methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Privvy Manners

Well, sad to say, this will be the last of my entries for Grist. It has been a joy, and fun, to have written for three years, being given carte blanche, and even gotten paid for what I was enjoying (Although I did have to cart Blanche away, what with being married and all that.)

So, as winter is now fast approaching, I have dipped into the past, 1986 to be exact, in the archives of The Goat Wall Street Journal, a literary monthly published by Mary Sharman and me. It lasted a year with a deep following by readers and shallow pockets on me. The piece I have selected is titled “Outhouse Etiquette.” Granted, outhouses today are Sani Cans or some other romantic sobriquet, but the information is still valid.


  1. ALWAYS, before use, sweep out under the seat to dislodge black widow spiders. The outhouse, quite factually, is the source of more spider bites than any other place. Because of anatomic construction, more men than women are affected.
  2. Never remove the shovel from its location near the outhouse door. Aside from its obvious function, it is an especially handy tool for eliminating some of the larger arachnids mentioned above.
  3. ALWAYS close the door after using the facility for the following reasons;

    a. It keeps the snow off the seat.

    b. Snow may drift inside, preclude closure of the door and thereby prevent the user from enjoying a bit of privacy as well as a respite from the elements.
    In a heavy snowstorm you may need the door as a tool to clear a path for a running start homeward.
  4. If usage of the facility is by those of both genders, common courtesy dictates that after use by a male the hinged portion of the seating apparatus be returned to its horizontal position [This was not a problem in 1972 as ours did not have a seat, just a board with a large hole. But I digress...].
  5. Reading materials brought to, or retained within the enclosure should be brief and concise. Being engrossed in the final chapter of a mystery can cause unreasonable delays for those waiting for an empty chair. Also, you might get snowed in. This is the reason Sears invented the catalog.
  6. After dressing and knowing another will soon be arriving, it is always appreciated and in the best of good taste for the departing to assume a seated position in order to retain warmth for occupant.
  7. In case of fire, it is considered good manners to dress before leaving the facility, to exit in an orderly manner and then enlist aid in quelling the blaze. Should it be more of a problem, like an inferno, the shovel will again be a worthy implement, whether to douse the flames or clear an escape path.

I cannot leave without relating an incident in the early ’80s when we had to use the neighbors’ prehistoric privy. I was surprised to see stalactites issuing from beneath the contoured seat. This caused by the heat emitted from the contents at the bottom. So my final caution is that you not attempt to break off some of the icicles. You could lose your footing.


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