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The true bowels of deep thought

Biff America

There is no way to describe it other than a “pit-toilet epiphany.”

During the past few months, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Porta-Pottys. I”m here to say it was a learning experience.

I’ve visited an outhouse in British Columbia with views of the mountains, glaciers and a family of pine martens as tenants. I’ve enjoyed the amenities of a forest service privy in northern California where the fragrance of the nearby redwoods nearly overpowered the resident odor.

Like most returning vacationers, I too am inclined to exaggerate the joys of the trip. Thus, I will admit that not all the facilities were as splendid as those mentioned; some were close to unpleasant. That said, I’ve found enlightenment can be gained in even the vilest of places. All that’s required is an open mind, strong stomach and the ability to look for meaning where the sun does not shine. I’ll go so far as to say three of life’s basic, yet hard-learned, truths become glaringly obvious when viewed from a privy-perspective.

The first one is man’s relatively low place on the physical-gift totem pole. We pompously assume since we have mastered weapons, and are not frightened of vacuum cleaners (my wife excluded) our needs should supersede those of all other life forms. In truth, other than our ability to rationalize and reason, we are the bugs in the design punch bowl. Man is one of the slower, weaker and less coordinated species on the planet. We have genetically deficient knees, backs and teeth, and to add insult to injury, we are the only animals who require toilet paper. Mark Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

The second thought, which came to me like a breath of fresh air, was the sheer magnitude of our species’ impact on this earth – much of what we touch, we soil. Most of the cool stuff – mountains, rivers, forests – was already here when we arrived. All we’ve added is roads, buildings and Jon Tesh music – nothing to be proud of.

Moreover, we crowd so many of our kind in such small areas our mess must be contained and treated, and carted away. Animals can sense how many a given area can accommodate. When their habitat no longer supports their numbers, they stop reproducing and spread out. Man assumes wealth guarantees them a place at the wilderness table, whether there is room or not.

The third revelation was one, which I guess I’ve always known but occasionally need to be reminded of.

It was on Tioga Pass in the High Sierras (California is home to some of the finest pit-toilets). The day was unseasonably hot, and we had just returned to the trailhead after hours of backcountry skiing. I was steeling my resolve to enter what could only be described as an unkempt, entry-level outhouse, when out stepped a vision of loveliness. I’m not going to say it was Britney Spears, for fear of a lawsuit, but perhaps a clone. Whether it was or wasn’t does not really matter to this story. Suffice to say she was a stunningly attired and a drop-dead gorgeous creature.

As she passed me at the door, she took pains not to make eye contact, probably for fear of my asking for an autograph. She needed not have worried, considering my germaphobic nature, and that there were no hand-washing faculties nearby. I was still marveling at her beauty as I entered the room that she had left.

Then it hit me. It might have been the heat, or it could have been her, but my eyes watered, rolled back into my head, my legs buckled and I nearly lost consciousness. Of course, the third truth being exterior beauty aside, through the eyes of God and the nose of man, we are all the same.

Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA and KYSL radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers.


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