Where Do We Go From Here?
August 4th, 2011

Only three days following passage of the government debt ceiling limit, and already Utah’s Division of Natural Resources is shuttering our roadside toilets. I could hardly believe my eyes, and my nose!


This particular unit stands near the shore of East Canyon Reservoir, where I frequently go fishing. It used to be my dog Tippy’s favorite spot, thanks to his penchant for rolling in piles of sheep manure. I, myself, am not so fond of wallowing in excrement–which is why I’m going to sorely miss this particular facility.

My first thought: How much does it actually cost to “maintain” a pit toilet? How hard is it to occasionally replace a roll of toilet paper, compared to, say, the alternative? Seems to me this is a classic case of “penny-wise, pound foolish.”

It’s not as if roadside toilets in Utah were ever a big line item. The only state with worse ones is Nevada, where the alternative to relieving oneself in the open is a bullet-riddled porta-potty. I generally opt for the former; even so, it’s not unusual to take a whiz whilst projectiles whiz overhead.

Oregon’s facilities are much better, as I discovered recently during my Enlarged Prostate Tour of the Pacific Northwest. There is no litter, the walls are graffiti-free, and the lavatories have ample running water. In fact, at one particular stop, I came close to committing a grave faux pas when I momentarily mistook a hand-washing station for a urinal. “Why are you on tippy-toes?” asked the gentleman standing next to me.

However, Oregon’s roadside restrooms pale in comparison to some I have seen in Texas, in particular during the reign of George W. Bush. I remember one Lone Star comfort station that was more comfortable than any motel I’ve ever stayed at. No, much more comfortable than that! Air-conditioned, with hot and cold running water, showers, working vending machines, big screen TV’s, a richly upholstered lounge with a historic diorama. And, best of all, a live-in attendant!


So here’s my solution to the unemployment problem. Let’s pay people to tend our public toilets. I’ve seen the system at work in such places as Hungary and Italy, and while I can’t say with conviction that the men and women who greet you at the door are especially happy in their work, at least they have a job and a roof over their heads. And somewhere to go when nature calls—which it inevitably does, at all hours and even on Mondays through Thursdays.

-Richard Menzies