Those of us who run, ride and swim get to have our fair share of encounters with interesting bathroom options. At races the proverbial Porta Pottie landscape can range from wonderful… to wondering if you’re going to catch an awful disease.
Stopping at a forest preserve or park to do your business can also create interesting considerations. Typically the toilets in these locations are what we might call Stop and Drop structures. Just you, a toilet seat and hopefully ten feet of clearance between your butt and the frightening concoction of human waste and detritus below.
Let’s admit that we don’t like to think about what’s going on below us. It’s a necessary evil that we expel human waste, but philosophizing about it resolves no problems. In a pinch, so to speak, there is no room for complaint about the nature of the facilities. You sit there in the heat or cold grunting away because to continue on without relief might lead to a shorts disaster. Then you prepare to move on by doing some basic hygiene, usually with a few sheets of one-ply toilet paper, and toss it in and leave. No need to flush.
This is closer to what human beings did for hundreds of thousands of years. Only in the last 150 years or so did people actually get to use flush toilets with liquid sanitation plants waiting to receive our best and worst efforts.
But in the public sphere, we can all Thank God for decently maintained public toilets. They seem generally to be on the increase these days. For example, the local Starbucks where we meet to run on Saturday mornings always keeps their restrooms clean. The same holds true for all the other Starbucks and other coffee shops I visit. All seem to be well-maintained with clean facilities if a visiting slob has not ruined things for everyone else.
Even gas stations seem to have upped their game in the clean toilet department. And we all know what a welcome sight a gas station with a restroom can be during an eight-mile run wjem the urge to go becomes so fierce your butt feels like it will explode. So you mince into the station and plop down to do your business, grateful perhaps, that the restroom is also clean.
As mentioned, the problem in this formula arises when slobs wreck the joint. Some people don’t seem to have any control of their bowel or urinary functions. That action is never a pretty scene. Understand that the etiquette of all this is an issue that comes down to one ideal: Leave a place better than you found it. Suffice to say this is not always the case, because we have all turned around when faced with really bad bathroom conditions.
A Word of Thanks
So here’s a word of thanks to all those people whose job it is to maintain clean restrooms. It can’t be a fun or pretty job, especially when a flush toilet backs up and needs to be fixed. That’s got to be the worst situation in the world for everyone involved. Talk about your gritty, disgusting situations. Yet somehow the toilets do eventually get flushed and back and in working order. Someone has to do it.
So let’s all agree not to take that for granted. Compliment the help at your local service station or coffee shop, department store or gym if the restrooms are clean and well-maintained. And be thankful for the convenience of flush toilets, because squatting in the weeds as they did for centuries is not as fun as it looks. Granted, we all wind up there eventually if we’re out cycling or running. When you’ve got to go, any tree or clump of grass is a haven.
But above all, please don’t poop in the pool. It takes a really long time to flush those things.