Sometimes You Can Be “Too Efficient”

So I’m going to tell a real life story for this post. I woke up this morning to find my trailer floor covered with water. This wasn’t as surprising as most people would find it, as I’ve had some problems with leaking in the past. As I continued to investigate, however, it turned out that the problem was far more surprising…and gross…than my initial assumption would have garnered. It turned out my black water tank (for the toilet) had overflowed and spread water throughout the back half of my RV. Disgusting!

If you know anything about how RVs work, then you might be confused as to how this could have happened. The toilet drains into the tank, not the other way around. The answer to this question is my own stupidity and laziness. My sewage tank has the separate flush feature that sprays water inside the tank to help clean it when I need to do my regular emptying of the waste. For those who don’t own RVs, you can’t just use your toilet like a regular house version; the waste can’t flush away like we’re used to and you have to let the tank fill up with waste and mostly water so the water rushing out of the tank carries the waste with it. Otherwise the waste dries out and piles up in the tank.

At any rate, I tend to try to find ways to make my regular tasks as efficient as possible to they are less of an irritation when I have to do them. One of the steps I took was to get a splitter that allowed me to permanently attach a hose to the sewer tank cleaning inlet so all I had to do was flip a switch to turn it on. That alone would have been fine because you can hear when it’s on and you just turn it off when you’re done.

Unfortunately, I also live in a long term trailer park with a yard that requires daily watering, and I own an automated sprinkler controller to make sure I don’t forget to keep the lawn hydrated. The splitter was also connected through this, which wasn’t particularly smart because I forgot to make sure I switch everything back the way it is supposed to be with the sprinkler supply on and the sewer tank supply off. Hence, when the sprinkler system turned on this morning, instead of my lawn getting much needed water my tank got much less needed filling.

As with most things, in hindsight I can see where the mistake was, but at the time it seemed like a very efficient way to make things work. I get extremely bored with doing things over and over, especially when they’re tasks I don’t particularly care for like cleaning, so I tend to try to find ways to make things take less time or remove me from the equation altogether. The automated sprinkler system is one such example, as now I don’t have to stand out in the yard to water the lawn. A computer does it for me.

This is, however, an example of a time where placing efficiency at the forefront of everything came back to bite me because, even though it is logical to remove steps from a process, when one of the steps involved a fallible human being you will invariably end up with a mistake of some kind. The mistake can be trivial or very costly, but it is a near certainty that something will go wrong.

This quite disgusting story, which I am actually still working to clean up after at the time of this writing, is a perfect example of how trying to find the easy way to do things doesn’t always work out. If you put enough work in on the front end to place preventative measures in your system, then it usually works out fine. The problem is that for most things we only take a cursory glance at the process before signing off on it. This usually leads to unintended consequences later on.

The lesson here for me is that I need to revisit my water management plan for my trailer so I can prevent further issues from here on. On a more grand scale, the lesson for all of us is that we need to temper our impatience and desire to make things easy with a more thorough plan up front to make sure that we minimize the mistakes that inevitably crop up when we fallible human beings decide to do something. I for one don’t intend to have to clean up after my toilet again…at least not for anything that is my fault.

What do you think about being efficient? Do you come up with ways to avoid unnecessary tasks only to have the results turn out not the way you wanted? What kinds of things do you hope to avoid, and is it sometimes better to do it the “old fashioned way”? Sometimes it’s just better to do it the more difficult way, because sometimes the results of doing things the “easy way” end up being far harder than if you just did it the old way in the first place.

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