Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Port-a-Potty Fiction - Part 9

Mr. Custos opened his TP Ware library. His map page showed all of North and South America full of green and red flashing port-a-potties. "So, Eve, where ya wanna go?" A huge smile spread over his face as he handed me his phone for study.

His library overwhelmed me like a four-page restaurant menu. I hesitated.

"Well, now, okay, maybe this is a little too much. How 'bout we confine your first trip to within the U.S. and you have to be back in 30 minutes. There's another part to your training that needs to happen at noon. It's 11:25  now, so that'll let you get your feet wet, so to speak, but not be too overwhelmed. Someplace warm, you said?"

"I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter actually.  Could I really go all the way to California or Washington; all the way to the Pacific with time to take a little walk even?"  Impossible.

"Yep. That's kind of the point." Mr. Custos took his phone out of my hand and zoomed in on the Northwest, way up to the top corner of Washington. "Look here. You could go to Ozette Triangle.  I've got special access to a handful of backcountry privies. From here you walk down past the bear-bag line, past a campsite and out onto the beach." He swiped to a new page and launched a photo of where he wanted to send me.

"That's on this planet? Yes. I want to go there. I have to go there. I've never seen anything like that." I said. My heart jumped. He gave one nod of agreement, and uploaded the location to my TP Ware library. He set the countdown timer for 30 minutes, entered the round trip travel information, which included a return trip to the "arrivals" port-a-potty at the far end of the construction site. "When you get inside just tap the green "Go" button, wait until the whirring stops, open the door and you'll be there. You ready?"  

I nodded. My mouth was too dry to form even one word. I stepped into the john next to the trailer, locked the door and tapped "Go". I heard whirring as Mr. Custos hollered, "Have fun! See you in 30 mi...!" 

The whirring stopped. I opened the door to a place I'd never seen before. A thin fog played lazily through the tall grasses and trees, muffling the sounds of waves . A briney-breeze blew seagull cries in from the water's edge. I found the landmarks that Mr. Custos told me to look for, surprised to find a tent pitched in the campsite and two small black-tailed deer dropping poop-pellets as they leaped away from me. Just on the other side of the tent, I stepped through the grass and stood in awe of the rocky, sea-stacked beach.

"Oh, wow!" I sighed quietly. 

Sounds of pounding feet and dislodged rocks startled me from well off to my left.  I heard panicked, angry shouting among several people. I ducked behind a small tree, peaking through the branches. Three people ran along the rocky shore, zigging, zagging and ducking out of each other's reach in a game of keep-away that wasn't playful. The person in front held a gray bag to his chest, juked out of the reach of a woman as she tried to grab the hood of his black sweatshirt. He slipped on the seaweed covered rocks. He went down hard, arms flailing about and losing  hold of the bag.  His head bounced up off of a rock before dropping back into a shallow tide pool. Instantly his body went limp, coming to rest at an angle unmistakable even to someone who'd never before seen death. 

I sucked air into my lungs in a choking gasp, clasped my hand to mouth to stifle the scream. The couple grabbed the bag and turned to book it back in my direction. The campsite I walked through must have been theirs. I tripped backwards away from the tree, wheeling my arms to keep from falling. I heard them yelling at each other as I turned to run. A small, red backpack hanging from a dead tree branch at the edge of their campsite caught my eye. I ripped it and the branch from the tree as I leaped, like the deer, over the tent's guylines. I heard the woman yell, "Someone's got our bag, Benny! Godammit! That bitch got our bag!"  

I sprinted toward the outhouse, pulled out my phone and woke it out of idle. TP Ware jumped to life and the green button for my return destination pulsed calmly, like a heart at resting speed, waiting for my touch to send me back to the East Coast. I slammed the door, threw the bolt and tapped the button repeatedly just as my 30-minute warning alarm chimed. 

"C'mon, c'mon!" I begged. The whirring began, footsteps pounded closer and a body crashed against the door, rattling it and me. I screamed. Their voices disappeared, the whirring stopped. I sat in the john holding my breath, listening with every cell, waiting, sweating. 

