Written by: Doug Breen

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Or not.

Thumbnail for Little Pink and (Blue and Green) Houses

Tommy Truong Illustration

Outside many a barn and at every horse show, there is a Polymer Palace. Depending on where you’re from, they may be known as a Best Seat in the House, Drop Zone, Johnny on the Spot, Spiffy Biffy, Heeeere’s Johnny, Call a Head, Oui Oui Enterprises – and my personal favorite – Willy Make It. Incidentally, these are all real company names, and often the local company moniker becomes the name by which the locals call their portable toilets.

Because I’ve led a full and fascinating life, it just so happens that I am an acquaintance of the man who owns most of the porta-potties in my province. He says: “I’m #1 in the #2 business.” For my own amusement, I tried to get people around me to start calling them after him, but it never caught on.

They have a hundred different names, but they all serve the same purpose – to keep you out of the barn owner’s house. If there was even the remotest of chances that a bunch of preteens could remember to remove their boots, not make a mess, and not break something, the owner might actually allow you into the house, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I’m old enough to remember when barns, campgrounds and even fall fairs would have “pit privies.” That’s a very fancy word for an outhouse. In fact, our Township still has by-laws, and there are still provincial rules and regulations, regarding the erection and maintenance of pit privies. No matter how poorly maintained the portable at your barn is, trust those of us who have used an honest to goodness outhouse, the modern alternative is a shocking improvement.

I still remember the first one that I ever saw. It was about 1976, and I would have been 10 years old. My parents had taken us to a camping/music festival/retreat kind of event. I remember literally nothing about the experience, except that they had gray plastic, self-contained outhouses. They all had a flushing mechanism at that time and my brother Jim and I spent a great deal of time debating the relative merits of the hand lever flush vs. the foot pedal flush. He preferred the hand lever, because it made him feel like he was in a space capsule, while I preferred the foot pedal because it reminded me of the differential lock on a tractor. It was the first time that I’d ever seen that mysterious blue fluid, and I still don’t know what it is, although I’ve always suspected that it’s the same Barbicide® that they keep the combs in.

We spend most summer weekends at horse shows, and I find it interesting to see how often the doors (both inside and out) are used for posting advertisements. Has anyone actually bought a horse that they saw advertised on the back of a washroom door? Somebody must, because at Rolex in Kentucky, the inside and outside of the “Pink Condos” are literally wallpapered with photos of horses for sale.

People (teenage girls in particular) seem to have no concept of the utter lack of soundproofing afforded by 1/8th inch of polymer plastic. They will decide to carry on a conversation with their friends outside, but think that they need to yell to be heard, when in fact, the structure acts as a natural amplifier. As a result, what they’re saying can be heard from several hundred yards away. This is how one of my buddies found out that his girlfriend was involved with his roommate, while attending a music festival. He broke up with her through the same wall.

Our daughter was playing in a rugby game last week, and a couple of non-horsey girls were complaining about having to use one beside the field. One called it “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” She was further horrified to find out that there weren’t separate male and female units. Another player said, “They’ve been gender neutral since the beginning, and if that’s the worst thing you’ve ever done, God help you!”

They come in every colour of the rainbow, and go by many different names, but they are certainly a necessary part of our business. Folks complain about them all the time, but trust me on this, they complain a whole lot more when they aren’t there.