To read what the others have to say this week, go to www.bathroomblogfest.com. Thanks to C.B. Whittemore for getting me into this last year. If you want to see what I had to say during Bathroom Blogfest last year, click here.
And then, read on below to learn about... Going on the go.
It's a vague memory from my childhood. I was at a community picnic sponsored by the local Y. After several large cups of soda and lemonade, nature called. And there they were, off to the side, hidden away from everything... the portable toilets.
As an older kid, I remember digging latrines in the woods on a Boy Scout trip. But this time, I wasn't on a Scout trip in the wilderness. I was with family and friends. And using the port-o-john was like being sent to a torture chamber.
It was scary. You'd take a few practice deep breaths and then, one final b-i-g breath so you could hold it as you step inside the little wooden hut, lock the door (if it had a working lock) and hope you could take care of business before your breath ran out. If you needed to take another breath, you were in real trouble.
Almost as bad was the chance you might accidentally glance down into that dark hole you were aiming at. Not at all a pretty sight. Between the olafactory and visual stimuli, you might find yourself struggling not to revisit the hot dogs and cotton candy you had just consumed.
Those are my earliest memories of portable toilets. But more recent visits to portable toilets show a vast improvement, probably unimaginable back in those early days.
A few weeks ago I attended an outdoor wedding, set in a field overlooking the scenic Hudson River about 60 miles north of Manhattan. It was a beautiful, clear night. Despite the full moon, you could see quite a few stars in the sky.
Water and wine worked their magic and I found myself looking for the port-o-johns. Dressed in a tux, the thought of spending even 30 seconds in the john was not a pleasant one.
What a surprise! The bathroom, housed on a trailer, would have fit nicely in almost anyone's home. First of all... it was spotless. Thanks to modern technology, there was no odor other than the pleasant scent of vanilla coming from the candles set in sconces on the walls. And there was no dark hole to turn your stomach. Instead, modern porcelain fixtures were in place -- fixtures that would do any bathroom proud.
You could hear the fan in the ceiling aerating the place. Actually, you could just barely hear the fan, since there was piped-in music on a pretty good sound system. On my first visit, the Doobie Brothers were playing. I was almost tempted to linger till the end of the song. On my second visit, the guy before me commented on the musical selection, which at the time was featuring Eric Clapton. (The music in the bathroom was better than most of what the deejay at the party was playing.)
I did some checking online and found that the portable toilet business has come a long way since those stinky wooden shacks. The industry began in the 1940s in the shipbuilding yards of Long Beach, Calif. Laborers had to go to the dock each time they needed to relieve themselves. The ship builder, recognizing how much time was lost by the long trek, asked the company that serviced the permanent toilets on the docks to build temporary units that could be moved closer to the workers. A wooden cabana with a small holding tank became the first portable toilet, and the idea quickly spread to the construction industry and to organizers of large crowd events. In the 1970s, wood was replaced by fiberglass. By the mid-70s, polyethylene replaced fiberglass, which was brittle and absorbed odors. HDPE is still the material of choice today.
For those willing to pay as much as $1,800 or more for a day, you can get trailers with men's and women's rooms that can accommodate 4 - 6 at a time, with decorator tile walls, real wood cabinets, nice lighting with top quality mirrors... and your choice of musical accompaniment.
The multi-billion portable john business even has its own trade association and its own trade publication -- PRO: Portable Restroom Operator.
Portable toilets for construction sites, parade routes and other special events are more functional but clean. But the high-end business for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs and other special events is taking off, and there's a wide assortment of extravagant portable bathrooms on trailers to serve that market.
While the companies in the portable toilet business take it very seriously, they also seem to have a sense of humor about themselves, if you judge by the names of some of the businesses. I've seen names like Port-O-San and Call-A-Head here in the New York area. But New York has nothing on names of some portable toilet suppliers elsewhere, as listed in the Construction Blue Book:
Happy Can (Atlanta)
Johnny on the Spot (Old Bridge NJ)
Royal Throne (Washington DC)
Tanks Alot (Tomball, Rex)
Willy Make It? (Oregon City, Ore)
Doodie Calls (New Orleans)
Gotta Go Potties (Tobyhanna, Pa)
and the all-time worst name for a business... Wizards of Ooze Ltd., in Anacortes, Wash.
More from Bathroom Blogfest on Twitter at #ladiesroom09 or the Bathroom Blogfest website.