Johnny On the Spot

01 Oct
Johnny On the Spot

I realize that I have shared some of my thoughts on public bathrooms but I would feel like I was cheating you if I didn’t share my experiences and feelings about port-a-potties. Any time I am getting ready to go to a festival or an outdoor venue, I treat myself like a six-year-old.

“Jenn, do you need to go potty before we leave? Because they’re only going to have Johnny-on-the-Spots and you know how you feel about them. So do you need to go?”

And I always mentally thank myself for reminding me to take these precautions before I leave. Because once I get to wherever I’m going, there aren’t a lot of options. Recently, I went to the annual Art in the Park festival here in St. Louis to listen to my neighbor’s band play.  As soon as I got to the festival I confidently bought a bottled water because I knew. I knew I had information that not everyone at the park had. Last night, a friend and I had done a recon mission to check out the park and she needed a restroom. So we walked to the REAL restrooms of the park.  I stood outside because I am not one of those women that goes to the bathroom in herds. That’s private time. I don’t want anyone in there trying to engage me in conversation.  And I certainly don’t want to have one of my friends talking about everything she has to do next week while she poops. That’s where I draw the line.

What I hadn’t checked out was the actual conditions inside the park’s restrooms. I took it for granted that these would be normal, run-of-the-mill restrooms.  I didn’t know what was in store for me. Until I finished my bottle of water and decided that I would pass the lone-standing porta-john and head to the permanent toilets. Silly people waiting in line for one filthy, nasty plastic toilet with nary a sink to wash your hands in and that would inevitably already be out of the hand sanitizer located directly above the urinal.

“Hmph,” I chortled through my nose at them as I passed. Peasants.  As I got to the restrooms, I really had that I’m-smarter-than-these-people haughty smug feeling about myself. I opened the door and passed a woman on her way out. Bonus! No one was even waiting in line.

And then I saw why. As I turned the corner and peered into the first stall I understood. There were two stalls and neither had doors. I hadn’t walked into the men’s room so I was confused. I have never been in a women’s public restroom that didn’t have doors. I am not a prude but I don’t really like the idea of someone walking in on me when I’m mid-stream.  In fact, one of my other fears of public restrooms that I have is that I will be hovering above the seat and the door will become unlatched and will just swing wide open on me.  This has yet to happen but I cannot even begin to imagine the therapy involved if it ever does. Peeing in public with no privacy: again, another line-drawing place.

Defeated and full-bladdered, I skulked back to the porta-john behind the stage. Where the line had only been three people deep the first time I passed it, there was now a line of about ten. Great. Now, not only did I have to use a plastic toilet but I had to wait for ten people in front of me to do their business before I could.

For me, this is a worst case scenario. I had downed the bottle of water confidently because I thought I wouldn’t have to use the temporary toilet. Had I known that I would have to wait in line to pee in a plastic hole while my face was positioned way too close to the built-in urinal, I would have remained parched. But now it was too late.  The damage was done. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And then I moved four inches forward because one person exited and the next one went in. And I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And suddenly I experienced a little joy because I was moving up again. Now things are happening. Now we’re moving.

Except that we’re not. As the thought was just forming in my mind, the woman in front of me said to her guy the same thing that I was thinking:

“I don’t get it. I go in. I sit down. I do what I do and I go out.”

I am not one to normally insert myself into someone else’s conversation but I couldn’t resist. She must have felt me looking at them because she turned to me as if she knew she had been caught talking about things that people just don’t talk about. So I spoke.

“I KNOW. Who wants to hang out in there?”

She laughed a bit. And suddenly the conversation headed into a topic that for some reason, is often a topic of conversation with me: poop. In all honesty, this time I think I was the one who brought it up. Because the person who was in there was taking forever. We’ve all been in a porta-potty. It’s not somewhere that most people like to go and just hang out in. We’re all afraid that the door will spring open, that someone will tip it over or that our cell phone will fall out of our pocket and land with a wet thud in the mounds of used toilet paper beneath us. But nature calls. And without extreme discomfort we can’t resist. We go in there because it’s not socially acceptable to just drop trou and go beside the funnel cake booth. But for some reason six out of the ten people ahead of us did just that. They were in there for what seemed like forever and as the minutes passed I could only begin to imagine the stench that was building up.

“I hope none of these people ahead of us went in there to poop. Because who wants to follow that?”

“I know. I don’t like to just hang out in there,” said the nice lady who somehow found herself listening to me begin my poop rant. I have so many things to say about poop but I will save that for another post.

“And seriously, if you’re here and you have to poop. Just go home.”

The couple continued to talk to me for a few minutes, maybe because they wanted to or maybe because they really had no way of escaping. I was wearing my That’s Not Appropriate shirt and the lady read it so I told her about my blog and then later tracked her down (in a non-creepy non-stalkerish kind of way, I hope.) and gave her my card.

It’s the first time I made a friend while waiting in line at a porta-potty. It was only after I got back to where my friends were sitting that I contemplated the truth of what had just transpired: Talking about poop is a universal ice-breaker. I don’t mean going into graphic detail about where (or God forbid what, you poop.  But the word itself will make even the most uptight person at least smile) It really brings us all together and makes us realize that we are not as different as we pretend to be.

And I think that part of the reason that I feel comfortable joking about poop is that getting people to joke about it, drops their defenses and allows me to see the six-year-old inside of everyone. The six-year-old who still giggles (although maybe inwardly) when someone says “duty.”

(Insert giggle here.)





Posted by on October 1, 2011 in Jenn's Adventures


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Johnny On the Spot

  1. Drew Blaine Hyer

    October 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I’ve seen some creepy disgusting restrooms. I always say a little prayer in thanks that I am a guy. Your comments brought up a lot of urban survival thoughts. Also, have you spent time around young boys? I was a scout leader years ago and then had two boys of my own. It is a case study as well as contageously humorous to observe their obsession with farts.

    • Jenn Murphy

      October 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

      I don’t have any children but when it comes t poop humor, I am a five year old boy. 🙂

  2. Porta John pumper

    October 5, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Certainly, there is a stigma associated with using a porta potty…. & there are times.when i’m grateful my mother taught me to always carrymini lysol spray… paper towels and wet wipes whenever going to an event…i try


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