LIFE OFF THE GRID
Playing Tug-of-War with the Toilet Seat
Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey
One would think that after 12 years living at our camp off the grid, that the simple act of “making the bladdah-gladdah” would be a mindless task. Well, it is …kindah-sortah. Unfortunately, when living this lifestyle, not so many things are as simple as they seem …or what one would begin to expect or suspect!
This morning, I was up by 4 a.m., which is not so out of the ordinary for me. Daylight comes around these parts of the Maine woods at about 7 a.m. this time of year. However, since we live in the woods and the sun rises behind us …err behind a landscape of trees, our camp sits in the shade until noon-ish. That means, that unless I turn on the bathroom light to do my duty, the small room remains quite dark throughout the day. That, despite a small window at head level.
Starting at about 6 a.m. this morning, I periodically stepped outside with my camera in hand. I love to capture the predawn colors. To watch as the sky and snowy landscape gracefully and ever-so-subtle-like lighten before my never-ending gaze is something that I enjoy doing each morning. The sense of peace it brings is genuine and pure -a natural “being” if you will.
In between my darts in and out with my camera, I sipped my coffee, tended to the fire, and caught up with friends and family on Facebook. All the above is my morning ritual. Adding to that is starting a fire, and, of course, over-stimulating the cat so he’ll leave me alone.
After about the 4th time I dipped outside, the 10-degree air and minus five degrees below wind-chill started penetrating my body. My muscles tightened to maintain my body temperature. At 50, that tightening also gives a sense of urgency to the bladder, too. Sometimes, there isn’t much warning before that urge intensifies quite rapidly! Dressed as I was, I knew that urge would come more quickly, too, but, of course, my photos are more important than releasing my bladdah. My bladder can wait, often the perfect photo cannot.
This morning, as per usual, I was barefoot. I wore knit Capris and a thin tank top. There wasn’t much to slow the wind or keep me warm. I knew better, yet, I have this same routine all year long. Hearty? Hardy? Or, just plain stupid. I’ll let you decide.
To get a little blood flowing for added warmth, I trotted down the somewhat snow-covered steps trying to land each foot on the snowless patches to avoid slipping. The darting about, that gravity thing, too, gave me the urge to pee before I reached the bottom step.
After snapping a few photos, I turned and walked the length of the dock toward camp. At the base of the stairs, I paused and stared at all those steps that lead to the deck. My body was cold and my bladder more urgent. I grumbled, “You’re getting old, Lori-Ann! You are cold and you have to pee! That’s not a good combo!”
Inside, though the camp was barely 60 degrees, but after being outside, it felt like the tropics. The cat, AhChoo, was not at the door to greet me upon return. It didn’t take long for me to remember that when I crawled out of bed at 4 a.m., he was in the bathroom on mouse guard duty. Apparently, he had one trapped in the corner behind his litter box.
I set my camera on the couch (sofa) and continued toward the bathroom without hesitation. There was no need to flip the light switch for added light. I knew my way around that small room just as well in the dark as in broad daylight. As I rounded the corner, I heard the cat leap out of the way and land atop the bucket of aspen shavings. For that, I was rather thankful. I didn’t want to take the time to walk around him or scoot him out of the way.
In case you didn’t know -
During the non-frozen months, we use a composting toilet inside the camp. It is nothing more than a glorified inside outhouse with a toilet-like set up inside. To use, simply “go” as you would any other toilet system. The difference is that this toilet holds no water, per se. Your waste drops through the floor and into a “drum” (holding tank) below. After we poo, no matter the time of year, we toss a handful of wood shavings into the toilet. Every few days, or weeks, the drum, accessed from outside, is rotated to mix up the human waste products, toilet paper, and shavings. This keeps the “stuff” mixed up and composting; thus, the name, composting toilet. Every few months, the drum is emptied and I wheelbarrow it up to a pile where I let it age for two years before adding it to my garden as fertilizer. There is never a foul smell during the whole process, and the result is beautiful “black gold”.
During the frozen months, we have a somewhat different setup. We still go poo in the composting toilet, but we make our bladdah-gladdah in a 5-gallon pail that we call, “The Coffee Pot”. The coffee pot has a screw on cover to keep down any odor due to the lack of an obvious stink pipe from the pail. When we pee, we unscrew the cover. Paul can “go” without putting on a rubber toilet seat, but not me. Well, I can, but that narrow pail rim is not very comfortable. Thus, I remove the cover and plop the toilet seat that has a groove specifically for the bucket rim. We call it “The Coffee Pot” because we use used coffee grounds as a scent cover.
Now that you have somewhat of a visual of our “going” process, you’ll better relate to my situation this morning.
