Monday, February 15, 2016

How To Shit in the Woods, by Kathleen Meyer

How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, by Kathleen Meyer

First, a story about how I came to have this book. My bookshelf at the office has a lot of appropriate texts for my job, such as Collaboration Explained, Manage It!, Working Effectively With Legacy Code, and Java Puzzlers. To see who paid any attention, I also have a copy of Young Stalin which causes the occasional raised eyebrow. (When asked, I just say it describes my management style...) A friend thought this was hilarious, and obtained a variety of out of place entries and peppered my shelf with them. How to Shit in the Woods is one of these.

I was surprised to discover that the title of the book is quite literal. Written by an avid outdoorswoman with a high concern for the environment, this is a guide to safely eliminating human waste when away from civilization. Considering the topic, there is a lot of humor here: "In some terrain, the high water line can be as elusive as the other sock — the one that went into the drier [sic]." Also somewhat irreverently funny are the descriptions of particular excretion failures, from a misaligned squat that unknowingly deposited the scat in the hood of a jacket resulting in the serious need for a shower, to "the unequivocal misery of being nailed by a bumble bee smack on the family jewels." While these stories were interesting, much of the thin tome is devoted to lists of holding tanks, decomposers, and other sanitary aids; while clearly useful to backpackers and wilderness enthusiasts it wasn't very interesting to the casual reader like myself. While not my usual reading fare, this book was anything but... shitty.

First Sentence:
In the mid-1800s in the Royal Borough of Chelsea, London, an industrious young English plumber named Thomas Crapper grabbed Progress in his pipe wrench and with a number of sophisticated sanitation inventions leapfrogged ahead one hundred years.

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