Musings and Amusings

Dear John

Clear Creek Trail

Restroom on Clear Creek Trail

Dear John ,

You are ‘privy’ to wearing one of my favorite doors. I don’t give you nearly enough accolades for the times I’ve been delighted to see your door.

Hiking, biking, jogging, cross-country road trips … none would be as comfortable without finding your unlocked door right where I need you along the route.

I remember walking to Ellen’s outhouse at her cabin near Frisco, wondering about that moon carved in your door.


Outhouse at Clear Creek History Park

I admit, there aren’t many things creepier than listening to the creak in the hinges as I open your door, holding my breath against your stink; praying I won’t plop my sweet cheeks smack dab on a spider’s web; or fall butt first into that terrifying, dark hole.

Miss Norris, my 1967 10th grade French teacher, taught us about public restrooms in Paris called WCs (pronounced doo-bleu-vay-say) which stood for water closets – an odd name since there were no faucets or flushes. A WC consisted – then – of two connected open-air stalls with left and right foot outlines and a hole between, sheltered by wood siding high enough to shield your body as you dropped your trousers and squatted.

Fast forward to 2005 in a small Tuscan village as I exited the Italian version of a WC. An American tourist rushed towards me – arms flapping and alarm in her eyes, “Is it clean?”

 “So so,” I responded, knowing she’d decide to ‘hold it’ rather than straddle those filthy feet outlines and bend knees into her squat.

Like this only filthy dirty!

Like this only filthy dirty!

My fondest memory of you, John, comes from our inaugural two-day, 150 mile MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Benefit bicycle ride. We’d trained May-June on 80 mile rides to condition ourselves for July’s grueling two-day fest.

As expected the 85+ degree sun, beating down from above and reflecting even more intensely off the pavement, drained us by the end of the first day.

Determined to beat the heat, as well as finish ahead of the dangerous afternoon thunderstorms, we began the second day’s ride at the crack of dawn. Fifteen miles into the ride, we approached our first support station. The long row of port-a-potties looked like this: image except YOU were painted a dark green color.

Opening your door with my usual trepidation, I discovered not only was I the first to visit you that morning, John, but you were brand spanking new!

The sun barely risen; your pristine interior still cool and shaded; my saddle-sore bottom resting on your seemingly soft seat, I closed my eyes and sighed, “Heaven should feel this good.”  

Thank you, John, for being there when I needed you.  


Sammy D. image PS Googling ‘toilets’ brought me Wikipedia’s diahrreal dump of potty topics including: Types:

  • Flush toilets
  • Pit Latrines
  • Dry toilets
  • Urine diversion toilets

Society and Culture:

  • Anal cleansing habits
  • Islamic toilet etiquette
  • Toilet humour (apparently Brits enjoy this ‘humor’ more than Americans !

This post is linked to Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors Challenge. Thank you, Norm!

Comments on: "Dear John" (70)

  1. Your post is a reminder of what we take for granted. Odes to toilets should be written. Who would have an outhouse without a moon carved into the door? I hope one day I get to be the first person to use the port-o-potty, what a nice surprise that must have been! 😀

    • It sure was!! It’s definitely a love/hate feeling walking into any public facility, gas station or restaurant restroom. You never know what condition you’ll find.

      Janis at Retirementally Challenged wrote a post awhile ago about her newly installed bidet and how much she loves using it. All the times we had one available in European lodging, I never tried it (silly American). Now I’m hoping Janis will invite me to San Diego to try hers 😀

  2. I had to share it because it is do amusing. I use privies or port – a -loos and I can honestly say; life would not be the same without the experience. Thank you. I have shared your post because it is wonderful.

  3. My grandfather had an operational “outhouse” for years…away from his mountain house and down this little gully. As I recall it was just past the bear den but before you reached the cougars hiding in the rocks. It was terrible if you had to pee at night and Papa wouldn’t walk us down the hill, or the batteries were dead in the flashlight. Or both.

  4. An ode to the loo
    Is long overdue
    To the John’s in this world,
    We love you we do.
    A seat on which to sit
    Instead of a pit
    Is a blessing for girls
    Who appreciate the finer things in life..
    Sammy D, so loved this thank you! What joy to find clean restrooms when travelling! Sometimes even with flowers of the country in a vase!

