Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Out House -- jcarolek

I worked with a man who shared a story with me that opened my eyes to something I had previously taken for granted. I have no idea how the discussion began, for it clearly had nothing to do with work. The topic was out houses.

When I was a kid we used to vacation in New Bedford, MA where my father had spent his formative years. The small, four "room" house had been home to a family of at least six, and maybe eight, as I am not certain when the family moved to Florida. BUT, the house was serviced by a pump at the sink in the "kitchen" and an out house that was dubbed, "the Down Below." As a child of the modern era, vacationing at such a rustic place was both fun and "gross."

So, when my co-worker Tom, many years later, told me the story of how when he was young, his mother was adamant that they would, "never have a toilet inside the house!" I was astounded. Was there really a mentality that felt it was better to trudge outside in the cold, raining, dark night rather than walk down the hall in relative comfort to relieve oneself?

Well, it was true. Tom is about 13 years my senior and grew up in the hills of West Virginia. His family was poor but hard working and able to own their own home. And with home ownership came pride in keeping a clean home. And the very thought of the nasty outhouse being an interior feature of the house was completely unacceptable to Tom's mother. It really did not matter that she was told that the modern, indoor plumbing would NOT be the same rickety, notably unsanitary offering as was the common out house. He said it was many years after "everyone else had them," that his mother finally allowed his father to install indoor plumbing.

I was thinking about this today as I cleaned the third of my indoor modern conveniences, wondering why I had felt it so important to have three when we built the house. While it is a convenience, I sure end up doing a lot of extra work for that convenience. Still, I thought about Tom's mother and how her perception of this new-fangled indoor plumbing was simply that we were bringing the germs into our house. And, I guess she was not as crazy as I would have originally thought.

But, I am still in favor of the indoor facilities...and glad that my trips the the Down Below are a thing of the distant past.

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