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A lot of effort goes into managing BMs at BM
September 3, 2014 10:08 PM   Subscribe


 
God bless Robbi Dobbs for wading through this shit, but I must say, those limericks (in COMIC SANS) (in every single porta potty on the playa) are the most consistently annoying things at Burning Man. I don't know why they enrage me so. I guess I am a poop-poetry Scrooge.
posted by apostrophe at 10:35 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


"People need to think about shit. Our society depends on it."

Absolutely. Makes civilization possible.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:47 PM on September 3


It's absolutely true that "Fuck the man, Burning Man is about shit[ing]" and "Burning Man is the most expensive crap you've ever taken".

All BMOrg really builds is The Man, the road signs, presumably BMIR, the medical and police infrastructure, and of course the toilets. Even center camp and ice are self funding. And only about 1-2% of the ticket price goes for art grants, including the Temple.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:14 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


Was thinking this was about Grover Norquist...
posted by dilaudid at 11:15 PM on September 3 [9 favorites]


Shit must flow. Hah!

This woman had better be carried around the camp on the shoulders of an adoring crowd wreathing her with garlands at least once a day.
posted by Erasmouse at 12:54 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


The first six months we lived in the dream house my parents had constructed, we lived with a Sani-Kan.
Typical tale of corrupt developers who built sub-divisions in the '50s and '60s: they installed the required storm drains and paved the streets,
but didn't want to pay for a sanitary sewer link-up until they'd sold enough lots to make it profitable.
The cost of installing a temporary septic tank was out of the question...

The man who arrived each week to service our outhouse was the spitting image of Bobby Troupe, and possessed the patience of a saint.
My sisters and I were fascinated by his magical truck, his opera-length black rubber gloves, and the fact he dealt with poop for his living. We constantly regaled him for his most disgusting tales.

"What's the worst? Ahh, those construction guys building the houses all around here," he told us, "They should have them emptied twice a week, but they're too cheap."

"I found a dead raccoon once. Dunno how he got in there. Poor little fella..."

My mother felt obligated to tip him - which he always refused, until she offered him a quart of ice-cold Rainier.

It was quite an adventure, living with an outhouse in the midst of a suburban development in 1969.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:55 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


It was quite an adventure, living with an outhouse in the midst of a suburban development in 1969.

I realize this is probably baseless suspicion borne of being raised fundamentalist in the Reagan era, but when you put that in the context of 1969 my immediate suspicion is a losing-your-virginity story and just please, please no.
posted by Ryvar at 2:36 AM on September 4


Complaining about the festival's fetid porta-potties has almost become a team-building exercise for pre-billionaires. "They're not necessarily rich," RobbiDobbs told me. "Nearly most of them are rich and entitled. That's why I used the derogatory term of 'entitled.' I think everybody should shit in the same place. What's your fucking problem? Shit in my units!!!!" She laughed.

Oh fuuuuuck off. None of my friends are rich, or "pre billionares", or even entitled(which holy woah batman, what a loaded phrase).

We're all pretty normal people, at least in the sense of people who go there. We welded our own shit together and built our speakers from scratch and no one assembled our camp for us. But fuck those portos. We all agreed that next year we're splitting the cost of a private one, or possibly even one of those little self-contained mini bathroom trailers an RV truck can pump.

This year we all threw down on lots of good food pre-planned in advance and the gear to properly cook it, and it was a godsend. Next year, there's no way in hell i'm going without a private shitter of some sort.


I have had a sewer pipe leak all over my head. I've had raw sewage rocket out of a bathtub drain like a water spout all over me. I've seen my share of black water, and cleaned up or had my face in some messes that would probably make most people projectile vomit... and if there was some kind of nastiness pain scale, i'd rate those portos at a 6/10 at their best, and like a 11/10 at their worst.

And yea, this year was my first year. But a lot of my friends i went with were at least at their fourth. No one disagreed with me, and everyone was onboard with the private shitter plan. I'm not an RV guy either, i'll happily sleep in a tent under a crappy tarp shade structure and generally live like a caveman for a week. But you can smell those damn portos two blocks away sometimes. And past midway into the week, the smell was actually blowing as far as our camp, which was not nearby them.

So yea, sorry, but the whole entitlement thing just rubs me the wrong way. As does the snobby pretentious attitude of a lot of the staff i interacted with(and holy shit, i had some terrible encounters despite being nothing but nice). this just kinda read as more holier than thou "you sheeple are so stupid" crap to me, which is not the first instance of that attitude i saw in the past week from someone who ran stuff there.