    • LOL too clever Susan -your ode to a loo. I wanted to work in the origin of ‘john’ and loos and all the other names we’ve given this commode, but tge post started to get too long. Another day !!

      I love hearing your comments. Such a treat 💖

  5. This is hysterical! Two puns in the first five words! I am flush with pride for you!

  6. A brand new port-a-potty? Isn’t that like finding a pot of gold?

    Wonderful ode to a facility we often take for granted until there isn’t one in sight. I spent a year with a Turkish toilet (the kind with the hole and feet marks like the pic you showed) when I was an au pair girl in Paris. All of us on the servants’ floor shared it. Good times, good times.

    • Yup! I don’t mind the squat position but i can get overwhelmed by ‘spots’ and thoughts of germs, let alone the filth in most of them. And I loved Paris cafes, but their restrooms were practically third world for lack of lighting and sanitation! Thank God for packets of wet wipes!!

  7. Well this is a first for me. A post about loos! It’s one way to bring back memories, I am NOT a fan of the squat toilets, or cockroaches… and you didn’t mention composting toilets which are all the rage in eco-built homes or the ubiquitous Aussie dunny (or long drop) where the scariest thing is finding a poisonous spider hiding under the rim… but yes, a WC, loo, john, bathroom whatever you want to call it has often been a life-saver.

    • Ugh. I’m not a fan of any toilet but my own!! I’ve already had a few prepatory thoughts about the numerous johns I’ll greet on our autumn caravan to Michigan. Approximately 14 days sitting on strange seats.

      I definitely have a feeling of extreme vulnerability mixed with gross disgust before I open the door. And I’ve been known to squat behind my open car door for a quick whiz in lieu of a filthy loo 😊

  8. The best and worst is the one you find when your insides are doing acrobatic maneuvers and you don’t care how dirty it is. I’m surprised you didn’t go back far enough (or maybe you were a very good girl) to mention hugging John in a bar or dormitory. Also a time that I remember not giving a second thought to the clean factor. I prefer the comfort of my own toilet. I do usually arrive at work early enough to be the first user of the day. That’s a curiously nice feeling. Thanks for joining Thursday Doors Sammy!

    • OMG

      I DID hug John in Wilson Dormitory at Michigan State but I was too drunk to remember LOL. I think it was Galliano (screwdrivers?) Yuk!!

      Another remembered John incident when I took one for the team – baby Raqi had a touch of the flu and I was carrying her into the bedroom. All of a sudden she gave an odd blurping sound and got that scared look on her face. I rushed her to the bathroom, but what was I gonna do? Hold that scared innocent baby out over the toilet or sink, hoping she’d blow in the right direction?

      No. I let her heave all over me. Probably every parent/grand has a similar tale.

      • Nothing says “I love you” like “go ahead an puke on me” I even feel bad having to move the cats off the couch when that hairball starts. I hope I didn’t bring back a bad memory from the dorm.

  9. A very original and I must say, hilarious #ThursdayDoors entry – I love it! Thanks for joining us this week 🙂

    • Thanks, Norm. You should have known this was coming after my ‘good shit’ typo last week commenting on your photos 😀

      I’m not a skilled or prolific photographer so I gotta make the narrative compelling!

  10. My “loo” story – we did a lot of camping when the kids were little, and “potty” time was always an issue for my younger son. We finally told him he would HAVE to use the pit toilet – it’s okay, we reassured him, we all used it with no ill effects. “Yeah, but your butts are bigger than mine!” he exclaimed (worried about that butt-first fall). We took pity on him and drove into town so he could leave his log at the Burger King.

    Great post…

    • Thanks, Curt. Lord knows it’s a lifetime of ‘control issues’ if kids and parents tussel over things like poo. Purposely holding it in because of not liking the commode could have morphed into other manifestations. You are a wise parent 😊

  11. Oh my gosh, this was hilarious but so true. I actually used an outhouse at a Maine park a couple of weeks ago. Not a pleasant experience, but…

    • 😀 thanks, Judy. I had to leave so much out, I’m contemplating a couple more posts but wonder about reader tolerance LOL. I’ll space ’em out to minimize trauma.

      • In the Midwest, there were public rest rooms on the highways. Here in NH, there are zero. So, you pull off and have to find yourself a McD or DD and sometimes you actually stop at a gas station and there is a sign that says no public restroom. Really? What do you expect us to do when we need to go? So, I for one will enjoy future posts about John doors. 🙂

      • Good! Then I’ll save your comments because they touch on some things I’ll write. Egads my writing legacy might be going into the toilet!!

