-- June 24, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 285
Outhouse Terrorism--Is It A Solution?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
ZERO, New York City, June 23--I'm a little Terrorized these days by
certain news stories. The one that caught my attention this
morning wasn't about the fruitless search for bin Laden, or the bombings
and retaliation in Israel, or the growing concern over attacks on
Independence Day. It was the demise of the outhouse.
Now, I don't want any reader to think
I am frivolous in this concern, or that I mean to demean the horror of
Terrorism. The two children killed in the West Bank by
Israeli shells bicycling to the market to get a candy bar saddens me.
I think of their innocence being expunged due to retaliation of Terror
upon Terror and know there is no solution in trying to match the gallons
of blood between sides.
Neither do I diminish the horror of a
mother who watches her children suffer under Huntington's disease, and in
a act of love and compassion, shoots them so they won't suffer any longer.
Her children could not eat or drink or speak, were virtual vegetables
lying in wait of death. Still, she committed a "murder."
The horror of the disease and the pain of the mother must not go
But there are other kinds of Terror--some
that make you chuckle, some that make you cringe and wish with all your
heart and soul that human beings would evolve beyond the primal need to
kill, maim and butcher one another in the name of some twisted virtue they
believe will be worth the blood they spill.
This morning I elected to take the lighter
side of Terrorism as my easel--and to paint for you a picture of a less
horrific aspect--specifically, the "Terror Of The Outhouse Demise!"
I wouldn't have given it much attention
were it not for the article in the NY Times by Peter T. Kilborn.
It was all about the end of an era--the end of the outhouse.
While Congress, the Senate and White House scurry
to find the lair of Osama bin Laden and eradicate the al-Qaeda, the legacy
of Franklin D. Roosevelt's promise to bring rural residents the
conveniences of cities is bulldozing over one of America's historical
HUD funds of up to $27,000 per household
are being used to rip down old, shaky homes and rebuild new ones in rural
areas where water must be gathered from streams and a flushing toilet is
something only "city folks" can afford. Focus for the Times
article was Warm Springs, Va., a population of just over 5,000 people who
are converting their lifestyles from bringing in a steel tub and bathing
in hot water heated from the stove to putting in as many bathrooms as
possible when they reconstruct their homes using federal money.
In 1990 the U.S. census reported that 3 million
people living in 1.1 million houses, or 1.2 percent of all households,
were without plumbing. In 1940 half of
America's households had no indoor plumbing. In 1960 that
number dropped to 17 percent.
Part of the plan to remove outhouses for
toilets involves Terrorism. It seems that copperhead snakes like
outhouses. Before using a one or two-holer in the Virginia
area, one needed to insure a copperhead wasn't lurking in the next hole,
or coiled up in a corner. One man went to the outhouse with
his shotgun--"to clear the way."
At least one death has been reported
directly due to the installation of new plumbing and the destruction of
It seems Margaret Bee, a 98-year-old widow,
died because she didn't know how to use plumbing properly. She
had been relocated to a motel while her house was being remodeled to
include running water and a toilet.
Shirley Cardwell, a 52-year-old
bartender, was the force behind helping the citizens find and employ
federal funds to renovate their properties. She was saddened by the
death of Margaret Bee, who, according to reports, was not used to taking a
bath and filled the tub at the motel with scalding water. "She
scalded herself to death," said Cardwell.
Other forms of Terrorism have popped up with the
renovations. Amy Crowder, county planner, said land in West
Warm Springs is now selling for $12,000-$20,000 an acre. "Before
(the plumbing) it was 1,000 bucks an acre, if that," Ms. Crowder said.
Local Terrorists have sought the now-prized land
which no longer sprouts the famous outhouses. Tommy Stewart,
54, a bellman at a local hotel, says he uses his shotgun that once was his
weapon to clear the outhouse from copperheads, to defend against "land
poachers." He said the poachers pretend their forbearers left
them parts of his land. "They paint the side of one of my trees and
claim it is theirs," he said.
