I attended an event this weekend. I slept in a tent, pitched in a field alongside scores of other campers.
I knew going into this event I was not cut out for camping. I lack the fortitude. The grit. The skill.
Aware of my inexperience, my fellow campers showered me with support.
Being showered with support is almost as good as taking an actual shower. When it comes to camping, they appear to be mutually exclusive – it’s either support or plumbing. Not both.
I went forty-eight hours without a shower. That’s just one of the many traumas I subjected myself to this weekend. I was like Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code, self-flagellating with gross experiences instead of whips.
The weather was hot and humid. Fortunately, the 12-hour deluge took care of that. This seems to be a typical camping experience.
I huddled in my sleeping bag as the rain fell, damp clothes sticking to my once-sweaty body. I pondered how to make that moment anyone’s fault but my own.
While the weather was challenging– as was the lack of cell service and that one snake – what I struggled with most was the portable toilets.
I have never been good about using portable toilets. I am far too obsessive to feel comfortable using a bathroom so obviously used before me. I had hoped having to use portable toilets for an entire weekend would cure me of my fussiness.
It only made me worse.
It never occurred to me I’d have to use the portable toilets at night.
Most of the portable toilets at the campground didn’t have lighting. Even worse, I had to traverse a dark campground to reach them. The pythons, alligators, Blair Witch, and Leatherface – all common in rural New York – probably lurked just beyond the beam of my phone’s flashlight.
Once inside, the corners not illuminated by my light were left to my imagination as I propped my phone on surfaces that promised to dump it immediately to a floor chronically and mysteriously wet.
Sleep provided no respite. Dreams of portable toilets closer to my tent, or unknown to others, tantalized me. That I wasn’t dreaming of real bathrooms shows how far I’d fallen.
Portable toilets used for three days by a campground full of people, unlike cheese and Robert Redford, do not get better with age. By Sunday, our discussions fell to which portable toilet was the least abused and therefore the best to use.
The worst two hours of the weekend began at two on Saturday morning. I was awakened by a bladder betrayed by my indulgence in an enchanting IPA. But it’s really hard to turn down a good beer when the only thing on the other side of it is a tent occasioned by slugs.
I mean, really. Had I known I’d rise each morning to slugs climbing the back wall of my tent like they’re Alex Honnold, I never would have camped.
Anyway, my choices in the sleepy campground were few. I could wake my husband to escort me. But he had enjoyed that IPA, too, and had ambled Leaning Tower of Pisa-like to our tent after last call. Also, had he really signed on for this level of prissiness when he married me?
I could go myself. But I thought of my senior high-class ski trip. I thought of how I’d left my hotel room for a midnight vending machine run. I thought of how, candy bar in hand, I had no idea which room was mine upon my return.
And that was in a hotel. Could I really navigate a lightless field with no landmarks and not make my situation one thousand times worse?
Also, there were probably serial killers.
I settled upon waiting until four, when light began to bleed across the sky.
Now, if you think my imagination is a burden just walking across a dark campground, think about what lying awake for two hours in an inky tent might be like.
That was a long two hours.
We left Sunday morning. A coffee shop waited for us down the road, civilization in a strip mall. Nineteenth-century Arctic explorers would often see mirages in the snow, not knowing their brain had manufactured the vision.
I know how they felt. Was that sparkling bathroom real? The hot tea?
I hope so. If not, I used something much worse than a portable toilet as a bathroom at that strip mall.
And like those portable toilets, I’d have no one to blame but myself.