Knock knock knock...

"Eve? That's you in there, right? You okay? Thought we'd...I'd meet you down here."  

Mr. Custos!  Relief.  I took a deep, shaking breath, stood on wobbly legs and stepped back onto New England ground. Crisp late Fall air filled my lungs, washing out the low tide brine. A booming, bass chorus of cheers knocked me back a step against the port-a-potty.  Cold, bubbly, liquid rained down on me. I slid to the ground, clutching the red backpack to my chest, shaking uncontrollably. I gasped and gulped huge mouthfuls of champagne air. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Port-a-Potty Fiction - Part 8

The system does actually make a lot of sense, once it's finally explained, which Mr. Custos did with excitement and speed. Here's what I got the first time through.

With the TP Ware application running you get a map of your current location. All the vacant and available johns flash in green and those that are occupied or out-of-order flash in red. The johns that are not part of the system show as gray icons, unlit.  Simple enough, right? But there are a few interesting things.
  • Only johns that you have passed in your regular, non-teleport-a-potty travels will be marked with an icon, unless you are able to set up an informal port-a-share co-op with other system members. This can be achieved in various ways. You can share just one or two locations or you can import entire libraries from each other. 
  • Even the grayed-out johns can be used for port-a-travel, but Mr. Custos said it would be a while before I'd have access to those, that they were not part of the Bainvoige Construction Corp system.
  • As noted in the Safety and Responsibility document, construction areas with multiple Port-a-Potties will often have one potty designated for "departures" and one for "arrivals". You learn this through local knowledge only. There does not seem to be any scientific reason to separate the locations like this. It's unclear how or why the custom began.
  • If you don't designate your arrival location you will be randomly assigned to a vacant Port-a-John in your available library. This may result in a destination as beautiful as Highway 1 in Big Sur California (if you've been there) or as hideous as a Jersey Turnpike construction site (just about everyone has Jersey Turnpike port-a-potties in his library).  
Once inside the teleport-a-potty, with the TP Ware running, the starting location is recognized on your smart phone.  You then zoom and scroll on the map to locate your destination, double-tap the corresponding icon and hit "yes" when asked to confirm your desired destination. The TP Ware calculates the coordinates while prompting you to take a "seat" (there is only one place to sit, of course). Gentle whirring noises arise from the phone and also from inside the molded plastic holder for the toilet-paper. That's where the electromagnaquantatronics are housed . You may suddenly feel lightheaded and/or slightly nauseous as the TP Ware reprograms the place cells in your hippocampus. The grid cells, border cells, head-direction cells and spatial view cells will be rearranged and prepared as needed to match that of your desired destination, decreasing the likelihood of spatial disorientation upon opening the door. 

The whirring stops. You stand up. Check your balance. Open the door and step out. VoilĂ , in less time than it takes to urinate, you've got a new view of the world. 

I asked Mr. Custos if he could explain how it worked. I meant, really how. Not like how to make it happen with the software and the icon tapping and whatnot, but really, the nitty-gritty physics of it. I knew there was no way I'd fully understand the science, but I wanted to at least know if there was actually some science behind all this! He laughed and shook his head. 

"C'mon,  Eve Stigatus. Time for your first official, sanctioned, safe-and-effective, teleport-a-potty trip. Fire up your TP Ware and let's see where we can send you. Maybe I'll even share a couple of my prime locations since your library is gonna be pretty limited at this point."  Mr. Custos pulled me up from the bench seat, rubbed his hands together with eager anticipation and bounced a little from foot to foot. "Gotta make the first one good!" he said.

"Someplace warm and sunny." I replied as we walked out of the trailer into the gloomy, gray chill.   

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Port-a-Potty Fiction - Part 7

"brrrooow? brrrrooow? BRRROOoooW!" 