...And it's also a not even remotely the first time i've encountered that attitude at someone working at some artsy/hippie space, so color me not surprised.
posted by emptythought at 2:56 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


I wasn't a shitqueen but I was once so changed. It's very precise endeavor calculating the food coming in and the waste going out and it's designed - much more math than people are generally comfortable with anyway - if you aren't precise then your business fails. Talking to the shitdude [he was a dude though he may have also been a queen] they had designed the capacity so that they were full exactly at the time of pick-up. Ten people fill one in ten days was how they are designed IIRC.

When fleeing hurricane Ike I caught one of many busses to Bastrop LA. The bus I caught from St. Bernard Parish was the very first to arrive late at night. There were two thousand beds in a recently vacated SuperStore - a WalMart I think. All night long busses arrived with so many people that cell phone towers were overwhelmed.

Morning rose and there were six portas and two thousand evacuees. For breakfast three people were abjectly serving bannanas, Raisin Bran, and coffee. I did some math.

It took a while to get through but I called my friend Pat and instructed him in certain terms tht he was to drive the 200 miles from where he was to get me the fuck out of there.


RobbiDobbs is a hero.
posted by vapidave at 3:07 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


Anyone interested in this FPP might also enjoy the 2006 Australian film Kenny - a fine and funny movie that deserves many more fans.
posted by fairmettle at 3:42 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


I went on a date with a lady who decided to push over a portapotty at a construction site near some train tracks. The relationship did not last long after that.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:28 AM on September 4


I recommend against private protopotties out there, emptythought, strongly. I camped with a camp using private portos last year, sooo much worse than the BMOrg ones. Just bring your own toilet seat with you if you need to, way cheaper and infinitely more effective.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:11 AM on September 4


I loved many things about Burning Man, was awed by so much at Burning Man, but none so much as the portojohns. Without question the best-maintained portable facilities I have ever used. Actually a pleasure to use. They are indispensable to the event's success, absolutely vital, which made their quality so much more remarkable--people would have put up with far worse.

I also enjoyed having the excuse to wear an industrial-grade painter's mask into the john, but was delighted not to have the need to.
posted by oneironaut at 6:16 AM on September 4


No one disagreed with me, and everyone was onboard with the private shitter plan.

I use one of these for my vehicle supported backcountry trips. The bags are amazing - they don't stink, they don't leak, and they hold up to a lot of abuse. Inexpensive, and way better than pooping into a cathole.

Set up a small tent if you want some privacy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:58 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


and if there was some kind of nastiness pain scale, i'd rate those portos at a 6/10 at their best, and like a 11/10 at their worst.

Jeez man, the last time I went was 2003, but they weren't THAT bad. Things must've shot right downhill, or your shitty bona fides aren't up to snuff.

I found the best time to go was early in the morning, after the main hordes of fucked up people had passed out or settled in somewhere. They were almost powerwashed at that point, freshly cleaned and emptied, no lines at all, and pleasant enough that I might've enjoyed some reading material...had I not been worried about sitting for any length of time in a phone booth for shitting.
posted by nevercalm at 7:30 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I'm with nevercalm, an early morning sit-down always earned you a freshly emptied & cleaned private toilet with no line. And the early morning calm of BM is a nice treat.
posted by jpeacock at 8:39 AM on September 4


Oh fuuuuuck off. None of my friends are rich, or "pre billionares", or even entitled(which holy woah batman, what a loaded phrase).

Maybe not in the US.
But globally? Oh, we are.
We are so totally well off and rich it is embarrassing.

(We have toilets, for one thing).
posted by Mezentian at 9:10 AM on September 4


I wasn't at BM (heh) this year, but I was last year. I didn't consider the portos to be especially noxious then, and I'm surprised to hear that others felt they were this year.

In the state where I live, large events are required to have 1 porto per 50 people, serviced once daily. The event that I'm involved in uses a 35:1 ratio, serviced twice daily, which seems to make everyone happy.

According to this article, Burning Man has a 50:1 ratio, serviced six times daily. Admittedly they're clumped in large groups, so of course they stink from a distance, I just have to wonder what the hell is going on to make them so totally unacceptable.
posted by adamrice at 9:32 AM on September 4


Oh goodness, those portapotties are absolutely fine. And even stocked with toilet paper most of the time.

(That said, I definitely took the opportunity to take my dumps when getting fuel at the DPW's fuel depot.)
posted by sawdustbear at 10:00 AM on September 4


Imto, there is one huge problem with portopotties at BM, the doors. At regional burns, they frequently use pit toilets with artistic homemade wooden stalls atop them. These stall have no roof or front, only a back to hide your rear while sitting. And therefore they've the most wonderful view! What BM needs, at least out on the playa, is potties with no doors. As opposed to what got left out in 2010. Also, anyone play at the Toilet Bowl this year?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:24 AM on September 4


Burning Man is the only place where I've ever gotten a pleasant surprise when taking a shit.

