__Generally I regard port-o-potties as places of depraved acts, where somehow stuff that logistically should never make it onto walls does, smells are released that are so vile even blue chemical sludge can’t mask them, and toothless sexual deviants pretend it’s their own, well, public restroom.Throughout my life, I’ve felt dissuaded from ever wanting to live in a portable toilet or feel that anyone ever should, which is why I find the port-o-potty ladies in Moscow, who I’ve amply named Port-o-Lou-s, to be an absolute marvel.
The first time I saw this phenomenon was the most disturbing, as I believed the port-o-lady to be actually engaged in one of the aforementioned acts of depravity, but after further study, which we will not discuss what might insinuate about me, I could see that this wasn’t the case. There were blankets in there. She was dressed for the long haul, with fingerless gloves and a kerchief around her head, things usually removed in such intimate moments. Her dress wasn’t hiked above her knees. Most notably, there were stacks of newspapers and magazines, which, at the moment, a moment that should have been the time to be reading them, she wasn’t at all interested in. She was working!
Outside Prazhskaya Station, the Metro stop nearest my home, there are three separate lines of portable toilets, the only public restrooms within a twenty-minute radius, at which time you’d reach the next tiny village of little blue hovels, where a new twenty-minute radius begins, spreading throughout Moscow. Each line of these port-o-potties consists of three to four separate units, the last—the end unit—of which is occupied by a Port-o-Lou, a lady employed to sit in her own specially re-engineered model (the door designed to be more like that of a tollbooth) and collect money from anyone who might want use of one of the other, unoccupied portos.
Perhaps every bit as troubling as that first sighting is that I never pass these nomadic potty conglomerates without seeing the same respective Port-o-Lou-s in wait. I’ve seen them playing card games, chatting with passers-by (regulars, maybe), actually reading those magazines, texting, having a snack, and just staring off into the distance, but I have never seen them not doing these things, simply not there. From about seven in the morning to about nine at night , I have no fear of walking by, and I so inclined, relieving myself in portable privacy. And, my wife thinks I spend a long time in the bathroom.
I’m not sure what to take from it all: a feeling of sorrow for someone who is living out one of my nightmares, respect for someone who has gainful employment despite unsavory conditions and the attitudes of others, or absolute wonderment at the things this lady will have seen in a lifetime spent at the helm of where people who put stuff on the walls, where out-doers of blue chemical sludge, and where sexual deviants converge to pay their pittance before visiting the wholly, transportable grail. Simply put, I’m in awe.