My toddler was horrified and delighted at once. “Mama! You’re going peepee on the stwawbewies! Don’t do yat!”
She hurried over to attempt to put a stop to the situation, but alas, too late. Pointing to the wet soil in the planter, she screeched and giggled.
Whenever possible, I pee outside. A day you pee outside, I’ve decided, is unlikely to be a bad day. When I’m home, I try to locate a plant or tree that looks like it could use a drink. But I realize that since we’re coming off of winter, my daughter hasn’t seen me do this in a while — plus straddling a planter looks weirder than squatting next to a tree.
I encourage my husband and male visitors who seem like outside-peeing types to pee on the compost, since urine contains the water and nitrogen that are usually the limiting factors in an active compost heap. But really, wherever. Pick a tree any tree. Just don’t use a gallon and a half of drinking water to flush your pee down the toilet. That amount of water — which is what a new toilet uses; old ones use as much as seven gallons — is enough to quench the thirst of one person for three days. To use it to usher your liquid minerals out of sight strikes me as so wasteful that, with what’s going down on the West Coast, it feels little short of criminal.
I do it too. At work, every day. At other people’s houses (anyone other than my former roommates, who share the same philosophy regarding flushing). When guests are coming over to our house, we try to make sure there’s not a lot of piss and toilet paper stagnating in a bowl — which admittedly can get a little stinky at the height of summer. But every pee does not warrant its own flush.
You’re in the city, though, reader, which is a different story. I know it’s harder to pee outside in tight quarters (especially for girls), not to mention illegal. There are too many people living on top of each other — so many, really, that it’s astounding it all works so well — to go around pissing on any lamppost you feel like. The city is one of the few places in the world where the profligacy of our modern sanitation system actually makes sense. But there are moments.
Anytime you find yourself out in anything like the country, or in the car on the highway, or even in an out-of-the-way park or alley, instead of booking it to the nearest gas station or Starbucks, think about giving a little of the good stuff back to the earth.
For instance: my ultimate Frisbee team practices on Randall’s Island, an hour and change drive from my house, which time I spend cursing the traffic and hydrating. Lateness, by the way, earns sprints, and I am getting old for this game — to tack additional sprints onto an already grueling practice leaves me near tears. So when I pop out of the car, wriggling into my cleats, more often than not I duck behind one of the massive pillars that holds up the RFK Bridge and squat. By the smell, I’m not the only one.
The weeds there, coming up through dusty gravel, seem to appreciate the frequent watering. There are a couple Port-o-Potties at these fields, but they are already overfilled and disgusting and usually there’s a line. Those chemical-filled cesspools should be reserved for the copious amounts of number two generated by us and the soccer and touch football and baseball players and their families who come to make a day of it. We should all be peeing in the desolate strip under the bridge while the subway rumbles by overhead, and maybe we’ll be rewarded with a moment to marvel at a pair of mating dragonflies hovering, weightless.
When I hear about water cuts in California, and all the outrage they’re causing, I find myself wondering how many people are still flushing their pee. It’s such low-hanging fruit, for them, for us, for anyone with any common sense. Just let it mellow, or if the scene is right, step outside and irrigate.
Becca Tucker is a former Manhattanite now living on a farm upstate and writing about the rural life.