We are all itching to get out. No matter how successfully (or not) we are entertaining ourselves at home—just the limited geography of home makes us want more. One friend says, “What I really want is to drive into the mountains and go hiking.”
We are on a group Zoom. I chime in, “You should do it, just do it.” I say that even though my husband and I are on the extreme end of social distancing, of sheltering in place.
Although my husband’s heart condition is well-managed, we can’t take any risks, so we are staying at home, ordering groceries and going for an occasional walk designed to avoid people. I keep declining social distancing activities with friends.
As one friend put it, “I get it, you are in a different category. You can’t take risks.”
A friend biked over one day, she is the only person who has stopped by in more than two months. She is a friend of my daughter’s now living in Denver. We sat outside about 10 feet apart and she brought her own drink.
Just as she was leaving, she asked, “Do you mind if I pee in your backyard?” What is striking is that none of us found this unusual.
“Where will you pee?” I asked. I guess I just wanted to know what part of the yard to avoid.
My husband said, “I don’t want to know.”
I ran inside to get her a plastic bag and toilet paper. “The garbage cans are on your right on the way out,” I said.
I am cheering my friends on who want to (safely) go out, recognizing that, at best, it is a continuum, each person making their decision individually.
But, ever-present, is the issue of where to pee or even worse, where to poop? One friend, a cyclist, said she uses Porta Potties while cycling and has developed a technique that makes her feel comfortable. I didn’t ask for details.
My friend who wants to go on a long hike talked about the perils of people pooping off the trail without following protocols of burying the evidence or packing it out. Apparently, dogs could potentially get into the poop and bit by bit spread COVID-19.
Several studies describe the hazards of “toilet plume,” an admittedly new term for me. After flushing, the particles in the air disperse, creating risk of getting viruses and other illnesses. In a sense, we now know too much. Will public bathrooms ever feel the same way again?
Some people say the best strategy is to hike or go to the beach for short periods of time so that you don’t even have to face the toilet question. But there are also other ways to avoid this issue.
I can’t help thinking about the story of the astronaut, Lisa Nowak in early 2007 who drove from Houston to Florida to attack her lover’s girlfriend. It’s odd because I can’t recall the outcome, but I remember being weirdly impressed by her singular focus on getting there, which reportedly meant wearing astronaut grade diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop along the way to pee.
Tabloids and late-night TV had a field day with this. The fact that she was armed with the tools and intention to seriously harm her nemesis is alarming, but the idea of a mission that will not be thwarted is, in its own way, spectacular. We all want to go somewhere, but the challenges along the way are troubling.
A quick Google search indicates that astronaut grade adult diapers are now widely available online. On a recent Zoom call with friends, one person suggested that’s what we should all have in our emergency supply kit. Or at least take a pair on our next hike.
Liz Westerfield lives in Denver.
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