(Warning to the sensitive: The following post contains the word “pee” six times — I counted. Proceed at your own risk.)
Although Dean and I were both semi-enthusiastic amateur campers before we had kids, my enthusiasm has greatly decreased in recent years. It’s difficult enough to provide food, clothing, and shelter at home, so to need duplicate, outdoors-worthy versions of all these things, and care for and maintain them, just seems like work rather than recreation. Also, I’m always pregnant or nursing or sick or we have a crawling baby (who would get knees and hands filthy crawling in dirt,) so we’ve very rarely camped. However, since we have none of those obstacles right now, we decided we could probably manage the one-night tent camp-out our ward hosted last weekend. (Well, actually I am pregnant, but I’m in the middle trimester, the easiest part of the pregnancy, and I’m still sleeping well at night.) We dug out all our gear and found that we had enough gear and bedding, just barely, for all of us, and since the invitation said that it might be cold at the campsite (well, actually it said it might be “chili,” but we interpreted that to mean cold,) we did manage to grab jackets for everyone as we left.
Well, it was very cold. We did the best we could to get everyone in the warmest sleeping arrangements we could, but still the little ones kept crying out in their sleep because of the cold. We had put Henry between Mabel and Isaac in the two-man tent, and when Henry woke up crying, Dean and I were too tired and cold to get out of our tent to comfort him, so Ike and Mabel got a crash course in Parenting 101 — I told them to rub Henry’s back and sing “Rock-a-bye baby” to him, which actually worked, and he went back to sleep.
So, it must have been midnight or later, and the kids were finally settled down to sleep (so I thought; actually it would take a couple more hours and several more rearrangements of bedding before everyone was really warm enough to sleep.) And then I realized I needed to pee. I really didn’t want to get out of my warm sleeping bag and go out into the cold, dark, night, so I told myself that if I just ignored the feeling, it would go away. I tried this for half an hour. It wasn’t working. I finally accepted that I was not going to get a bit of sleep unless I emptied my bladder, so, miserably, I wormed my way out of my sleeping bag and crawled out of the tent. As I did this, I was thinking about the Primary children’s song that goes:
You don’t have to push a handcart
Leave your fam’ly dear
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer
You do need to have great courage
Faith to conquer fear
And work with might for a cause that’s right
To be a pioneer
I usually have agreed with the premise of this song: I have thought that the moral and spiritual challenges we face in our day require our own courage and determination, not much different from that needed by the Mormon Pioneers to cross the plains. I’ve also felt that every person in this life eventually gets tested to the utmost. But, trying to work up the courage to go out into the forty-degree night to walk a few yards to a latrine, I was making some quick modifications to my theory. I was feeling very grateful I didn’t have to trade places with the pioneers, and thinking that having to go days or months never quite being warm enough, and with one’s children never quite being warm enough, (let alone facing the much greater trials the pioneers encountered,) would be far more misery than I want to experience in life. I decided I usually underestimate the trials and suffering of the pioneers.
As I was thinking all this, I’d managed to slip my sandals on over my socks, and walked to the little building where the latrine was. There was a little crack of light under the door, and I couldn’t decide whether someone was in there with a light, or whether moonlight was showing under the door, so I knocked lightly. Someone was in there. I waited a couple of minutes for them to come out, and by the time they did, I was really, really wanting to empty my bladder. As the door to the outhouse closed behind me, I discovered that there was NO moonlight in there. I was blind, and hadn’t brought a lantern. Well, I would just have to walk in the direction of the toilet and find it by bumping into it.
I found it. By now I needed to go so badly that I started to let loose in mid-sit. I was picturing the toilet as one of those lidless ones you often find in camp outhouses, but I immediately realized, by the sound and by the back-splashing, that the polite previous user had followed the instructions I would see posted clearly on a sign the next morning: “Please leave toilet lid closed.” I was peeing onto the closed toilet lid. I was sure the splashing was going to soak the sweat pants I was using as pajamas, leading to an even more freezing night. (Actually I had dry clothes in my car I could have changed into, but I hadn’t yet had time to think of that option.)
As newlyweds, Dean and I lived for nearly a year in the Middle East, and at this moment, my training in the use of pit toilets came unexpectedly back to me: I scooted forward a little, squatted a little lower, and pushed my pants forward to be sure they were out of the stream. Having finished, I stood and felt all my clothing carefully. I discovered that all my clothes and underclothes, and even my socks in my sandals, were still dry.
Of course I wanted nothing more than to just leave the mess and go back to my tent and sleep — but I was camping with my ward family. Even in my groggy state, my social conscience was vigilant enough to keep me from leaving such an unpleasant surprise for the next cold camper.
So, I stumbled back to my tent, found our lantern, lit it, went to our car and got a box of tissues, and went back to the outhouse and mopped up my own pee off the toilet and the concrete floor. (When I told my family this story the next day, Isaac wanted to know why I hadn’t just used the toilet tissue in the bathroom to clean up the pee. A good question. I think that I had first wondered whether we had paper towels in the car, and then remembered the box of tissues there, and also I think that I’d noticed earlier in the evening that the TP supply in the outhouse seemed a little scant, so I didn’t want to use it all up on this one clean-up.) Then, not wanting to walk back to the center of camp to wash my hands in cold water, I rubbed a very large dollop of hand sanitizer onto my hands, and gratefully crawled back into my warm sleeping bag.
I had reason to be glad for my clean-up efforts, too, since it turned out that the next person to use the bathroom was me, a couple of hours later. (Never overestimate the size of the bladder of a pregnant woman.)
Great courage? Check. Faith to conquer fear? Check. And a sense of love and duty great enough to mop pee off a cold dark concrete floor with tissues in the middle of the night? CHECK! I have no more doubt about it: I am a modern-day pioneer.