Here at Camp Victory, we are quite accustomed to living in and amongst, well, filth, really. What I mean is, everything here is coated in a very tangible layer of actual filth, and even the filth is eventually layered in filth. And even certain amenities--actually, all basic amenities, are, indeed, rather filthy.
[Sidebar: The word “amenity” derives from, I believe, the many prayers that people say before using said amenities. For example, “Please, God, don’t let me get a foot fungus from that nasty shower, Amen.” Then there is the ever-popular, “Please, Lord, don’t let any of that nasty blue port-a-potty water splash onto my bare buttocks, Amen.” Laugh if you want, but that actually happens, and (TMI warning), well, it only JUST happened moments ago.]
Take, for example, those common amenities such as toilets and showers. I mean, Camp Victory and its surrounding camps are actually very nice, heavily-populated, westernized camps, and I only complain about them because it makes me happy to complain. We do, after all, have Pizza Hut, The Green Bean (Starbucks-esque), Subway, Cinnabon, Burger King, Popeye’s, and, new since I was here last, Taco Bell, and it really doesn’t get more civilized than all that, now does it? But what is lacking is civility in the, um, hygiene realm.
This area is extremely highly populated, and the numbers of soldiers and civilians seems to be climbing at an infestation rate. (Just last night, our tent population went from 4 girls to 12!) Because of the large numbers of bodies and the relatively low reserves of fresh (loosely used term here) water, conservation steps include using a whole lot of port-a-potties in replace of actual flushing toilets.
Well, in my tent city, we have showers with barely dripping spigots and an obscene number of water conservation placards strewn across all the walls. The meaning of one such placard baffled some of my tent mates and me for almost an entire two weeks until my brilliant friend and co-worker, Melissa, figured out that the “POJ” acronym in, “Conserve water; do not leave the water running when you brush your teeth or shave; maximize use of POJs,” stands for Port O Johns. Silly me, I never would have guessed that, seeing as how the sign is posted in the SHOWER, and I always thought it was Port-A-John, which would make me believe that the acronym, if you really must have another flippin’ acronym in your life, would be PAJ, and I really have to wonder why they are insinuating that we shouldn’t go to the bathroom in the shower.
So, being the good little resident that I am, and seeing as how I have been drinking A LOT of water, I have been using the heck out of those, um, err, port…a…o…to hell with it; I’ll refer to them as porter johns, since that’s what I thought they were when I was a kid. Truthfully, if I had any alternative choice, such as a flushing toilet, I would never even begin to maximize use of the POJs. All we have at the trailers we work out of are porter johns, and the nearest toilets to the tent that we live in are porter johns. I could walk a greater distance, if I needed, to some flushing toilets, but that would cause me to lose even more sleep during the minimum of 3 nightly trips to the potty. So, porter johns it is. (Alright, I confess I don’t like calling them porter johns, so let’s go with…porta potties.)
The porta potties (that doesn’t seem right, either, since I am afraid people won’t realize that I realize that that is not the proper term, so let me start over.) The port-a-potties at our “office” are particularly disgusting, I’d like you all to know. All of the port-a-potties are cleaned daily by the shit-sucking trucks (SSTs), but they still somehow manage to drip with stink. I think it has something to do with the natural heat-capturing greenhouse effect of the plastic with which they are constructed. Entering a port-a-potty that has been sitting out in direct sunlight on a 118-degree day, even though it is a dry heat, is scarier than the dream I had last night about having to take a running leap off of a 34-story building and land in the ocean at the start of a triathlon/adventure race. Staying in the out-house greenhouse long enough to “get ‘er done” is hard enough. Staying in there long enough to zip, button, and buckle takes determination, fortitude, and immense lung capacity. It is hard to hold one’s breath the entire time, but failing to do so can actually allow the razor-sharp stench of concentrated urine/ammonia to cut into your nostrils and stay seated in your sinuses for hours. No kidding.
I don’t know who or what has the nonchalance to sit in a filthy, stinking port-a-potty long enough to actually write on the walls, but somebody in our tent city does. Two new bathroom graffiti gems, if you will, have appeared in two separate potties in the past two days. One is a hilarious, albeit blasphemous, “God said let there be light, and Chuck Norris said, ‘Say please.’” The other is an even more time-consuming defacing of an existing sign that changed it from, “Please do not leave empty water bottles; put them in the trash cans,” to “Please do not leave empty water bottles; put them in the __ass can_.” Hilarious, and I applaud the discipline it must have taken to remain in the stench and heat long enough to entertain us with those juicy tidbits.
Every port-a-potty, in an attempt to provide an appearance of civility, is equipped with a soap dispenser full of antibacterial gel. Never mind that the gel properties of antibacterial gel are such that they tend to gum-up soap dispensers (supposedly because antibacterial gel is not soap), so there are very few gel dispensers that actually, well, dispense. The dispenser at our office toilets has been broken since we got here, and it finally reached the point that no amount of banging on it with one’s fist would result in the dispensing of so much as a dribble of gel.
Melissa, apparently reading my mind, wrote on the dispenser in dry-erase marker, “Fix me, please.” The next day, the note was erased, and the dispenser dispensed antibacterial dribbles for almost half a day. I went back outside and wrote on the dispenser, “Please just replace me. I don’t work 99.99% of the time.” Well, today, lo and behold, we have a brand new soap dispenser full of glistening, green antibacterial gel! So I wrote “Thanks” on the new dispenser and gleefully disinfected my hands.