Thursday, April 23, 2009

Outhouse Lessons

Image by Leonard J. DeFrancisci
This past weekend, I was back in my home town for the "Thunder of Louisville" fireworks event, a spectacle which I have always enjoyed. It was here that I realized that life lessons and revelations come at the oddest of moments among the strangest places, namely while waiting in line for to use a fiberglass shithouse.

For those of you who don't know, "Thunder" is the largest fireworks display in North America and nearly 1 million people attend annually. With all the adult beverages, things get a little rowdy and the pisser is in high demand, so I expected the usual 30 minute wait. What I didn't expect was a confrontation with a shirtless man and his harlot/girlfriend.

I had been waiting for some time and they had been behind me for several minutes when, out of nowhere, the couple accused me of line jumping. "We've been here, like, forever," she said, to which I replied, "Well, I've been here for forever and about 15 seconds." Needless to say she did not appreciate the audacity that I suggest she wait her goddamn turn.

Ironically, it was this couple that I saw line jump the man next to me, while simultaneously two angry women cut to the front of my line. I understand that it's a trivial thing, and people exercised good judgment, for the most part, in not retaliating, but I find the whole thing irritating, and here's why.

This whole scenario is just one illustration of the tragedy of the commons, a problem our culture experiences daily at all levels, ranging from the executive suite to the porta-shitter line. The self-entitlement that seems to dictate an attitude of, "My shit is more important than yours, so fuck off," appears dominant. The problem is, once one person stops playing by the rules and we as a group sanction it, then everyone has to break the social contract just to keep even, which leaves the morally right out in the cold.

I realize it's a bit ridiculous to compare a bathroom line to a societal breakdown, but I feel the similarity valid, and the experience was kind of a profound realization for me. I worry that Hobbes might be right in asserting that basic human nature dictates a world that is both "nasty" and "brutish." Law and rules avert that to an extent, and self-entitlement subverts that establishment.

I do not mean to say that all law is just, but governing rules of basic courtesy are reasonable rules to live by, and it would go a long way to making our culture more bearable. In short, I have to piss just as bad as you, so wait your fucking turn you moronic infant!


  1. Self-entitlement could not exist without social contracts anyway. Without an authority to dictate to a person what is entitled to them, like a social contract, one could not feel that he had been slighted in the first place.

    On first thought, I disagree with Hobbes. The more rules, the more constraints, the more society; then the more sordid the people. No one can accurately say that that lovely couple acted like twats because humans are naturally twats. Maybe they acted like twats because society has made us them twats.

    The social contract basically states that if you do A, then you will get B. Whether A is a crime or a good deed, and B is a punishment or reward doesn't matter. What does matter is that society really only delivers good on this promise 50% of the time, well at least not very frequently. So people feel cheated; they did not get what was entitled to them, so surely they are entitled to at least an aggressive statement of "fuck you world."


    Seeing as they can't be a twat to the way the world is, they decided to settle on being a twat to you.

    You should kind of feel special.

  2. I suppose I should feel special. Your point is well taken, but I think we interpret Hobbes differently. I don't think men are naturally twats, as you so elegantly stated; rather, men are inclined to act as such when they feel cheated, and a world without fair social constraints fosters that attitude all the more so, create advanced twattitude.