It is a glorious spring day, and I am taking my two charges, ages two and four, to a nearby strawberry farm where the general public can hand-pick and purchase their own berries by the bucket. I’m not sure why I think this is a good idea, as I am generally a person who swats wildly at bees, and screams like a child at the sight of a spider. However, I recognize the educational value, put aside my irrational fear, and follow through with the activity. I have wisely chosen an organic strawberry farm, knowing that the children will eat buckets of berries before I have a chance to wash them.
It’s about an hours drive to the strawberry farm, and as usual, by the time we arrive, both children are hollering “I GOTTA POTTY, NANNY!” Always prepared, I have looked up the farm online, and know that there are facilities on site. I wrestle the two tots out of the car, and we run to the only building on the grounds to find the bathroom. Seeing no sign, I seek out the only employee I can find on the premises. He is a dreadlock topped, Birkenstock footed teenager, with a name tag that reads “River”. River simply points to a tiny pup tent about 40 feet from the building. “No,” I say, assuming he has misunderstood my question, “the bathroom!”
“Follow me,” River says with a sigh.
“I gotta poop, Nanny,” the two-year old whines.
We follow the casually sauntering teen to the pup tent.
This can’t be right, although there is a sign outside that reads:
“Here you go,” River says, pulling aside one of the flaps of the tiny tent. Inside, I see a plastic five gallon bucket, with an old wooden toilet seat perched on top.
This is very poor design, which leaves me wondering…who was the engineer on this project, and did he miss the discussion in school about how large on top, and small on bottom, leads to balance problems? There is another five gallon bucket next to the first, filled with something that looks like tiny brown packing peanuts, and a scoop.
“Look, Babbling Brook…”
“River,” he says.
“So sorry, River. Look, we are about to have a toddler potty emergency here. Do you have a bathroom somewhere that is a little less…ah…organic?”
“No Ma’am, this is it. Isn’t it great?”
“Well Ocean…” Now I’m really irritated – he’s calling me Ma’am.
“Whatever…it may be “great”, but I don’t even know what the hell (whoopsie) — heck a composting toilet is, much less how one would use such a thing.”
“Easy…make your deposit,” he says, pointing to the bucket with the toilet seat. “Wipe with recycled paper…one square for a small job, three for a large job. Cover your pee or poo with a few scoops of rice husks and feel good about giving back to our Mother Earth.”
I am staring at this boy thinking, “Stagnant Pond, you are a complete idiot…I wouldn’t use this thing if I had amoebic dysentery and this was the only toilet within a 20 mile radius,” when more whining from the two-year old breaks my angry trance. “Thanks, we’re good here,” I say, pulling the two tots into the tiny tent and closing the flap behind me. “Idiot!” I say again, under my breath.
It is stifling in the tent and the three of us become sticky with sweat within seconds. “No Nanny…I need a REAL potty!” The four-year old complains, obviously unimpressed.
“This IS the potty,” I say, trying to sound cheerful, as I scrub the seat with several antibacterial wipes.
“No it’s not! It doesn’t even flush!” He starts to cry and the two-year old quickly follows suit.
“It’s just fine you two…really. All you have to do is sit on this thing, and go potty. Easy-Peasy!”
“You go first, Nanny!” The four-year old demands.
My encouraging smile fades and is replaced by a look of utter horror. “Me?” I croak.
“YOU GO FIRST!” He demands again.
Sometimes I hate my life. I am in a tiny pup tent, trying my best to hover over a five gallon bucket, with a two-year old watching on my right, and a four-year old watching on my left. Maybe I can fake it.
“I can’t hear your pee pee,” announces the two-year old. My muscles are tired. I cannot maintain a squatting position for this long. Am I actually going to have to touch this thing with my body? My legs begin to shake…should have done more of those damn lunges! “Well, if I didn’t have amoebic dysentery before, I have it now,” I think, as I rest my bum on the seat. The contraption is even more wobbly than I expected, and I nearly end up with my feet in the air, and my pants around my ankles at least six times before getting the hang of it.
I leave my deposit, wipe with one square, scoop and smile weakly at the children. “See? Easy-Peasy!” I say, struggling to pull my pants over my sweaty hips. Following my cheerful demonstration, both toddlers relent, and use the poorly designed contraption, holding tightly to me for dear life. When we finally emerge from the tiny tent, we are all sweating like farm animals, and have somehow forgotten the part where we are supposed to feel good about giving back to Mother Earth. I use an entire container of antibacterial wipes on our hands before we commence berry picking, a little more subdued then when we began this grand, green adventure.
We have gone berry picking since this incident. However, I must have inadvertently misplaced the name and address of this particular strawberry farm, because we have not returned. I have to admit, pesticides on my strawberries bother me a great deal less than sitting on a bucket in a pup tent, with a toddler on each side listening for my pee pee. In fact, I rather prefer the flavor.