We went camping last week and stayed at a campsite with no utilities or water, but quite conveniently it has an outhouse nearby. There was a sign on the door of this one-hole potty requiring people to wear a mask or else they could not enter. Let me say this again, it was a one-hole outhouse and barely measured 7’ X 7’ or 49 square feet. The sign also urged social distancing to stay at least 6 feet apart. For those who didn’t plan on having a party in there, it made me giggle to see people put on their mask before they entered the single person outhouse — alone. They took that sign seriously, by golly!
Growing up visiting Grandpa’s camp in upstate New York, we took our outhouse seriously too. He had built a luxurious potty with two holes, a shower (which we never used) and a waiting area with a 4 foot tall antique upright metal stove in the corner. We even had reading materials plastered on the walls to keep us occupied while we waited.
We girls had the job of cleaning out the outhouse (no not THAT kind of cleaning) by sweeping up the dust and dead bugs, spraying disinfectant, replacing toilet paper, etc. Big glass windows were high up above our heads which was a favorite spot of spiders to spin their webs and catch the multitude of bugs that found their way inside.
One day, sister #2 and I conspired to lock sister #3 in there as it was starting to get dusk. Grandpa had put a latch on the outside where he could put a padlock but we didn’t need the lock to scare the living daylights out of her. There was no electricity and it was growing dark. So she faced the reality of being surrounded by all kinds of flying and crawling bugs as the light disappeared. Sister #2 and I slipped out the door and before she knew what was happening we had flipped the latch, then ran back up the hill to the main cabin, giggling all the way.
We walked into the kitchen trying to contain our glee and look innocent but Mom caught onto us pretty fast.
She asked, “Are you girls done with your chores down there?”
“Yes, we’re all done.”
“Where’s Cindy?” She asked.
“Well, she’s still cleaning so we left her there.” Being the oldest, I felt like I needed to handle the situation. “But she’s okay, really.” I said between grins.
“You left her there? You two march back down and help your sister finish up. It’s getting dark out; take the flashlights with you,” she said.
So mom made us go back and let her out. Needless to say our little sister was furious and had tears streaming down her face. We felt a little guilty. To this day, this is the same sister who’s paranoid about bugs. Maybe we locked her in there because she was already paranoid and we knew we’d get a rise out of her, but either way, bugs are still the bane of her existence. Once she finds a new bug around her house, she’s on the prowl to catch it, then drives 10 miles across town to get a diagnosis from the local coop. I fear we damaged her for life!
Years later, when my parents bought their own smaller cabin down the gravel road, it came equipped with an outhouse that needed lots of work.
My mother is quite the decorator, so it wasn’t long before she had cleaned it up, then had my Dad replace the old rotten wooden doors with glass French ones. As a final touch, she hung silk flower wreaths outside the doors and put some decorative knick-knacks inside to liven things up.
We had the fanciest outhouse in all of Upstate New York and were the envy of every visitor! But my sister has never been the same.