Fly Diapers. God, I’m Old.

Monday afternoon I was contemplating diapers for house flies, and that’s when I realized I’m getting old.

It’s complicated.  Let me explain:

We have a little acreage outside the city, with a tiny decrepit forty-year-old travel trailer on it.  The trailer’s only features are a primitive propane furnace and a queen-size bed we shoehorned in after sacrificing all the original interior partitions and fittings.  A toilet is not one of its luxuries, so I built an outhouse.

I don’t like dark, icky outhouses, so ours has a clear roof for natural light, a battery-powered overhead light for nighttime use, and a rainwater collection system that gravity-feeds a small sink so we can wash our hands.  Thanks to strategies I won’t describe here, it doesn’t even stink (most of the time).

The deluxe outhouse

The deluxe outhouse

There are only two of us, so it’s not a big deal to keep it clean.  I regularly evict spiders and sweep out the inevitable pine needles and dead leaves we track in, but that’s about the extent of my chores (other than occasionally scrubbing it just because it’s an outhouse and I’m a weirdo clean freak).

That is, until this week.

This week the flies from hell arrived.  I don’t know what they’ve been eating, but these are sick, sick flies.  Usually fly shit looks like little black specks.  These flies dumped brown and yellow splotches the size of a pencil eraser.  Or larger.  Sometimes much larger.  Large enough to dribble when they hit a vertical surface…

It looked as though someone had taken a baby with explosive diarrhea and twirled the poor suffering child around and around inside our outhouse before fleeing the scene of the crime.

It was disgusting, and I spent a good half-hour scrubbing it all clean again before griping to Hubby about the pressing need for fly diapers.

And that’s when I realized it.

I’m old.

In mid-August thirty years ago (okay, maybe a little more), I was portaging and paddling through the beautiful network of lakes in the rocky Canadian Shield country around Kenora, Ontario.  I carried all my food, clothing, and cooking tools in my backpack.  I slept on the ground, cooked over a tiny fire when necessary, and carried a small trowel whose function I shall leave to your imagination.  There was no human habitation whatsoever, and definitely no outhouse.

(In fact, I only met one other group of people the entire week.  In complete fulfillment of Murphy’s Law, they caught me squatting behind a bush, trowel in hand.  Did I mention I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit? Well, actually, not wearing it at the moment of discovery.)



When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was sitting in my zero-gravity lounge chair in front of our firepit.  I still cook all our meals over the campfire, but I’m not exactly roughing it:

No hunkering down next to the flames for me.  I even use a non-stick frying pan.

No hunkering down next to the flames for me. I even use a nonstick frying pan.

So there I was, lounging in my deluxe folding chair, typing on my laptop beside a heated trailer containing a queen-sized bed.

And kvetching about fly shit in my deluxe outhouse.

God, I’m old.

When the hell did that happen?

Toilet Trepidation: Number Two

Warning:  If you have a weak stomach, don’t read this.  Come back next week instead.  I promise not to tell any gross stories then.


Last week, I mentioned a few reasons for my troubled relationship with toilets.  I have more.

You may think that having to use an ancient outhouse in childhood would be enough to leave me with an antipathy toward outhouses.  Not so.  That came later.

When I was a teenager, I volunteered at a children’s summer camp in the Lake of the Woods area around Kenora, Ontario.  I’m not exactly sure why I did this, because kids in large numbers tend to make me run screaming.  Fortunately, I was the archery director, not a counsellor.  My only responsibility was to keep the archery equipment repaired and prevent the kids from shooting each other.  Or us.

One day, I was sitting with a few of the counsellors when a six-year-old dashed up to us, screaming the words of doom:  “Shawna’s down the biffy hole!”

A volley of sidelong glances between the camp staff, accompanied by mutters of, “Not MY kid.”

The unfortunate soul who was responsible for Shawna rushed to the scene of the disaster.  I heard about it later, and that was as close as I cared to come.

Apparently, Shawna had dropped a candy down the hole.  She wanted to see if she could see the candy.  Don’t ask me why.  The logic of kids eludes me.  But it was dark down there, so she got her flashlight.  Apparently Shawna had grip issues or something, because she dropped the flashlight as well.

Horrified that she’d lost her father’s new flashlight, she delegated one of her six-year-old friends to hold her by the ankles while she retrieved the flashlight.  Guess the other kid had grip issues, too.

