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To Pee or Not to Pee

22 Apr

It’s a familiar scene in my life as a stay at home mother in South Carolina.  The sun is beaming, the dog is trotting around the fenced-in yard, my gloved hands coax weeds out of the flowerbeds, and my three-year-old strips down to her birthday suit, leans against a maple and pees on the grass.  No one who isn’t related to her can see her in these precious moments, but it still bothers my husband. 

“Phoebe, what are you doing?” my husband roars.

“Mommy doesn’t care.”

“Is this true?” he accuses.

I look up from my weeding, oblivious to the problem.  “I’m sorry, what’s going on?”

“Our daughter is pissing in the grass naked, that’s what’s going on.”  He’s actually turning a shade of red.

“Oh.  She does that all the time when we’re outside.  Well, as long as it’s warm enough, and she only does it in the backyard where no one will see her.” 

I neglect to mention that she also used to do this in the front yard, that she does it in the woods when we’re on a hike, that she does it at playgrounds without facilities, and in the gravel on the side of a highway when the next rest area isn’t for thirty miles.  Like a good and diplomatic wife, I also neglect to remind him that he took no part in potty training and that I was magnanimous enough to conduct the ordeal while he was out of town for two weeks.  He was not subjected to the urine and feces on the bathroom floor, on the carpet, on the driveway, on the kitchen chairs.  Nor was he present for the endless reminders during playtime for our little angel to take a break or for her first adventures in public restrooms.  I exempted him from those trials by fire.  Letting Phoebe pee outside saved me from dragging her inside to the bathroom every single time we were in the middle of finger painting, hose squirting, yard mowing and flower planting. 

Now playing in the theater of my mind: miles of comedic film featuring my sister and I who performed the same outdoor relief sessions as my daughter.  My mother didn’t care if we popped a squat behind a tree, in fact, on our long nature walks she often had to join us.  On car trips fromOhiotoNew YorkandSouth Carolina, it was par for the course for at least one of us to make a deposit in the old chamber pot Mom stowed under the driver’s seat.  I’ll never forget the time my sister sat atop the thing, pushing out turds as we traversed aTennesseehighway riddled with pot-holes, me propping her up so she didn’t topple off and soil the red upholstery of the ’77 Buick Regal.  Regal indeed. When my mother finally pulled over so we could rid the car of the noxious presence, we all had a good laugh that the name of the interchange was “Stinking Creek Road.” 

Relieving ourselves in the Great Outdoors is a family tradition, the source of shared humiliation and hilarious memories.  It is not uncommon at family get-togethers for someone to open up with, “Remember the time Grandma had to take a dump….”  Seriously, this is how we entertain ourselves.  

My husband doesn’t have these stories. His family is not reserved by any stretch of the imagination, but they don’t sit around exchanging shit stories like my family.  As I calmly explain how I let Phoebe strip down to avoid soiling her clothes while she pees on our lawn, he still looks at me like I’m a little off. So I come out with “What’s the big deal?  She’s a little kid. Besides, the dog does it all the time.”

Wow, did I just compare our kid to the dog?  Yes, but I’m drowning.  I’m being called out and I need concrete rationalization and the first thing I see is the dog lifting his leg on the same tree our daughter peed near just moments ago.  Perhaps Phoebe and the dog are engaged in a territory battle, who knows.  My husband’s disapproving face makes me feel like I need a follow up retort.

“Hey,” I mustered, “it’s not like I let her take a dump in the yard.  That’s only in absolute emergency situations.”

My husband’s reply is to march back into the house sighing audibly.

It is at this point that I seriously consider the question of when I will have to not only discourage my daughter from peeing in the yard, but cut her off altogether.  I even poll my friends for input on the decision.  The consensus is age 4.  Phoebe has just two months of pissing freedom left.  I will explain to her with love and compassion that she may no longer “water the grass.”  Except in emergency situations.  You always have to leave that contingency plan in place.  Just ask anyone in my family. 

My father, especially, commiserates with the emergency situation, although his emergencies are almost always of the “No. 2” variety.  We recount fondly, and with uproarious laughter, the time when my dad had to pull over in an elementary school parking lot and quietly shit behind a dumpster while beseeching his daughters in stage whispers to check the glove compartment for leftover Burger King napkins.  Thankfully, there were several.

