By Curtis Krumel © 2009
I know that I'm stating the obvious when I say that one of the constants about Baghdad during the summer months is the heat. The mornings start out at 85 degrees and shoots up from there. High temperatures of 115 degrees are common. It is usually not so bad for us Americans as just about every building at my station in Camp Victory is air conditioned. However, the one hot spot that must eventually be endured is the Porta-John. This plastic palace is also known as the vision box as heat and aroma will cause most to see visions on all but the shortest stays.
The heat in the box is bad, but the occupant is not the only thing getting cooked. The aroma of the other contents can actually peal two layers of dead skin from your face before you've even gotten comfortable. If you can go standing up and can hold your breath for the duration, you've got a chance to avoid permanent damage. The little urinal box on the side is your best friend for those forty-five seconds.
The real dangers come when the seat must be employed. The thought of spending more than a couple minutes in potty hell is bad enough. The unknown dangers can trip up all but the toughest marines.
The first danger involves losing your "dry butt seal". This is the seal your cheeks make with the seat when you first make contact. It may burn like an egg on a grille, but a good seal is absolutely necessary. As your business progresses, so does the heat. You may start to sweat on your face and down your torso. If the sweat reaches your seal and manages to get between you and the seat, you've lost any and all friction that was keeping you in a reasonable working position. Wet butt cheek on Porta-Potty plastic has lubrication properties that science is just now beginning to probe. One wrong move could project you out the door and half-way across the parking lot.
Should you manage to stay on the throne long enough to complete your mission, you will most likely leave with a case of "Monkey Butt" like you've never known. Dust is everywhere in Baghdad. It is on your floor, in your clothes, and in your bed. Toilet seat are no exception. Placing your back side on a dusty surface and mixing in the correct amount of moisture and applying pressure will bind the resulting concoction to said parts like a prison tattoo. This is not a major problem most of the time. You pants will cover the damage. Trying to find a time in the showers when no one else is there is the real problem. A lot of soap and water is the only cure, but like other STDs (Stool Transmitted Decorations), you don't want anything drawing attention to that area.
There are some conveniences in each plastic palace. Take the placement of the urinal next to the seat. First some explanation. Americans in any foreign country have to worry about food and water borne illness. In Mexico they have Montezuma's Revenge. In Iraq, the bane of the visitor is Saddam's Revenge. The source of the condition, like that of the Nile, is shrouded in mystery, but the effects are unmistakable.
It starts with a rumbling in the gut that could easily feel like the initial gestation of an Alien. That is the alarm that tells the victim that he has approximately two minutes before all hell breaks loose. Hell, in this case is no exaggeration. Neither is breaking loose. Phase number two is aptly named, as your body attempt to expel all foreign (and some domestic) matter from the body. Like rain that falls in the mountains, matter in said body discovers on which side of the great divide it currently rests and rushes to the nearest exit.
Ice can turn to liquid under the right circumstances and apparently so can food. This liquid forces itself from the body with great force to the amazement of the host. Early man (pre-Iraq invasion) thought that excretions from the body could only happen en mass from one orifice at a time. Modern man knows differently. This is where the vision box urinal comes into play. Since both ends are now in play at the same time, it is a fortunate coincidence that the urinal thingy in modern military porta-john is located at the perfect height and distance for simultaneous use with its larger cousin.
So far as is known, Saddam's Revenge is 100% survivable. The greatest danger occurs in the rare instance where Saddam's Revenge is combined with loss of dry butt seal. The danger is obvious. I'll have to leave the result of the 360 degree dual projectile spewage to your own gruesome imaginations.
Those have been the biggest dangers I've personally seen in Iraq. I've been able to visit the toilets with the AC most of the time. I hope knowing the dangers will keep others safe. Maybe his successful visit without dry butt seal loss or monkey butt is what Bush meant by "Mission Complete."
Curtis 'Special K' Krumel is a computer consultant from Charlotte, NC.