On the up side, I think Shawna must have had a pretty good life since then.  Getting dropped head-first into a pile of shit is probably about the worst thing that’s going to happen in her lifetime.  Nice to get that out of the way early.

And speaking of getting things out of the way…

Many moons ago, I lived in residence at Tache Hall at the University of Manitoba.  Communal bathrooms were down the hall.  About once a week, I’d find an enormous mound cresting out of the water in the toilet bowl.  I’m not sure whether the Phantom Shitter didn’t know how to flush, or whether he/she was simply so proud of the pile that they wanted the rest of us to be able to admire it, too.

Or, what do I know?  Maybe it was a team effort.  There were some sick puppies living there.

I used to have a recurring dream.  In my dream, I needed to go to the bathroom.  But every bathroom I found had something terribly wrong with it.  I couldn’t find the toilets.  Or the toilets were overflowing.  Or the cubicle walls ended at knee-height.  Or I started to use the toilet and discovered that it was leaking all over me.  It was an utterly repulsive dream.

When I looked it up on a dream-interpretation site, it said toilets are symbolic of expressing or repressing emotions, or that these types of dreams might have indicated I was afraid of what people thought of me.  Or something.

I’m not so sure.

I think it was probably just a flashback.

Anybody else have that dream?

Toilet Trepidation: Number One

Warning:  This is a post about toilets and related, um, issues.  If you’re easily grossed out, stop reading now.

I have an uneasy relationship with toilets.  I suspect I’m alone in this.

Most people probably don’t think about toilets much, unless they’re plumbers or poor souls engaged in a frantic search for facilities.  But all my life, I’ve been dogged by ambivalent relationships with toilets.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have indoor plumbing.  Our outhouse was of the deluxe variety: a two-holer, with one big hole and one little hole, side by side.  The tiny sliding window was real glass, and the wooden seat had been worn    satin-smooth by countless contacts with Henders bums since 1905.

At night and in the winter, we used a pail in the basement.  If you think this sounds revolting and unsanitary, you’re absolutely right.  But it was better than having an arctic gale whistling up the crack of your ass.  At forty below, exposed skin freezes in minutes.  Just sayin’.

When we eventually got a flush toilet, I was awed.  It was so white and fresh.  When you inevitably dropped something that splashed, your butt got sprinkled with clean water, not somebody else’s pee.  And it never filled up so that your backside dipped into the contents…

Sorry, I’ll stop now.

Anyway, the flush toilet was love at first sight, followed by a long interval of quiet but sincere appreciation.

Many years later, ambivalence returned.  Our house has three toilets.  The plumber who originally installed them was clearly a moron.  The flanges that hold the toilet were all installed incorrectly, so every single one of them cracked.

For the uninitiated, this means that sewage leaks out at the base of the toilet.  Slowly.  Under the flooring, so you can’t see it.  So that by the time you discover it, the floor is rotten and reeking.  After all the repairing and replacing was finished, I wasn’t feeling quite so warm and fuzzy about flush toilets anymore.

Then came the radish debacle.

Food occasionally migrates to the back of our fridge to die.  When I discover it, I dispose of it according to its composition.  Anything liquid or squishy goes down the toilet.  My husband observed this process, but apparently failed to grasp the initial “classification of composition” phase.

So, the day he discovered decomposing radishes in the fridge, he flushed them.  Problem is, decomposing radishes aren’t liquid or squishy.  They’re firm and round, with a slimy outer shell.

They wedged themselves into the toilet trap and refused to move.  A plumber’s snake was useless, because it worked its way between the slippery spheres and dislodged nothing.  In the end, we had to remove the toilet (we’d had a lot of practice by then), and take it outside so we could turn it upside down and pull/shake the radishes free.

We were quite tired of removing and reinstalling toilets at that point, so we did what any self-respecting geeks would do:  we tested the system before reinstalling it.

We set the toilet upright on a couple of two-by-fours in the driveway, filled the tank, and flushed.  Just as our new neighbours went by.

They didn’t let us explain.  For some reason they still keep to themselves.  I don’t get it.

Any other toilet stories out there?

But wait, I have more.  Stay tuned for “Toilet Trepidation:  Number Two”, coming next week.  Not for the faint of heart.