As a citizen of New York City's "small apartment living," I lust for a
second bathroom. My wife and I migrated here from luxurious
Laguna Niguel, California where we enjoyed three and a half bathrooms.
Our master bathroom in our 3,800-square foot Laguna Niguel home was nearly
as large as our entire NYC apartment.
Apartment dwellers here have
"one-holers,"--that is, one single toilet. You learn to adjust
your "bathroom time" around the other members of your family, and if you
misjudge, you must rush out of the building in search of an available
bathroom at the local Starbucks or K-Mart.
My wife had such an experience just
the other day. While I occupied the "one-holer" her call of nature
demanded immediate attention. She made a mad rush for
When our grandchildren are visiting
us, I announce before entering the prized palace of plumbing:
"Does anyone need to use the bathroom before G-Pa?"
Our granddaughter, usually hard to
prod to use the toilet before going anywhere, usually dashes faster than
Wonder Woman to use it before I bolt myself in. HUD should
consider using the "plumbing funds" for adding additional toilets in the
major cities. This would reduce the danger of a family member
risking his or her life in search of another toilet on the war-torn
streets of New York.
But the reduction of homes without
indoor plumbing is not the end of the "outhouse."
Here in the city, outhouses
have been modernized. At major city events rows of different
colored portable potties are brought to help the public from using trees,
bushes and other public property to relieve themselves. I
understand there is constant pressure on the city to install portable
potties around the city, requiring a twenty-five-cent "usage fee."
Usually, this demand is defeated because advocates of "street people" want
them for "free or not at all." Other cities utilize porta-potties in
great numbers. According to Larry Moore, Chairman of A-Company, his
company provided 2600 portable toilets for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake
Personally, I seek out the finest public
toilets. If I am under attack, I will search out fine hotels
such as the Plaza on 57th and 5th Avenue, and utilize its grand
appointments. If the attack is severe, I will go to a
Starbucks. However, one is usually required to be a
"customer," so it demands standing in line and buying a cup of coffee
before being "authorized" to enter the buzzer-controlled bathroom. I
finally got smart and bought a Starbuck Credit Card and flash it saying:
"I'm a card-carrying customer. I've got pre-paid bathroom rights."
Part of me is a little saddened by
the elimination of the outhouse. There was something special
about them--struggling through the wind, the rain, the snow, the heat, to
find your way to them. They offered a moment of utter privacy,
temples of contemplation.
Our forefathers and foremothers used them for
centuries. They provided the inspiration for many writers and poets,
and, surely, drove many to invent ways to modernize life.
In Vietnam, I remember traveling from the front
lines back to division headquarters where I found a secret former French
toilet. It was built on three tiers. You had to climb up
to the "throne" and sit high above the world, regal as a king.
Above was a chain and wooden handle dangling from it. When you were
finished you pulled the handle and water whooshed down, flushing the
toilet. It was such a sweet sound. I lived for those
moments, and never told anyone about my find. It was one of my
most guarded secret.
Thus, in the final analysis, I feel a
little forlorn that technology is stomping on the outhouse.
Ultimately, we have to face Terrorism in hand-to-hand combat.
Terrorism is about employing primitive weapons--Fear, Intimidation and
We are trying to fight it with technology.
And we are losing the battle because we are thinking in terms of
computers, data streams, smart bombs. The Terrorists are
employing "outhouse" thinking. They probably dream up their
best Terrorisms while sitting on the one-holer.
Perhaps we might take a page out of
"outhouse" history. We might start by closing all the
bathrooms in the Pentagon, Congress, the Senate, White House, the FBI and
CIA. If we forced everyone to go to the "outhouse" instead of
the comfort of the modern bathroom, perhaps those in charge of fighting
Terrorism might think in far more simplistic terms about combating them.
Primal thinking requires primal contemplation.
I vote for "outhouse
counter-terrorism." Maybe we could start with
the Homeland Security staff.
Who knows, maybe Osama
bin Laden is hiding in one of them--ducking, of course.
To June 23--New Child Of Vigilance
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