While in Baños, I stayed at one of those eco-friendly hotels, you know the type: granola, sandals, rustic bread. It was a peaceful place some distance from the town centre, with stunning scenery and the sound of the rushing river. With its bright wooden floors and homemade jams, it felt more guesthouse than hotel.
“Welcome,” said my host, proudly showing me around. “We aren’t like other establishments in Ecuador. We have a superior-type septic tank. You don’t have to deposit your used toilet paper in bins. Our tanks are paper-proof. So go ahead, flush without worry.”
Paper, maybe. He never mentioned anything about brownies.
You see, the hotel sells homemade baked goods for its guests. At only a dollar per sizable treat with nuts, it sounded like a good deal. I took one, marked a little tick under my name in the honour system way of guest tabs and ate it outside on the hammock. I had been looking forward to that brownie, especially after a long day of hiking in the mountains – but it was so disappointingly dense, I could barely finish a bite. What to do? I couldn’t throw it away in the organic waste bin – it had been emptied earlier that day and like most eco-friendly places, people actually keep track of those things. I didn’t want my hosts to be offended when they found an almost intact brownie sitting among the carrot peels and old tea bags.
So I did the only thing that made sense. I flushed it down the toilet. After all, this was a ‘superior-type’ septic tank – it could handle a simple square of chocolate. Right? Wrong. The darned thing refused to flush. I tried everything but only managed to block the toilet more with each flush. I spent an agonizing two days feeling guilty and using any other bathroom in the hotel but mine, while the chocolate culprit remained undissolved and defiant at the bottom of the cistern. I was in constant fear of flooding my bathroom and having to explain to my hosts why my brownie had killed their septic tank.
On day three, I broke and confessed to the cleaning lady. I didn’t elaborate. I didn’t have to. I pointed at the toilet, she peered at the bowl, walked away and then marched back in, armed with industrial gloves, rubber boots and an electric suction tool.
As my room was next to the area where the guests had breakfast, I was able to witness how everyone tried to pretend not to notice that the cleaning lady was making sucking and pounding noises as if she were extracting ectoplasmic matter on team Ghostbusters.
She finally emerged triumphant, holding a plastic bag.
I wanted to die of shame.
Oh God, please don’t let her shout out that she’d found a chocolate brownie in my toilet.
Imagine the look on all those faces? Despite what had been done to retrieve it, I had no doubt my baked goodie had retained its original shape, despite three days of floating in water, being constantly flushed and assaulted with wire hangers and let’s not forget the suction pump. That brownie was near indestructible.
If a nuclear holocaust befell us, I am certain that it and the cockroaches would be the only survivors. Superior-type septic tank indeed.