“Is anybody awake? I’ve got to go to the porta potty.” Kari confessed.
We were seniors in college, doing archaeological fieldwork at the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Southwest Colorado.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” Sara rolled over. “What time is it?”
Kari and Sara were my best friends and our tent was the largest, most luxurious in our class. We could see Sara’s face illuminated by the clock light.
“Lani snores so I couldn’t sleep anyway.” Kara said.
“Shut up,” I groaned, but then added, “actually, I could use the bathroom myself.”
Sara unzipped out of her warm sleeping bag. “For Christ’s sake, let’s do this then.”
The sound of Kari and I unzipping followed, then Sara and I looking for our glasses, but then all of us fumbled around for our flashlights and jackets, before we made our way out of the tent, quiet as bears searching for food at a campsite.
As the cold high desert air robbed us of our warmth, we slipped on shoes. It was dark, the kind of dark city folks would never experience, so inky black and void it was frightening at times. Our flashlights swooped and dipped around trying to find the way towards the commodes.
“Hey,” someone whispered from another tent, “where are you guys going?”
“Tinkerbell’s got to go to the loo,” Sara hissed back.
There were giggles.
“Who the heck’s Tinkerbell? Kari?”
More stifled laughter.
“I’ve got to go too, wait for me.” It was Jane.
Suddenly Jen’s voice punched through the night, “I don’t know why you’re whispering! We’re all awake now.”
“Hey, wait for me!”
The girls’ camp became alive with activity, more zipper sounds, flashlights clicking on, and the scuffling of classmates scooting out of tents joining Kari, Sara and I. Then nine of us shuffled and shrieked our way towards the porta potties huddled against the unknown darkness, giggling like ten year olds.
There were three “Honey Pots” porta potties lined up, and we did our business as best as we could. A few of us had headlamps – essentially flashlights on your head like miners wear – which made maneuvering inside the porta johns a whole lot easier, but most had to figure out the logistics. I balanced the light on my lap while relieving myself, then joined the gaggle of girls who stood a good distance away, quietly talking, and trying to stay warm.
When Jane returned she said, “That flashlight holder sure is handy.”
“What flashlight holder?”
“Yeah, what are you talking about?”
More lights focused on her. She shook her head at us. “You know, that black thingy on the side, next to the toilet. It’s the perfect shape to hold your flashlight.”
There was a pause before Jen said, “You mean the urinal?”
“Oh, my god.” We were mortified.
Jane cried, “What urinal? What’s a urinal?”
Then nine young women exploded with laughter like the stars twinkling in the sky looking down in approval.