In related news, a postal worker was arrested the other day for defecating behind some trash bins; a local resident actually captured the incident on video and the late night hosts have taken a few comedic jabs at the situation.  I would like to come to the defense of this postman, my daughter, my father and anyone who has ever had nature call when facilities were simply not an option.  Sometimes you just have to go.  And while my daughter enjoys full reign of the backyard for the time being, I will instruct in the nuances of discretion.  If you can make it to the toilet, fine.  If you can’t, then you just can’t and you shouldn’t be chastised, judged or arrested.  Because, let’s face it, sometimes pee, and shit, just happen.

The Mr. Toilet House Is Now An Official Toilet Museum

20 Jan

Check out the full story here

South Korean, Sim “Mr. Toilet” Jae-duck, the chairman of the Inaugural General Assembly of the World Toilet Association (an organization that we passionately support) built the home in 2007 to help bring awareness to the lack of basic sanitation for billions of people worldwide. Now, he’s turned his home into a museum celebrating the lowly but much appreciated toilet. Check out the link above for more pictures.


Keep canning public toilets and there’ll be a mass movement

15 Nov

By Geoff Strong from The Age

Which genius thought to get rid of WCs while the population ages?

I decided one night a couple of weeks ago to fill my car at a service station in Ringwood East. While the car’s tank was near empty, mine was full and as part of the transaction I was intending to use the toilet. Given that I was also able to refill myself from any of the drinks they had on offer, expecting somewhere to empty out seemed a fair deal.

After paying, I discovered the toilet was locked. I asked the young attendant, who confirmed this was intentional. When I asked where I could go to pee, he just shrugged. I suggested I might go in the drinks aisle or out front near one of the bowsers, but he was unfazed.

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The exchange reminded me of an altercation in a French hotel years ago when my wife was refused the opportunity to use les toilettes des dames. When she threatened to seek relief in the hotel lobby and began disrobing, the refusal was reversed. I had no such luck in Ringwood East.

I initially put this down to Generation Y’s inability to understand the sensitivities of ageing organs, but then I realised it was part of a wider tendency. Public toilets – or private toilets open to the public – are becoming more scarce.

There was a golden age of public toilet building in Australia. In the years immediately following World War II, the urge to purge was well understood and brick public dunnies were everywhere. Their placement was often impressive. I have noticed that wherever the ancient Greeks or Romans spread their culture, they built marble temples on prominent hills, headlands and other beauty spots.

In postwar Australia, our priorities ensured such sites would usually be occupied by a structure that was often occupied. But we appear now to be doing away with them.

There was a stunning piece of toilet architecture that disappeared from Flagstaff Gardens a few years ago. It was long, sleek, 1950s modernist design with sandstone walls and a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright. It occupied the highest point of the gardens, so if you had an urgent need you knew where to sprint. Now, whenever there is an ”event” in the gardens, a couple of portable loos are trucked in to stop people relieving themselves amid the agapanthus.

The same demolition has happened to a round toilet block in the Fitzroy Gardens, which I suspect might have been the work of the same unrecognised architectural genius.

We have long been reminded of the challenges we face with an ageing population. Some of these challenges entail cystitis, prostatitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Before long, half the continent could be incontinent.

What are we doing in preparation? Either shutting down public loos or replacing them with those stupid single-throne bunkers with automatic doors taking up the space that could be occupied by a pee trough and several cubicles.

My wife refuses to use them, fearing she might be locked inside, forever forced to listen to an endless stream of piped music. It is an irrational fear because no matter where you use one of these things – from Brisbane to Ballarat and, presumably, Baltimore – they only play the one tune.

After a little fanfare, to cover the time needed to remove clothing, the public address system launches into an up-tempo version of the 1965 hit What the World Needs Now is Love (Sweet Love). Should love be the purpose of visiting this place, it would have to be quick, because an American-accented voice warns, ”you have 10 minutes”.

What the world needs now is more public toilets. In Italy they hardly exist, forcing those in need to visit a cafe. In parts of India it is still OK to excrete on the street. But why is this happening in Australia, once able to boast clean rest rooms to shame the world?

As usual, it is probably to do with costs, but have the bureaucrats who make these decisions based them on projected need?

I suggest they take the time for a time and motion study.

Meanwhile, what options are there for those being caught short? Most of those now faced with this prospect are part of the pesky demographic known as baby boomers. In the heyday of boomer youth, any protest inevitably entailed what was called a ”sit in”. These days, we need to get the message to authorities to uphold the right to normal bodily functions. Perhaps we need to organise what might be termed a ”shit in”. One way or the other, I feel it will grow into a mass movement.

Geoff Strong is an Age senior writer.

(We have to agree with Geoff – might be time for a “shit in”!!)

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