I grew up at a time when every camp—and these were camps, not cottages—had an outhouse. My grandparents built a camp on a small pond up north in the 1940s. The outhouse was named Myra. As far as I knew while I was growing up, the moniker had no significance, but I’ve since learned that my grandmother had an unpopular neighbor by the same name.
These days most “camps” have running water and indoor plumbing, but at festivals, outdoor weddings, and construction sites, we get to occasionally revisit the outhouse in the form of the plastic portable toilet.
I like the brand names given to these modern-day privies: Porta-John, Port-o-let, Johnny on the Spot, Porta-Potty . . . Some of the companies that supply and service the plastic portables have come up with some catchy marketing slogans, too. “We’re #1 in the #2 Business” is one of my favorites, although I think “Heeere’s Johnny” is quite clever too.
Most people seem to have a favorite Porta-John story. Mine involves the little woman, Winnie. We were in Nova Scotia at a music festival a few years back and, because we had chosen not to haul our little aluminum love shack on wheels all the way up to Halifax, we were without bathroom facilities of our own. Winnie hates public toilets; so she hovers, whatever that means. As it works out, Canada has more stringent Porta-John regulations than the U.S. For each bank of plastic privies, there has to be at least one hand wash station, which consists of a separate polyurethane cube, each side of which has a built in soap dispenser and a water supply operated by a foot pump.
The little woman and I were washing up and I mentioned how impressed I was with the hand wash station when Winnie came out with it. “It’s a great idea; but I don’t understand why they need these when there is that cute little sink with the little round bar of pink soap right beside the toilet in the Porta-John.”
I didn’t mean to laugh so hard and I can honestly say that I regretted it, especially since, for the remainder of the weekend, I sported a shiner and swollen left eyelids.
The good news is that when you share a story like that, (and it would be a shame to keep such a story to yourself), you hear similar stories. The promoter of the music festival shared that his all-time favorite comment received on a post-festival survey form, was from a New Brunswick lady who wrote, “The festival site was spotless and the facilities were excellent. I particularly liked the little bin in the Porta-John because I never know what to do with my pocketbook when I’m in there. Thanks, Monique”
Winnie swears she didn’t use the sink or the little, pink soap and I believe her. I also believe she’s thankful for Monique.