Lessons From the Business Side of the Road

In light of my recent eight hour drive home, I’m revisiting the subject of peeing outdoors. I must write this because if I don’t, I’ll start discussing the relaxed standards of widowhood. It’s like living in a frat house with a population of one. It turns out that my husband was the prissy half of our duo, (he had one sibling, I had six…it makes a difference.) Between the hours of midnight and eight, our bedroom sounds like a herd of trumpet swans have moved in. There’s no one home but me, so who cares, right? But I’ve been told that the topic of farting is not fit for public consumption, so that’ll be enough of that.

Instead, let me regale you with my latest grievance. It says somewhere in the Talmud (I’m not Jewish…sorry for the cultural appropriation) that there’s a men’s morning prayer with the following words:

“Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman.”  

I say Amen and high five every man on the planet for being on the winning side of that prayer, solely because of the act of peeing. Men get to stand up for it. You can drive by at 110 klicks an hour and feel certain that the guy standing outside his car is just kicking the tires. But nobody buys it when you’re squatting with your pants down. And there are not enough bathrooms between Flin Flon and Winnipeg to avoid this situation, so the whole time I’m driving, I’m keeping an eye out for lonely roads exiting the main highway.

This is a bad idea for several reasons.

A. Serial killers lurking nearby
B. Bears

It’s still spring and every bear in Manitoba was traveling the number six highway on Friday. I’d pull over on a lonely stretch of road, not a car in sight, and barely (pun intended) get down to business when an actual bear would lumber into view. I broke speed records getting back into my car. So I entered one of those abandoned logging roads, first making sure there wasn’t a clown-faced axe-wielding murderer hiding nearby. In spite of the all clear, there were still several problems with the area.

First, it was disgusting. People, this is not your personal dump for your child’s diapers, your fast food containers and the last thousand water bottles you drank from and then abandoned. There was barely room to move, the place was so littered. And, there was a bear. A black one, smallish, but even so. I had already assumed the position, feeling grateful for the stretchiness of my Lulu Lemon pants and trying not to pee on my shoes. I thought I was going to faint, but fortunately I skedaddled instead.

In spite of the cold, it’s actually easier peeing out of doors in the winter. The bears are sleeping and the snow means no splashing, which is a plus. Men probably splash too, but I doubt they care because of the distance thing. I can’t explain it properly because I’m not good at geometry, or finding pi or longitude. Maybe its physics. I don’t know.

I started wondering about the plan for women. Like, what’s with all the squatting, dear Creator? But then, the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. Childbirth, gardening, picking up tiny toys like Lego pieces. There are many reasons for the act of squatting. With it comes a certain sense of resignation, of patience, and a calm acceptance of what is, at least in the moment. Squatting makes a person feel vulnerable, and maybe that’s why women are so open with their feelings, comparatively speaking.

That which doesn’t kill you (the bear, the axe wielding murderer) makes you stronger, according to Nietzsche.  At least in the thigh area. So I’m doing a 180 on my whining and will consider the squatting position a gift. I’m pretty sure the Dalai Lama squats. I’ve seen him do it in a magazine photo. Maybe he’s practicing yoga, or praying. Perhaps he’s getting in touch with his feminine side and allowing himself to be vulnerable. Whichever it is, I choose to believe that for those few moments of getting down to business, I’m also exercising and meditating.

It feels appropriate to end this blog post with the almost prayerful lyrics of Canadian female icon, Shania Twain:

Oh, oh, oh, I want to be free, yeah, 
to feel the way I feel,

I feel like a woman!

Me too, Shania.

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.

8 thoughts on “Lessons From the Business Side of the Road

  1. I totally get it about the bear thing. I spend a lot of time in the woods, hiking, backpacking, and there are times when men, too, need to… ahem… squat. Similarly vulnerable position. And inevitably it occurs to one in such a moment, “What if a bear were to come around right now?”

    I can say, from my time working in remote field camps in Antarctica, that the women I worked with came up with ingenious solutions to avoid having to bare their derrieres to the sub-freezing wind when the need arose. Since then, commercial operators have caught on, and there are now devices you can purchase that allow you to, well, stand up while doing your business. My wife spends a lot of time in the outdoors herself, but she is actually not a fan of these devices, so I guess it’s a matter of personal preference.

    Anyway, thank you for an interesting, informative, and thought-provoking piece!


    1. Thanks for reading! I also have to contend with freezing temperatures, as I make the same trip when its thirty below and still have to stop. I’m kind of disorganized so even if I remember to buy a device, I’d probably forget to bring it. But as I said, at least in winter the bears where I’m from are all sleeping. I can’t say the same for the ones in Churchill, Manitoba.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I have to share in the sisterhood of the lowering pants. One of the big fears of walking The Camino. So I’ve been practicing. AND worrying about bears!


  3. I’ve heard a flexible automotive funnel and a container with a good lid (ex: empty jar, bleach jug, etc) makes a good alternative. If you try it out, let us know if it’s true.


  4. Being a woman “our age,” the frequency of peeing has become an inconvenience while travelling any distance more than six miles. Last time we went to Calgary, by the time we got to Saskatoon (two hours from here) I needed a “rest stop” and before we could get to one, we had to sit and wait for a very, very, very, very long, slow train to pass. That’s when I decided that next time we go somewhere, I’m going to wear one of those Depends-type pads that have been waiting in a drawer in our bathroom since my mother died 14 years ago after a year with cancer.

    Just in case. Those long waits can be excruciating, and I haven’t yet reached the unselfconscious cronehood that would let me get out and drop my drawers in front of a lineup of vehicles at the railway track. The pad, though the thought of it is gross, still seems like a better option. -Kate


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