Northern Exposure

I live a comfortable life. It’s not something that I take for granted, either. Oprah and Jesus said to count my blessings daily, and I do. But every now and then the reality of life in the north leaves me feeling vulnerable. Like the other day.  We were just a few hours into our long drive from Flin Flon to Calgary. My early morning fruit shake, cup of tea, and half bottle of water were making their presence known. My husband kept telling me to just hold on.We were almost at the next stop. I was holding on, but I am, after all, a woman of a certain age.

The thermometer outside the car said it was thirty-six below. So I tried to wait. In the end, (no pun intended) I used  the hardy Northerner’s portapotty, otherwise known as The Side of the Road.  This activity calls for all kinds of special abilities. A well balanced crouch, proper maneuvering of a long jacket, and eagle eyes that can watch for cars coming from both directions. I can’t rely on my husband, who waits comfortably in the driver’s seat. In fact, he’s more likely to take the car and drive it ten yards down the road as a joke. Ha Ha.

Then there’s the letdown problem. Squatting outside on the coldest day of the year does not encourage a relaxed attitude. Or a relaxed anything, for that matter. I felt a sudden kinship with Woody Allen. In that moment, I could have used a good therapy session. “I’m the second oldest of seven children,” I’d say. “I hardly ever got to use the bathroom.”  In spite of my dejected spirits and physical discomfort, Mother Nature finally worked her magic.

 I climbed back into the car and we continued our journey. There were more wonderful winter moments along the way. The two of us in shirtsleeves outside of the Kindersley Tim Horton’s, screaming at each other as we ran to the car. “Unlock the door! YOU have the keys! No, YOU have the keys. We had to laugh. Mostly because it was so cold, tears would have frozen on our cheeks.

We’ve used the outdoor facilities all over Asia, Europe and North America. Even Clarence’s bout of stomach flu that left him squatting in the Khyber Pass while rifle toting bandits watched in the distance was not as uncomfortable as our cold northern experience. More dangerous. But a lot warmer. We’ve had other disconcerting bathroom experiences. But I’ll leave those for another time. Potty Talk, anyone?

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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