It was 2011 and 2012 I believe, and the first time I noticed a sign on the door of the potty I was about to enter. "Toilet Aromatherapy Project," it said. "Yuletide Eucalyptus," it said. And I'll be damned if that potty didn't smell like a koala had chowed down on a Christmas tree (in the nicest way). There were other scents too, at different potties, but none that I remember quite like that.

Another Burning Man toilet project: take the chip out of a musical greeting card and set it up in the door. Instant Happy Birthday for anyone who enters.

This year I biked to the potties near Bubbles & Bass with a couple friends; it looked like Godzilla had visited the previous night, with many of their doors ripped off. What did someone do? Paste up a target practice silhouette inside.

But perhaps the best Burning Man toilet story I have is second-hand. My friend watched a group huddle by the toilets, in the middle of the night, until they were sure a girl had gone in for #2. They rolled out a red carpet, lined up on either side, and waited for her exit. When they did, it was all applause and flashbulbs, and when she got to the end, they handed her a giant blue ribbon that said "Poop Queen."

And that is why Burning Man has the world's best toilets.

(That said, while I thought the the toilets were as clean this year as in the previous three, I did notice that many more of the locks were broken, which is annoying and I hope something that they fix. And my camp was across the street from them, although thankfully upwind - so if something had been up with that bank, I'd have known.)
posted by Amplify at 2:04 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


> But fuck those portos. We all agreed that next year we're splitting the cost of a private one, or possibly even one of those little self-contained mini bathroom trailers an RV truck can pump.

Pfffft, whatever, man. I was THERE in 2000. It was a fucking horror show. Things were so bad by Friday (when the population spikes) that many of the porta-potties had shit piled ABOVE the level of the toilet seats. The people who squatted to deposit on top of those festering mounds... I can't even.

The next year we had a running gag about eating an all cheese and meat diet to bung up our own plumbing such that we wouldn't need to shit for the whole ten-day stay.

Paradoxically, that experience has left me utterly fearless where porta potties and outhouses are concerned. I used to be a big crybaby about using them ever (*ahem*) but now, no matter what whacked out event I'm at, I know that the chance that I'm going to see shit mountains towering over the toilet seats is basically nil, so I'll be fine.
posted by looli at 6:36 PM on September 4


Actually the toilets with no locks, or broken doors, are usually great : Almost never anyone inside. Almost always cleaner than the others. Americans are way too prudish to use those toilets, even burners.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:11 PM on September 4


Yeah, I'm still here, kinda, still in Reno anyway, cleaning up after, and even though I built my own private flushing marine toilet adjacent to my sleep structure, I used the portos plenty when away from camp.
They are definitely not the worst I've encountered, and not bad at all considering some of the ones I've been subjected to even at one night events.
I don't think the task of dealing with the poo of 70,000 is a small one, and I think BMOrg has done it reasonably well.
Plus I've encountered a bunch of creatively enhanced portos around the playa, and they always manage to make me smile above the stank...
posted by newpotato at 9:08 PM on September 4


Kinda like "king of the dipshits", only much, much worse.
posted by markkraft at 2:11 AM on September 5


Jeez man, the last time I went was 2003, but they weren't THAT bad. Things must've shot right downhill, or your shitty bona fides aren't up to snuff.

If you go look up the numbers, it's jumped from around 30k people going then to around 70k people going now.

And yea, other than a few nice and clean early morning shits(in which there were still shit stains on the walls and around the seat, but meh) things actually were borderline approaching shit to the level of the seat levels of nastiness. Most of the times it was just liquid shit sprayed all over the seat, floor, area around the seat and walls(how?!?!).

I never saw an actually overfilled one, but i did see some where basically everything inside was lacquered with a few mm of shit.

Apparently i'm just a whiner though, so whatever.

I just have to wonder what the hell is going on to make them so totally unacceptable

Honestly i don't get it either. It's not really just the smell either, it's the fact that they get COMPLETELY covered in shit. Everyone i went with was constantly joking about it. In the morning at least the seat was usually clean, but by the late evening? shitpaintings.
posted by emptythought at 6:38 PM on September 5


Appears you camped near a nest of hoverers, emptythought. Just happened across this video of the Poop Queen story mentioned by Amplify upthread.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:58 PM on September 6


Craigslist : HELP ME GET RID OF BURNINGMAN GIRL
posted by jeffburdges at 10:01 AM on September 11


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