

  28. aaah dear i’ve been laughing aloud at this. Truly Brilliant. I’ve always been, quite frankly, scared when flushing toilets on airplanes, knowing full well what noise is coming. ITS SO LOUD!

  29. grace

    i block my ears when i push the button.

  30. camiwa

    Actually, I’ve flow many, many times but I have NEVER seen an airplane bathroom. Obviously, I’ve never taken an overseas flight (the longest I’ve done is DC to LA – 5 hours.) But I hope I will never see one.

    I have “issues” from a 6th grade bus trip where the boys at the back of the bus made rude comments to the girls leaving the bathroom. Now I imagine that the people by the door have mental images of what I’m doing in there. Not good….

  31. Even if i am a girl,when i am 8yrs old, i leave the door open when doing my business.i am damm scared of the sound of the flush.once,my bro accidentally came into
    tHE tOILET AND SAW MY PRIVATE.

  32. ~Ollie~

    I was on a Alliegent plane a week ago and those toilets DON’T BOOMFLUSH!!! They *whiiisshh*.
    I’m in there,expecting the BOOMFLUSH, and all I get is *whiiisshh*! It’s not even fast sonic-suction.
    :(

  33. I like the sound of planes toilet flush so much i sneak in just to flush!

  34. Paige

    I remember the first time I used the bathroom on an airplane. The flush definitely took me by surprise!

  35. WAJIHA

    I AM 14 YEARS OLD AND I AM STILL SCARED OF THE TOILETS FLUSH BEFORE I FLUSH THE TOILET I WASH MY HANDS AND OPEN THE DOOR AND QUICKLY PRESS IT AND RUN FOR IT!!!LOL!!!

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  37. The Alligatorman

    In a few weeks I will be on a plane for the first time in my life. And after reading this there is only one thing I’m looking forward to. It isn’t the experience of flying, it isn’t going to an airport, and it isn’t waiting for my luggage. I can’t wait to take a dump.

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  39. wendywithaurora

    one word~ claustrophobia:(

  40. Gronkie

    I’ve never been in an airplane toilet stall, and I’ve flown dozens of times.

  41. I travel many time but not a big deal to go toilet in plane..

  42. shecky feinstein

    I lost my right hand whilst trying to retrieve a quarter from one of those beasts. I know, you “holier-than-thous” are going to tell me that I shouldn’t flush whilst trying to save money. But you would be wrong. I ACCIDENTLY leaned on the flusher when it happened. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. Sheesh.

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  44. Kazoozoo143

    Am I the only one here who seems to know that there are two kinds of airplane toilets?…YES..I SAID..2! before the new, high-tech, vacum toilet came along, there was a flap toilet. These toilets were invented in the 80′s and are now not as common as they are being replaced by the vaccum flush on planes. Some vaccum toilets are even being put in buses now!That is rare tho. There are some still around, but most are used on buses and trains and stuff now (flap toilet on a bus: http://www.bargainbusnews.com/Buses/3123-1991PrevostMirageXL/#imgiframediv )…they used so much water and that water had to be stored on the plane which weighed the plane down a good deal…therefore, those kinds are rare but i see them like every other few times I ride a plane. (I’ve been flying my whole life). One weird fact that I found out was that if u are riding a small plane with only one lavatory in the far rear…then it’s most likely an 80′s stanless steel toilet! weird huh? The flap toilet design looks much like an rv toilet. Picture of a flap toilet aboard a plane: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_b3s8WgAl1cA/RliXduDSEqI/AAAAAAAAAiU/zX5q_VJM_gU/s400/AArichmondToStlouis.jpg (anyone seen one of those?) The toilet is silver/stainless steel and has a round, plate-like flap blocking the waste exit (much like a trap door). When flushed, the toilet rinses the bowl with a remerkable amount of dark blue, good-smelling water! The flush lasts almost 1 and a half to two times al long as the vaccum flush does (no wonder the planne gets weighed down by all that water!) I guess it is reasonalble to replace the older models with the newer vaccum ones but i prefer the older, QUIETER ones. lol XD

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  46. jchan12

    I have what is called hyperacusis (look it up) and plane toilets sound like a small explosion basically. I have developed a severe phobia of plane toilets that even thinking hard and long enough about going inside one gives me a full blown panic attack. All the flights I’ve been on in the last several years have been under 5 hours, so I try not to eat or drink anything before going on the plane nad just try to hold it. Unfortunately, that won’t be practical for my flight to Hong Kong next month (10 hours).

    The old fashioned blue-water swirling toilets were much better as they didn’t make that god-awful, scare-me-out-of-my-skin sound… The last airline I remembered that was still using them was Harmony Airways before they went bankrupt.

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  49. amayadam

    The first time I have used one of those, I got the crap scared out of me and I was four

  50. Gamer_Kate

    Ohh I was laughing hard when I read the article and the comments!
    My mother actually taught me how great those “boomflushes” could get and the louder the toilet flush, the better!

    One day when we were cruising away to Norway from Denmark, I as usual walked into our suite onboard the ship to see if things were okay.
    Then I heard my mother complain very loudly about one of the toilets; we had a toilet for guests and one with a shower in it. The guests toilet turned out to be the culprit on this trip.
    I couldn’t understand why she was so angry at that little “innocent” toilet …
    As curious as always I had to check it out and flushed the toilet, I nearly screamed when I heard the boomflush!
    To your info the toilets onboard ships are also the same ones onboard airplanes. Lovely.

    I have ever since loved to flush those boomflush vacuum toilets and I look forward to my flight to Singapore, even though I have fear of flying.
    A fifteen hour flight from London Heathrow Airport to Singapore International Airport is very long and I have to “entertain” myself with something, and the booming toilet flushes are just what I need.

    Onboard the Airbus A380 there are no less then fourteen toilets to sate my satisfaction for “entertainment”. I think I will flush every one of them, and I have the perfect recipe and excuse to visit the toilets. Drink alot of tea or icetea since it always works. My mother got happy when she heard about the number of toilets onboard the airplane. She loves the boomflushes too!
    Over and out.

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