Imagine the Titanic, everyone queuing up to discover only half the number of requisite lifeboats. When we show up at a race only to find half the number of necessary port-o-johns, this is when I, reluctantly, don the mantle of Port-o-Nazi.
Remember Patton directing traffic at a tank intersection on a muddy road in Belgium? Imagine George C. Scott directing traffic at the port-o-john line. That's me, when there are fewer port-o-johns than there are people who need to use them just prior to the start of a race.
Bad port-o-john execution starts—in my view—before the actual race, and promulgates a series of unfortunate events. Let's start at the headwaters of this tale, with pre-race preparation.
RDs, let's be honest here. There are two areas where you habitually skimp to save money: race officials, and port-o-johns. Why? Because you have no legal mandate to provide enough of either. While you must have one lifeguard for every 10, 35, or 50 swimmers in the water at any one time—depending on the governing jurisdiction—you have no mandate to provide that number of port-o-johns for 10, 35 or 50 athletes all jumping up and down to make number one, or hunched over, badly needing to make number two.
Here's my exhortation to you: Rent one port-o-john for every lifeguard you're mandated to provide. This seems, in practice, to be a pretty good ratio. Look at the bright side. I'm not asking you to provide one USAT official for every lifeguard, and those are a lot more expensive.
The going rate for a portable toilet rental nowadays, in California, for a one-day triathlon, is about $75. That means if you've got one port-o-john for every 100 participants—not nearly enough—you can double that ratio for a 400 person race by paying an extra $300. If you charge us all an extra seventy-five cents, we can have an appropriate number of port-o-johns at the event. Speaking for myself, if you currently charge me $90 for an entry into your race, please charge me $90.75 and double the port-o-johns.
In the chronology of "a day in the life of a portable toilet" we come next to the port-o-john "line". If the RD has acted responsibly, and ordered enough of these babies to serve our needs, no problem. You won't hear a peep from me. However, if there's a rush just before the horn blows—and sometimes it seems like somebody discovered gold down in the basement of these toilets and there's a frenzy to get into them—then it's mayhem.
This is when I start barking orders and, frankly, you getting angry at me in response is like water off a wetsuit's back. I'm not fazed. The Port-o-Nazi's rules are clear: When the race start is imminent, no non-racers in the line. If you're a spectator, a vendor, a volunteer, the official starter, the mayor, the lady who sung the National Anthem, forget it. Out of the line you go. Racers first, racers only, until everybody who needs to get to the starting line can get there.
Even the lifeguards. Especially the lifeguards. At a race I recently attended, two lifeguards attempted to cut into the port-o-john line. No way Jose. Out of the line you go!
"They can't start the race until we're in the water!" the lifeguards complained.
"Precisely!" I responded. "That's why your best spot in line is behind those of us who paid to race."
At some point, you're going to enter the facility. Be prepared. Have a plan. Strategize. Look at it like a transition. Become skilled. Take pride in how quick you can get in and out. People will respect you. They'll admire you. Simply put: No more reading the Sunday paper in there. Otherwise, at some point, you and I will be having a conversation, you on the inside, me on the outside.
Finally, as you prepare to leave, treat that 105 cubic feet like a national park. Leave it better than you found it. Except for what's down in the bottom—you have no control over that. Just know that if I enter, and there are drips on the lid, I saw you coming out. I can identify you. I'm going to find you.
Now, you probably think I'm whimsifying when describing my boorish behavior during crunch time in the port-o-john line. Maybe yes, maybe no. You won't know for sure. I want you to harbor that question in your mind so that, if you see me at a race, the urgency will help to lubricate your machinery.