How Rural is My Maine Town?

This past Tuesday I spent the day in Portland at the University of Southern Maine library doing some research.  On the 90-minute drive back to my home, when I was within 10 miles of my home, I realized I needed to use a bathroom.

The last ten miles are really rural.  There are no convenience stores, no gas stations,  or any other kind of store where I could stop in and use a bathroom – – just windy, narrow blacktop along a forested backdrop.  For those desperate enough, there is always the side of the road (cars pass very infrequently) but there were howling, gusting winds of 25 mph and the temperature was below zero, not exactly ideal weather for desperate bladders that can’t wait.

Then I remembered our local library.  Not the beautiful modern one that was still another 20 miles down the road.  But just up ahead, a small, rural library happened to be open, an amazing bit of providence since it’s open only 4 hours a week in total, and this was one of those hours.  That library used to be a one-room schoolhouse from the 1890s until the 1960s, and other than the addition of some shelves to hold the library’s small collection of books, it doesn’t appear much different from how it looked 100+ years ago.

The librarian was most gracious concerning my request.

“You are welcome to use the bathroom, but I have to warn you, it might not be what you’re expecting.”

Indeed.  Inside a supply closet was a medical commode – – the kind ill or elderly people use parked next to their beds when they can’t walk far enough to get to a bathroom.

I looked at the commode.  I looked at the librarian.  I looked back at the commode.  I really had to go!  But not, apparently,  as much as I originally thought.

“Thanks,” I said to the librarian, “but I’m not going to make you clean up after my pee in that pot!”

The reason the library doesn’t have indoor plumbing during the winter is that they can’t justify the expense of keeping the library heated 24/7 when it’s only open 4 hours a week.  Without heat, the pipes freeze, so they need to turn off the water supply to avoid bursting pipes.  Hence the commode for emergency use.

I quickly jumped in the car and raced the last few miles home, where I happily emptied my bladder . . . in my good ol’ flush toilet.

 

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