By Teddy Allen
How we made it through Mardi Gras parades without them, only our excretory systems know for sure.
Those were archaic and tawdry times.
Today, we are more civilized out there on the parade highways and byways, all thanks to the upright and rectangular 3-D miracles of translucent roofs and vents, and the miraculous pairing of high-density aluminum and polyethylene.
They are no question the MVPs of the Mardi Gras parade season.
Most Valuable Potties.
Look at them, will you? Admire them. Lay flowers and rolls of toilet paper at their feet, which is probably a worn spot in the grass where quick-stepping, over-served revelers hurried to take advantage of their favors.
They are the figurative port in the storm. Or the literal Port-O-Let in the storm.
A mere few feet off the parade route, they stand there as silent sentries, loyal soldiers, dutiful and dependable, ready if called upon, available but not obvious.
On the streets and in our ’hood they go by names like “Honey Bucket” or “Porta-Loo” or “Johnny-on-the-Spot.” The business community that makes a living renting, servicing, and supplying these crucial devices to the Great Unwashed call them portable toilets or chemical toilets.
But the way most of us first came to appreciate them was when we heard the phrase “Port-o-Let” or “Port-a-Jon” or “Porta Potty.” It should come as no surprise that each starts with a “P.”
Poetic justice is served.
Hemingway said once that Paris is “a moveable feast.” Had the outhouse of his day been mobile, he’d have said the same thing of the Port-o-Let.
The street where I live is perpendicular to the four-lane that marks the end of the route of Shreveport-Bossier’s two largest parades. By largest, I mean a quarter-million of our closest friends turn out to enjoy what krewes have worked (and played) all year to assemble. There are smaller parades in town and in the area, but these two pulled in the most bladders.
Thus, the Potty Patrol is needed. Down that otherwise unassuming street that marks the parades’ end, these portable must-haves stand stately for a quarter mile, maybe a bit more. They are rented by people who have reserved “spots” along the route, and the envied contraptions will be picked up next week. But right now, they are assurance and insurance for the renters, who can sleep well, knowing that on The Big Day, help will be just one opening of a plastic door away.
If you didn’t rent one and you need to “go,” well, you’ll find out who your friends are come parade time. You think you’re No. 1 and might just find out that you’re No. 2.
Sad, but such is the human condition. There will come a time when relief is demanded for the laboring kidney, the anxious bladder, the suspect colon. Those who fail to prepare are prepared to fail, and this is the kind of failure that does not go quietly into that dark night.
When Mardi Gras in our area was new, in pre-Port-o-Let days of yore, the make-believe portable potty was a shrub, a shadowed tree, the side of an unassuming garage.
That was rural fare. Tacky. We’ve since come a long way.
Who could have known then that instead of going to the bathroom, the bathroom would one day come to us? And usually, not a second too soon.
Contact Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org