After I unscrewed the cover from “The Coffee Pot”, I couldn’t put the cover on the shavings pail because the cat was there. Instead, I figured that I’d just swap places with the toilet seat. However, when I reached for the toilet seat that usually rests upon the composting toilet seat, it was not there. At that point, a smart person would have turned on the light, but apparently, I’m not that smart …or maybe I am too stubborn. My preferred word is “determined”.
Bending over further, I felt the floor around the composting toilet. In talking to myself, I whispered, “Nope, it’s not there. AhChoo, where did it go?” At that point, I knew the only place it could be was underneath the cat himself. You’d think the cat would move on command? Of course, not. His attention was on the mouse he kept at bay in the corner. With both hands, I felt for the seat around the cat’s feet. When found, I gave a gentle tug. I thought for sure the cat would at least lift his feet or jump down, but that is human thought, not cat thought.
By then, my bladder was quite “pressing” and my patience quite thin. Still, I continued to struggle with the seat cover around the cat. Everything was fine until I envisioned my stance and my actions. Here I am a 50-year-old woman playing tug-of-war with a cat …and not with a rope! Then, my child-like mind reverted to the problem-solving mode of a toddler. Remember that Fisher Price toddler toy of stackable rings? I figured if I could just pull the seat up around the cat, and then, over his head, I’d be fine.
Well, it took a few attempts to navigate around his legs, but all seemed to go smoothly until the seat reached the cat’s neck. I don’t know if that movement startled the cat, or if the mouse decided to make a run for it at the same time as the toilet seat reached the neck area. I suppose I’ll never know. What I do know is that when the cat lurched forward and learned that he was held back by the toilet seat, and worse yet, he could not pounce on the mouse without strangling himself, he got more than a little bit antsy on me.
|These are not the toilet seats mentioned in this blog.|
In haste, and in the darkness, I might add, I blindly tried to move the seat in the same direction as I predicted his movements, but I was too slow and I ended up moving opposite of his direction each time instead. Every move he made, he must’ve thought I intentionally blocked him. A cat in the dark is stronger and quicker than I thought! I don’t know how Paul didn’t wake up, as all this unfolded not 10 feet away from him. With each attempt to escape the seat, AhChoo lurched. He is a big cat, so each lurch tipped the shavings pail and made more of a noise as it toppled to and from, too. It seems that I couldn’t win and neither could the cat! The mouse, I’m sure was either petrified more than ever or ceased the moment to run like hell.
Finally, I let go of the toilet seat and hoped the cat would sense his freedom and jump free of it all. Thankfully, within a second, the cat was on the floor behind me! Other than the tug-of-war with the toilet seat, all ended well, and for that, I was thankful.
Trying to keep my composure, and keep control of my bladdah, too, I couldn’t help but let out an appreciative smirk as I quickly pulled the toilet seat to rest atop “The Coffee Pot”. Unfortunately, I did not bother to feel around to see if it was properly secured in place. I should have. I should have taken two seconds to flip the light switch, too. Hindsight is always 20-20, even in the dark, right?
I stood. I turned. I pulled down my pants. I sat. Instantly, I knew something was very wrong. During the game of tug-of-war with the cat over the oval-shaped toilet seat, it somehow got spun around so I set it upon the pail sideways. Immediately, I knew I was not secure for a relaxed sit. Moreover, panic struck when I wondered if I had room to pee IN the bucket or if the seat was so offset that I’d end up peeing on the outside of it after all? It was too late. I was already mid-stream. All I could do was dive forward, ‘cause, as you know, it is not so easily for women to adjust our pee stream as it is for a man! Dammit! I’d love to be able to write in the snow! All I could hope for this morning is the ability to lean far enough ahead to direct my stream more downwards. Believe it or not, I was successful, but in all honestly, I don’t know how!
By then, there was just barely enough light in the bathroom to see the darkest of silhouettes against a dark room. The cat has very large ears that seemingly glow in the dark. It was obvious that he sat watching the whole "sitting" process with great confusion. He had forgotten about the mouse. Apparently, I was more entertaining at the time. I had to laugh. If I could have read his mind! If it were possible, in a cartoon-like cloud above his head, I know it would have read, “Just piss in the litter box!” I spoke to him, but apparently, he was no longer amused. He turned and walked away.
When finished “making my bladdah-gladdah”, I did the “hopper hop”. Remember when I said we pee in “The Coffee Pot”, and go poop in the composting toilet? Luckily, so far, I have yet to hop in the wrong direction. I don’t think AhChoo would be too impressed if I used his litter box, do you? Although, after that fiasco this morning, I may consider it a safer bet …or maybe just flip that light switch next time!