One of the fun aspects of Burning Man is that it is this big city filled with people doing their own thing. Well mostly, anyway. There are the 10 principles to adhere to. There are law enforcement issues. And there are people who tell you that you “aren’t doing it right.” Just like the “last year was the last good Burning Man” meme that was captured by Korean-style animation, the “you aren’t doing it right” meme has the same potential for giggles.
I recently encountered this when I posted on eplaya about my toilet setup. Now, a good part of what happened is due to the Internet, not something inherent in Burning Man. Having been a blogger for a few years now, I’ve watched the way the Internet turns regular people into judgmental assholes, or nitpickers, or one-uppers, or rude, “my snark has no off-button” types. I’ve behaved that way myself. Many people who develop Internet Attitude are quite nice in person, possibly way fun. But it is obvious from their Internet interactions that they have stopped reading their own postings with an objective eye. And they fall back on the now-common plausible deniability of tone. People are now quite proficient at injecting tone into their online comments and then turning around and saying they “didn’t mean it that way.” Well, actually, yes they did. It is quite easy to inject a virtual eyeroll or other form of condescension into a sentence. People do it all the time. And just like face-to-face body language, virtual body language is all about between the lines.
Let me preface this toilet talk by saying that I’m a middle-aged woman with a tired bladder and a beer habit. Aging, giving birth, and not doing enough kegels has put me in the same situation as a lot of women my age. Prolapsing bladder and “urges.” Yes, I know I need to do more kegels, and sometimes I actually do. But I’ve also been getting up in the middle of the night to pee for most of my life, even when my pelvic muscles were buff. And being a beer drinker pretty much guarantees a midnight run.
I don’t have a problem with staggering to the bathroom in the wee hours, or crawling out of my tent and squatting nearby. I can usually do it without becoming fully alert. But at Burning Man, your toilet options are limited. There are the portapotties, which tend to be nasty at night due to wasted people peeing and barfing all over them. And my favorite camping spot is about a block and a half away from the nearest group of potties. That leaves a pee funnel and a jug, which many people do, or my set-up, which is a little travel toilet at my camp. It’s just a 5 gallon bucket with a snap-on toilet seat. I keep feline pine in it because it is highly absorbent. That way, instead of trying to pee in a jug when I’m sleepy (and don’t forget to screw the cap back on!), I can just stagger out of my tent and sit. Yay! It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s handy. And I don’t have this American need to distance myself from my bodily functions, so carrying a little sealed bucket of peed-on sawdust back home really doesn’t bother me a bit.
I can see that it wouldn’t work as well in a camp with more than one or two people, due to the volume of pee, but for my little solo camp, it is the perfect solution. And I don’t care how many kegels you do. An empty bladder is more comfortable than a full one. And there’s nothing fuller than a beer bladder.
So back to the eplaya story. When I posted about my little toilet set-up, in case anybody else was interested in something similar, I got a ton of flack for “not doing it right.” There was the group who thought that having my own little pee bucket was ridiculous when you could walk or ride to the portapotties, with or without getting dressed first. Yes, somebody thinks it takes far less effort to get up, get dressed, unlock your bike, ride to the portapotties, lock your bike, wait in line, wipe off the nasty seat, do your business, unlock your bike, ride home, get undressed, and get back in bed. Or the alternative was to just do the same thing on foot. One person commented about people needing to use “elaborate” strategies just to pee in the middle of the night when they could just go use the portapotties. Uh huh. We obviously have different definitions of “elaborate.”
Some people brought up the funnel and jug, because you can get rid of your pee at the portapotties the next day. That’s great, and I don’t have a problem with that (I said that, and commented that the funnel and pee bottle is the obvious choice when you are out and about), except that it is still more work to pee in a jug in the middle of the night than it is to pee in a portable toilet. And again, somebody fell back on elaborate, waste of time and money, etc. I just shook my head at that point and commented that my option was one of several, and it worked for me, it was neither elaborate nor time consuming, and it actually put less pressure on the portapotties. Then I got a bit snarky and commented that I thought there was a certain push for conformity among the pee crowd. That didn’t go over well.
Then the kegeling nurse gave a virtual eyeroll about having to give her “speech” again. Which made me laugh, because she obviously likes to give her “speech.” Lording it over the lazy, weak-bladdered newbies who did not properly institute a pre-Burning Man kegel regimen, thereby completely destroying their experience. Kegeling nurse then said that if us lazy bladder types did enough kegels, we could cut our peeing down to 3 times a day. As if carrying a gallon of beer and coconut water around in my bladder all day is some sort of badge of honor. lol. Then a couple of minions upped the argument by telling me not to disrespect the nurse. That’s when I finally had enough of their silliness and groupthink (it happens to all forums with regular members). I left a final parting shot about no disrespect intended on my part but a lot of attitude and “advice” on their part. I haven’t posted a comment since, although I still go there to seek information.
And yes, I will be taking my camp potty with me this year, as well as my funnel and pee bottle, and I will be the happy camper who did NOT pee all over herself and her tent in the middle of the night because she missed the jug.
Update: I found this video about the “caution tape” potty. Made me laugh.