Port-a-Potty predicaments & protocol

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan --  One of the few places that offers some privacy on the base. (Notice the ray of sunshine on the left one ... that’s my favorite one to, um, “think” in.)

Bagram Air Field,
Afghanistan —
One of the few places that offers some privacy on the base.
(Notice the ray of sunshine on the left one … that’s my favorite one to, um, “think” in.)

Ladies, this post may offend some of you. In fact, to anyone who is disgusted easily: please stop reading now. Tonight’s post is about outdoor toilets … port-o-potties, to be exact.

I’m sure you’re thinking: “Why in the H-E-double-hockeysticks is he blogging about toilets?!?! I surf his site to read about his deployment, not toilets!”

But, oh, young grasshopper, port-o-potties play a big role in every servicemember’s deployment experience. For those who have only seen port-o-potties on TV, or from afar while walking past a construction site, let me enlighten you …

Port-o-Potties are outdoor toilets in a closet that sit on a large bucket of blue Tidy-Bowl-like liquid. The toilet doesn’t flush; there are no pipes to whisk the waste away. Everything that goes into the toilet stays there until a truck with a big vacuum comes and sucks all the waste out. (We call it “The Honey Wagon,” as it emits the sweet smell of deployment as it is vacuuming out waste.)

If the “honey wagon” doesn’t visit for a while, the waste just piles up, rising above the crest of the blue liquid. Although it is a disgusting sight to see, this is actually a good thing, because it prevents a little phenomenon I like to call “splash-back.” (Use your imagination.)

A little port-o-potty etiquette: When you approach a Port-o-Potty, you have to first determine if it is in use. The ones in good condition have a handle that has a red or green indicator on it. (Red means occupied, green means available.) Sometimes, the handle is broken, or it is resting naturally in a position that shows both red and green (making you unsure if it is in use.) In this situation, a polite knock is warranted to see if anyone is inside. (Sadly, many of the younger males ignore such niceties, opting to simply yank on the door and attempt to enter, only to find some poor surprised soul wide-eyed on the throne.) So, if you ever have the misfortune of using one, try to pick one that has a good working handle on it.

If there are three or more units in a row, the unofficial (yet always adhered to) rule is that you try to separate yourself from other patrons by placing one empty port-o-potty in between you and them. (This is much like the official rule men follow when using urinals.) This is because although there are walls, the units are vented and are still outdoors, so passers-by and people next to you can hear your, um, “thinking.”

On the walls is the “artwork” of the thousands of juvenile servicemembers who have used the facility, and were sure to leave an important “message” for you, the current user/reader. Usually, the message has something to do with pornographic acts or nifty little poems that use words that rhyme with “dock” and “truck.” Sometimes, there is a message asking you to call someone for a good time. Usually that someone’s name is “Jenny,” and her number is (wait for it,) … 867-530Nigh-ee-yine!

Ask a servicemember, and they’ll tell you they have at least one good port-o-potty-related story. Most of the stories center around how disgusting they are. Sadly, men use port-o-potties the most, and well, let’s face it, sometimes we have terrible aim. I feel sorry for women who have to use a port-o-potty that men have used. If you ever see a woman walking toward a port-o-potty, I bet she’s carrying with her a bottle of Lysol and a handful of paper towels.

This doesn’t mean women don’t make their fair share of messes in the port-o-potty. Open one on any given day, and you might find trash from certain, um, PERIODicals, lying on the floor, or toilet paper draped all over the place (from where they covered the seat and left it after they were finished, forcing someone else to dispose of it.)

Sometimes, people drop things in the port-o-potty. Oh, what a sad day it is for them. I’ve seen hats in the blue liquid, pens, and sunglasses, just to name a few. I presume that if I see them, then that means the person who dropped them decided the item wasn’t valuable enough to retrieve. But I wonder about the person who drops something REALLY important in the bowl … like his handgun. He’s GOT to get it out somehow.

I know this is toilet humor (pun intended,) but I mention port-o-potties because they are a small facet of any deployed servicemembers experience (good or bad.) If you think about your bathroom at home and all of its amenities (like a sink with running water, bathmats, a clean toilet seat, a lockable door, hand towels, etc.,) you may appreciate more of the sacrifices military members make.

Nothing says “deployed” quite like a port-o-potty.

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