Toilet Humor

May 2002 - So I'm reading this book now, Faded Coat of Blue by Owen Parry. You could call it an historical murder mystery. It's set during the early months of the Civil War. A Welsh immigrant with a desk job in the Union Army must investigate the murder of a promising young officer. But that's not important right now.

What is important is that when I read historical books, whether they're fiction or non-fiction, it gets me to thinking: What would it have been like to live during that particular time? Would I have enjoyed living in the Civil War era? Or maybe Victorian England. Or what about medieval times, Shakespeare's day, or even ancient Greece? But, no matter what period I'm contemplating, I can never quite bring myself to actually wish that I had lived during that time. And why not? Plumbing, that's why.

Now, I've noticed that, unless they're going for laughs, historical books and TV shows tend to avoid the whole topic of "nature calls" like some politicians avoid the topic of soft money. It's all very hush, hush. Actually talking about it would take away a lot of the drama. I mean, nothing breaks the tension like a bathroom break, right? So what did the men who sailed with Christopher Columbus do during their month-long journey to the New World? I don't know. No history book I read ever mentioned it. But, I'm pretty sure the sailors didn't hold it until they hit land. And did John Wayne ever take a bathroom break? Not that I ever saw. He was The Duke, after all.

Here's another reason why history often passes on the potties. No matter what past era you're talking about, the conveniences, especially for the masses, were most likely not very convenient. For example, it might have been exciting to live in London during the Industrial Revolution. But, just walking down the street would have been smelly and dangerous. You've heard the British refer to the bathroom as "the loo?" The phrase sounds so quaint. But, the term actually derives from the French "Gardez l'eau", which means "Look out for the water." It's what the tenement-dwellers used to yell before they threw the contents of their piss pots out the window and onto the street below. Ick!

Then there's the whole matter of reading in the bathroom. My guess is that the outhouses on the prairie probably didn't come equipped with electricity. And, to take a candle out there, well, you could be risking an explosion!

Maybe that's why men invented light bulbs and indoor plumbing in the first place - just so they could have a place to read in peace! Whatever the reason, I appreciate it. Now, please, don't forget to put down the seat.