Outback Outhouse

A trip to Alaska yields an accomodating number of resources when nature calls.

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An outhouse in Alaska.Visiting Alaska is as much a conundrum as an adventure. People here live amongst an odd mix of pioneer originality and mainland modernity. Age-old traditions of seafaring and the rugged outdoors, of hand-hewn lumber and hand-tied fish nets, stand proud wherever you look. Yet in some places they intersect strangely with the honed sterility of chain stores and mobile homes. But that’s mostly in cities. And by that I mean the very few crossroads significant enough for a stoplight—which is, rounding up, about one percent of Alaska.

Despite the assumption that restrooms would be hard to come by in such a wilderness culture, I actually have yet to find myself wanting. For the most part, where it makes sense, people just go where they want to. It’s not at all uncommon to see someone walk off into the bush to relieve themselves. After all, in the wild that’s what the entire animal kingdom does. But in the more established civilizations of Alaska, such as they are, it’s also quite easy to find a modern restroom as well. In fact, easier than the city where I live, strangely enough. At home I’m constantly amazed by how few parks have restrooms, and by how many businesses post “customers only” signs on theirs. What is it about Alaska that makes it more accommodating? Perhaps the closer we are to nature, the more we recognize the need to heed its call?

Across the meadow from where we’re staying there is a pair of outhouses. It’s a spot where the beach meets a trailhead—the sort of place where there should be a restroom, but often there isn’t. These are unusually shaped. They have octagonal walls and a conical roof with a smokestack in the center. If they came in singles I’d assume they were saunas or smokehouses. But since there was a matching pair, I recognized what they were right away.

I can’t definitively explain the Martian antenna connected to these, however. We’ve seen similar poles in a variety of coastal areas, and I’ve asked around about their origin. They are ostensibly parts of a tsunami warning network… but each inquiry also conjures an assortment of other explanations, including a number of more sinister scenarios involving one governmental agency or another.

Turns out people come to Alaska for a variety of reasons… some more prominent than others. But none more notable than the sense of independence that is sturdily built in to the Alaskan spirit. That, and the dependability of its resources. Thanks to both of these, it’s an easy place to answer the call of nature, in all of its meanings.

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Tags: Toilet Talk , Travel

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Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.

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