The pit toilet saves people the indignity of scrambling through the forest, burrowing into the brush, risking poison ivy of the ass, and the heart-stopping appearance of a woodland creature to do something that ordinarily requires about a 10-second walk down the hall. It's a good thing to see a pit toilet wherever you are, though, because it means you're where a lot of people aren't. If you're like me, that's a major plus.
Even the finest pit toilet -- one that has been emptied in the past month, has a strong hook and eye lock on the door, and maybe a nice air freshener hanging from a hook - is really just a shack built over a really massive pile of crap and who knows what else is down there. One look into a pit toilet will stick with a person forever.
I contemplated all this recently because we took our 6-year old granddaughter camping for the first time. She, of the "I can't pee because there's a hair in the toilet" would have to be convinced to use the pit toilet at our campsite in the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
We weren't at the campsite five minutes before she told me she had to go to the bathroom. She skipped down the path to the pit toilet and stopped in her tracks about 10 feet away. The reekage surrounded the little house like a nasty force field we'd have to crash through. She immediately started breathing through her mouth. "You know why I'm doing this? she asked me. "Because it really stinks!" Once inside, she looked briefly into the cavern and hoisted herself up on the seat. Jesus, I thought, is it possible for her to fall in?
A lot of parenting/grandparenting is pretending that stuff that is really fucking gross or creepy is no big deal. Like caterpillars (aren't they cute and besides they become butterflies), dead, half eaten animals by the side of the road (oh, it looks like that little deer is sleeping - rough night). Pit toilets (the price we pay for camping which is really major, big time fun). No big deal. All in a day's travel. It is what it is.
I made her go back to the pit toilet while it was still light. "We don't want to come back here in the dark," I told her. "Why? We could bring a flashlight," she answered skipping down the path again. Happy, happy. No big deal.
Right. A flashlight. Go ahead, my dear girl. I'll wait here.