  12. Oh my, I’ve never seen one of those squat toilets. I think I’d rather go all day without a drink of anything than risk having to use that. Some of the modern port-a-potties are almost as nice as a bricks and mortar loo. Even then, I’d try to hold out for my own, private WC at home.

    • I’m with you Janis! I prefer a quick sqaut in nature to those manmade squatters, but that’s not possible in those little European villages. After my espresso, sometimes I just gotta go in. But I come out scuffing on grass to clean my shoes like a dog scuffs. The joys of travel!

  13. Carol Ferenc said:

    Sammy, like you, I am not a fan of any toilet but my own. Prior to any travel, I always suffer the most anxiety thinking about all the strange toilets I’ll use. Great post!

    • My granddaughter (like all kids) went through that phase where she had to explore and touch everything in strange bathrooms. Thank God she didn’t catch some horrible disease. I thought she’d outgrown it, but recently in a vintage Italian restaurant, the bathroom was charming with antique table, ornate lamp, pretty wall paper and curtains. She took *forever* on the pot imagining how she’d decorate her bedroom to match the bathroom.

      I laugh to think how we change once we become anal about germs and phobias 😊

  14. Sammy D., very funny post in a strange way. I’ve had history with the “outhouse,” the “two-seater,” the “hole.” The hole in northern Japan was the worst. Given the topic, no one has talked about when the “stream” is off? Is it then called a “wading hole.” Christine

    • Thank you, Christine. Methinks bodily functions make for universally interesting (albeit occasionally crude) writing material. I didn’t want to get into the ick factor of ‘streaming’ but I could write a good rant about inadequate toilet paper in public restrooms or men using the women’s restroom on golf courses and leaving the seat up (the bastards).

  15. Oh Sammy … this is sooo perfect!! There have been countless times I’ve sighed with relief at the site of a washroom sign … or even a stinky port-a-potty. On some trips, I’ve nearly cried with genuine joy at seeing TP!
    Ahhh – when we step outside of our comfort zone, our needs can often be boiled down to basics 😉

    • Yup yup and yup. I’ve squatted behind my car door, carried a plastic container & lid, and had no qualms on those long rides or during marathon training about a quick squat behind a tree. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and the mechanics for females aren’t quite as user-friendly 😀.

      • Yup … I’ve done all those … just last week actually – and then some. Life on the road with the Bike Rally had some interesting moments 😉

      • That’s so funny you mention it because I was thinking that very thing about you in the van and all ‘your boys’ who rode!! How lucky they were that even when they wear dresses they still get to use ‘male mechanics’. LOL NO FAIR!!

      • Yes, they definitely have an unfair advantage in the great outdoors!

  16. ” discovered not only was I the first to visit you that morning, John, but you were brand spanking new!”

    There is nothing so sweet as a virgin porto-potty.

    Delighted to hear you were doing the MS rides. It has been years but my kids and I rode the TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota) every years.

    • 😊 no kidding!! I loved those rides. So challenging; such an accomplishment and such a worthy cause. I’m glad you and your kids could share that experience and make those memories. When we’d get on the bus to shuttle back to Denver and there’d be a ‘thank you, you rode for (name)’ on each seat, we all shed a tear.

  17. Very funny. No one ever wants to walk into one until they NEED to walk into one. Then it becomes their best friend.😊

  18. I not only enjoyed the photos, I thought the post was entirely entertaining!

  19. That is so clever! I have often thought a collection of toilets around the world would be a great post!

    • Wouldn’t it, Sue? You and Dave would be just the ones to chronicle that 😀. I’ve taken a few shots of bathrooms in hotels, but not specifically toilets.

  20. cardamone5 said:

    I am the person who leaves sprinkles (pee, not the other) on the seat in public toilets because I always squat (TMI!) so European toilets suit me just fine.

    I love the Dear John pun. Clever.