"Okay, okay, okay! I hear ya. You're right, it's way past our bedtime. C'mon Fur-mat, let's go." I tossed my reading materials onto the coffee table and unfolded myself from the chair. The cat had been meowing at me for the better part of an hour and the kitchen clock said 1:09 a.m. Neither of the manuals did much to elucidate how I would actually be using the Teleport-a-Potty system. I did, however, learn that pets were forbidden from potty-porting and that the actual teleporter device was not to be cleaned with alcohol, which didn't sit well with me considering the device's location -  in a BATHROOM!

My body clicked and creaked as I stretched out the kinks from several hours of reading in my ergonomically nightmarish position. I plodded to my bedroom not even bothering to change into my pajamas. I slid into bed and tugged the covers up to my nose. Images of teleportation and portable toilets swirled in my brain. Fur-mat circled three times, plopped down on my stomach and let out a huge cat-sigh. We dropped down into deep dreamy sleep. 

I ran down the street with Fur-mat tucked into the bib part of a pair of overalls, one arm pressed across my chest to hold him steady. The soles of my boots slapped hard and loud on the asphalt. If the cat escaped from my grip I knew he'd be a goner.  An owl flew behind us, screeching, growing larger and larger - not figuratively, but literally larger in size - with each flap of its silent wings. I looked ahead of me and behind me at the same exact moment. I pinned my eyes on the small building toward which I ran but also watched behind me as the owl gained on us, ready to steal the cat from my arms. Fur-mat scrambled as Strix somnium took up the whole sky. I clamped my arm tighter against the cat as my hand closed on the handle of the small building's plastic door. It was the only safe place; it would get us out of here. We had to get inside, right NOW!  I shook and shook that door as hard as I could but it refused to budge. An alarm began to ring and a neon sign flashed on the door:

My mouth opened to a useless silent scream as Fur-mat slipped from my arms and the shadow of Strix somnium made its final approach. Talons buffeted my head from different directions as I flailed my arms to deflect the owl as long as I could.


The sound of breaking glass woke me. The alarm clock buzzed its monotonous deadpan imitation of: "get up, get up, get up...". Fur-mat perched next to my head clearly ready to make another swat at my head in demand of morning rations. My flailing had knocked the bedside lamp into the water glass. Its contents spilled onto the carpet in a muffled, dribbling tattoo.  I clicked the alarm clock off and worked hard to remember the day of the week: Sunday. I righted the wronged glass and lamp still feeling anxious about the imminent owl attack. The short night, crazy dreams and abrupt wake-up made for a difficult re-entry into the real world. Not until I sat on the toilet for a much needed morning bladder evacuation, did I remembered the plan to meet Mr. Custos for my first official lesson in how to use the system. 


Fur-mat body double - Kitty Kat 
Photo credit: Adrian 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stalled and salted

The Transport-a-Potty is temporarily blocked-up. It will be fully operational once the next idea works it's way through my system. It is currently in digestion mode. Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, here's a random observation for you:

On a day in March when the temperature doesn't get out of the teens and your walkway is thick with ice you generally need to spread around a melting or traction agent. If you choose salt and if the wind is blowing just right, you might get a tiny dusting of saltiness on your lips. Just enough so that as you finish up the task and lick your cold, dry lips, you'll get the distinct taste of spending a day beach-combing on a windswept seacoast.

With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!
by Walt Whitman

With husky-haughty lips, O sea!
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Thy ample, smiling face, dash'd with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
Thy brooding scowl and murk--thy unloos'd hurricanes,
Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness;
Great as thou art above the rest, thy many tears--a lack from all
eternity in thy content,
(Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could make thee
greatest--no less could make thee,)
Thy lonely state--something thou ever seek'st and seek'st, yet
never gain'st,
Surely some right withheld--some voice, in huge monotonous rage, of
freedom-lover pent,
Some vast heart, like a planet's, chain'd and chafing in those breakers,
By lengthen'd swell, and spasm, and panting breath,
And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves,
And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter,
And undertones of distant lion roar,
(Sounding, appealing to the sky's deaf ear--but now, rapport for once,
A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,)
The first and last confession of the globe,
Outsurging, muttering from thy soul's abysms,
The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
Thou tellest to a kindred soul.