Look, I am about to blog about something stupid. It’s supposed to be funny and make you laugh, and I hope it does.

Because I have nothing to say about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that hasn’t been said. I am horrified. I am filled with despair and anger. Flora and I were driving to Philadelphia when Dan called and told me about it. I nearly burst into tears on the spot. This is my city. The neighborhood where it took place is where my brother and SIL and their family live. It’s a wonderful, diverse part of Pittsburgh. And having tragedy touch down there is beyond me. Beyond my ability to talk about it.

So: Instead, I am going to tell you a story. A story about me and… port-a-potties.


Outhouses. Port-o-johns. Port-a-potties.

Whatever you call them, I think we can all agree: They are awful to use.

And yet, use them we must.

When I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Michael, Kate was still in the throes of potty training. We had gotten her most of the way there, but the second she heard there was a baby on the way, I swear she took it personally. She regressed pretty hard on the potty front.

Also at this time, we were exploring organized sports with Flora. We signed her up for U5 soccer, which I refer to as herd ball.

Also at this time: It was hot that spring.

Picture me, stumbling with pregnancy-related exhaustion and sickness, following a 3-year-old around an outdoor soccer field where the only bathroom option was a port-a-potty. I already had a natural aversion to them. I’d rather wander into some trees in the woods and squat to pee than use a port-a-potty, but this is not an option with a 3-year-old in a public place.

And Kate loved the port-a-potty. She was fascinated. And when a potty-training three-year-old says she has to go potty… you don’t tell her she has to wait until you get home.

I would escort Kate to the door of the port-a-potty, and get her as ready as I could to enter and *gag* sit. I would wipe the seat if necessary, and I would stand in the doorway, with the door propped open, basically trying not to breathe.

It was a disgusting three months (April, May, June).

We all (obviously) survived. But the experience left me with a visceral and negative reaction to even the idea of using a port-a-potty.

Of course, in a bitterly ironic twist of fate, I have had the awful experience of not having indoor toilet options over several of the past weekends. Two weekends ago was our annual trek to Linn Run State Park, where none of the cabins have running water, and there are two outhouses and one bathroom. My best advice to my daughters if they needed to use the outhouse near our cabin was: breathe through your mouth and don’t look down.

Flora’s day-long row events (of which there have been two, and another is upcoming this weekend) do not take place in areas where wandering into a gas station and using the toilet is easy.

At the Head of the Ohio race, I used a port-a-potty around 9 a.m. Toilet paper was already gone, and I made the mistake of not holding my breath immediately. I almost vomited. Near the end of the day, I walked up to the outdoor bar at the restaurant on Washington’s Landing, and bought a beer so I could go inside and use the bathroom.

My experience at the Head of the Schuylkill wasn’t much better, but I did remember to bring napkins with me at least. I only made one port-a-potty stop over the entire day; Flora made exactly zero; and we stopped at the first rest area on the turnpike on the way home.

And now, this weekend, to add insult to injury, I am menstruating AND we are headed to a race in Fairfax.


Life is poopy. No pun intended.

I get literal anxiety about this stuff. Like “wakes me up at night:” what am I going to do dealing with period stuff and port-a-potties.


Kate and I talked about what we would do if we won the Mega Millions the weekend we were in Linn Run. We decided we would donate to the park so they could put running water in each cabin (just a sink), and replace both outhouses with real bathrooms.

I hope the Head of the Occoquam is within walking distance to a coffee shop, a gas station, anything. They will get my money if I can have a seat without holding my breath.

One more weekend until we vote, America. Let’s get it over the finish line this time, and start the end of our national nightmare.

And may all your bathrooms be of the indoor type, clean, and sweet-smelling.

What do you have ridiculous anxiety about?

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