06.20.09 – Hot-lanta

Day 2 of Summer Tour and already an epic dilemma faces me.  Feeling a little sticky after playing a set in Mississippi without a post-game shower last night, I walked off the bus in the 97 degree Atlanta heat this morning to see my old nemesis, the festival port-o-potty, beckoning me from the side of the stage.

To recap the rules — tour buses are not really equipped to handle #2, so you have to scramble off the bus every morning to do your business elsewhere.  It’s industry standard, and courteous to your fellow bus dwellers.  TV on the Radio, who had this bus last week at Bonnaroo, did not poop on it, so why would I?  There.  Now anyone googling  Guster *and* TV on the Radio *and* port-o-potty has found a home on the worldwide web.

With the exception of The Blue Room, a luxurious palace of a port-o-john where I read two chapters from Lonesome Dove comfortably in Richmond in 2002, I’ve always had a great fear of these poorly-vented boxes of B.M.  And just as I was thinking that maybe today would be the day I’d overcome my fear, I saw in the distance a brick structure next to a pool that had to be a public restroom, with proper porcelain and room to stretch your legs.  Perhaps this was an imaginary oasis, induced by heat exhaustion and dehydration?  No.  It was the real thing.  I began the uphill journey.

When I got there I found two empty men’s room stalls, both very clean.  I was elated — that is, until I checked for toilet paper and came up empty.  I’m 35 years old and I’ve been using public restrooms on the road for thirteen years.  I have learned so many life lessons the hard way.  I know to check.  Both stalls were out of paper and there was nothing in the towel dispenser to boot.  I found my friend Jenny outside and asked her to look in the ladies room.  Nothing.  I asked the nice lady setting up a poolside bar for some cocktail napkins to wipe my ass with.  No go.  Shouldn’t have said that last part.

So I trekked back downhill to the closet of darkness just to grab some toilet paper and head back uphill.  But when I entered it was relatively clean, with nice morning light and no aroma to speak of.  Why walk all the way uphill with a bunch of toilet paper (so thin it might just evaporate in my hand on the walk) when I could just plop myself down here in this port-o-potty, do the deed, and move on to the other things I have to do today (namely writing about taking a crap).

So that’s what I decided to do.  And I wasn’t in that box for five seconds before my shirt started sticking to my back, my forehead started beading up with sweat, and I noticed my knee was bumping into the piss-beaded gray urinal on the side.  I looked up for any sign of ventilation, but found nothing.  It was hot as hell in there, in my port-o-potty in the sun.  And then came the dreaded splashback.  Fuck.  Forgot to create a landing pad with toilet paper down in The Hole, though with 35 sheets of port-o-paper equaling one sheet of regular toilet paper, a proper landing pad might have left me nothing to wipe with.  Stop lying to yourself Brian, there’s plenty of toilet paper in here, you just don’t have your A Game today.  I was starting to feel claustrophobic when suddenly I had a flashback to an old experience that I think I’ve been suppressing.  It might help me to talk about it.

“The year was 2005.  I was on my way up to northern Vermont for Ryan Miller’s wedding.  We stopped at a flea market on the way, in a field off a country road. A nice selection of stuff at this flea market, and Vermont prices to boot.  I bought a keyboard and an antique set of drill bits.  I had to take a crap.  

There were two port-o-johns in the middle of the field, and I had to take care of the situation immediately, so I entered the one on the left.  With my pants down at my ankles, mid-business, someone knocked on the door, which is a little weird, since I’d locked the door, and I knew it created a red OCCUPIED sign on the outside.  Whatever.  “I’m in here” I said, in the lame sheepish voice that everyone uses in a situation like this.  Three more knocks, this time harder.  “I’m in here!” I say a little more forcefully.  Was it my girlfriend-at-the-time, now wife, Megan, messing with me?  No way, totally not her style.  And then in one of those Oh My God Is This Really Happening To Me moments, the person began pounding on the door with their fists and shaking the port-o-potty back and forth.  I tried to grab something to gain my balance.  This sucker was going down.  I had a horrible vision of myself climbing out of the top of a tipped-over port-o-potty, a feces-covered monster in the middle of a quaint Vermont flea market, and more than anything needed to know WHO THE FUCK WAS DOING THIS AND WHY, so I pulled up my pants and kicked open the door and emerged from my closet, ready to rumble.  What did I see on the other side?  

A seventy-five year old man.  Yes, someone that could have been my grandpa.  He looked me in the eye, made a frightened expression, started laugh-mumbling, and then covered his head as if to shield himself from the inevitable blows that were coming.  I did not strike the old man, even though I had the right to.  But I did say “what the… what in the… why would… what are you DOOOOING!?”  And the mumbling grandpa gathered himself, peered up from underneath his forearm, and said “I’m sorry… I thought you were my friend… he must have gone in the other one!”  I was angry but slightly amused.  I hope when I’m old I’ll still want to pull a prank like that on my friend, even if it means leaving a life-long psychological scar on a drummer who plays summer festivals regularly.

I feel better now that that’s out of me, and I know that while it’s a continuous struggle to confront my fears every day, I’ll only get better if I talk about my feelings, and write in my blog every time I use a port-o-potty.  I want to thank you for reading and understanding.  Back in the box in Atlanta, I wiped up, zipped up, and turned around to flush the toilet.  But there was no flush.  And there never will be.

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