  21. ROTFLMAO so I never have to use some of these facilities again. Fun post, Sammy!!

  22. Oh, that is amusing, Sammy! (I’m getting caught up on my reader! 🙂 ) I think you forgot one, though…my own “least favorite” but sadly “often used” loo…the Airplane Lav! Otherwise known as the “blue loo.” at least, we *hope* it’s blue. 😛

  23. Oh this made me laugh! Nice little bit of word play there with ‘john’ and ‘privy’ 😉 It’s good to catch up with you Sammy, I haven’t been around much of late — time’s been taken up with bookish stuff 🙂

    Reading the end of your post I remembered my BEST toilet experience ever. It was in Japan, while we were skiing. It was -25 outside (celcius. Google tells me that’s -13 Fahrenheit), my legs were aching from a morning’s heavy skiing and I was desperate for the loo. Japanese toilets are a thing of wonder, honestly. Heated toilet seats that sing to you or makes flushing noises (should you suffer from toilet stage fright), and just so amazingly clean! Let me tell you, removing frozen skiing trousers and thermals to plop your freezing cheeks on a warm toilet seat is as close as I’ve ever been to heaven.

    • Great addition to the toilet tales, Celine! That was one cold ski day – what wonderful travels you’ve taken. I don’t know anyone else who has skied in Japan 😊 or sat on a heated toilet seat!!

      • Haha sitting on a heated toilet seat was a definite highlight 😉
        Living in HK, Japan is the closest place for us to go skiing. The snow is pretty amazing there. I can’t compare it to the US, having never skiied in the US, but it’s a lot better than the Alps. And they have heated toilet seats, so winner all around 🙂
        There’s skiing not far from where you are right? I seem to remember us talking about that once.

      • I am curious about Japanese snow. Closest ski area is about 40 minutes away (but more like 70 minutes with traffic). I no longer ski but have fond memories and now would insist on a heated toilet 😀

      • Oh wow that’s close by! I would love to live by the mountains — ski in winter, hiking in summer. Lovely! Maybe one day…

        The snow in Japan is very dry. Niseko is known as the world’s powder capital. IT has something to do with the fact that the mountains aren’t very high, but snow comes across with the Siberian winds, which is why it can get extremely cold, but also why the snow is so powdery and lovely 🙂

  24. Having traveled all over Asia, and experienced a variety of ‘loos’, I completely get your sentiment at the end of the post, Sammy.

    In Japan the damn thing looked like it was an airplane dashboard, it had so many buttons! It was heaven to come back home and find a normal one 😊

    • Thanks, Damyanti 😊 i do NOT need a complicated toilet, just a clean one!!

      Went to Denver Art Museum yesterday and the women’s toilets sing to you when you flush them!

      Artistic? Perhaps.

      Creepy? Most definitely!

  25. Now, talk about an original post. Love it. The outhouse creepy factor brings back memories. Growing up in Europe, I often visited relatives out on the farm. I’d never go to the outhouse alone after dark, but regardless of my little army of protectors, the creak in the hinges as I opened the door, got me all the time. And thank you for expanding my vocabulary. 🙂 You rock, Sammy.

  26. Well. There are a few things I don’t think anyone mentioned: a shovel for the woods, a covered container filled with clumping cat litter for those fourteen hour hurricane evacuation road trips, and a long dress with no underwear for travel in West Africa. (It makes it ever so much easier to just squat down like a market woman and gain a little relief, without anyone thinking a thing about it.)

    And I didn’t see any mention of outhouse-tipping! Clearly, I’m of another generation. That was good times back in the day (and out in the country). The boys were more inclined toward such activities than the girls, but we did egg them on from time to time.

    • LOL great idea about the long dress and going ‘commando’ !! I’m pretty sure Dad and my Uncles tipped a privy or two when they were boys on the farm 😀 thanks for adding all your great tips to the conversation!!

  27. Hee, hee. Thanks for my laugh for the day. John’s door is one place I’ve been very happy to see many times.

  28. Omg, this is hilarious, Sammy!!! I remember the latrines at Girl Scout camp…oh, the horrors.

    My most interesting latrine story was when I was traveling in Haiti with a church group. We had taken a long, bumpy road to a remote village, and I had to pee SOOO badly when we arrived. The locals pointed my friend and I toward a little shack at the edge of town. Problem was, the wooden slats making up the walls of the outhouse were so far apart, we may as well have been peeing in public. (And the curious little boys who followed us confirmed this assumption.) So we decided to pee in the woods instead. Those sneaky little boys followed us into the trees and started giggling as we attempted to drop our pants. Needless to say, we held that pee…all the way back on the long, bumpy road!

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