When Ya Gotta Go: How History Coulda Seen It

In recent news, San Francisco, the beautiful city by the Bay, is having trouble with public pooping and peeing on its sidewalks. It’s nothing new, and we can be sure ancient Athens and all cities since have had the same problem.

One of my earliest memories of outdoor elimination happened when our Navy advanced communications unit landed on the island of Leyte during the 1944-45 WW2 campaign in the Philippines. Our open air toilets consisted of a large wooden platform with four holes on either side of a railing holding rolls of toilet paper. Whenever we sailors sat there, friendly native people came by offering to sell us fresh fruit and fermented drinks.

Of course, going to the toilet is a very natural, if sometimes bothersome, universal process. As I enter my 90s and wander city streets daily, concerns about getting to a bathroom on time become more and more important. I’m not yet ready for adult diapers, but often wonder about situations I never thought much about before.

During school days, teachers taught us of heroic moments in history. However, they never mentioned the actualities of a very human need that arises several times daily, even to heroes. It happened, and too often at the most inopportune moments. For example:

Marc Anthony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me a coin for the pay toilet.

Paul Revere: The British are coming! The British are coming! And they’re already lined up at ye olde outhouse.

Ben Franklin: The lightning bolt really knocked the stuffings out of me! Could someone please hold my kite for a few minutes while I use the facilities?

Napoleon: I keep my hand in my vest because I’m too damned shy to put it where I most need it.

Teddy Roosevelt: Hey, guys. I need a moment before I lead the charge up San Juan Hill. After I go, I’ll tell you when we’ll go.
The Wright Brothers: Now that we’ve invented flight, let’s plan for passenger planes with pay toilets.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong: There has to be a mooning joke here somewhere.

Lo, as He preacheth His sermon unto the faithful multitudes, He speaketh….. OK, OK, I’ll stop! I dare not even attempt to muse about history’s most saintly religious leaders. Nor will I speculate on embarrassing bodily interruptions occurring during their most holy moments.

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