Thursday, June 01, 2006

From Marble to Dirt to...

I always thought time travel was an iffy proposition. The future is unknowable -- it may not be a mecca of good health, great tech, and peace; instead the devil may've been let loose to whip up a maelstrom of hatred encircling the globe. A surer bet would be to go back in time, but you'd have to remember your scented handkerchief. Hygiene and good sewage is a 20th century concept, and our noses would have a fit.

Back a few centuries, roads regularly ran with rivers of muck, human crap, animal dung, offal, and people washed their pots in iffy-looking water -- if they washed them at all, maybe just a quick wipe with a dirty rag. Men walked on the outside to protect women from flying shit. No wonder wide-brimmed chapeau were also all the rage, given umbrellas hadn't been invented yet. People rarely washed and had to put pomanders in their long sleeves to repel disease-carrying fleas (and maybe a few rats too from crawling in). Can I puke now? But at some point even their noses must've started crawling into their craniums, as perfume was invented as well as pattens to elevate high-bred men and women from the filth. Sort of like today when a wall of perfume follows you right on your heels out of the public bathroom, having eschewed the benefit of soap and water. Eww!

Travelling to England is a nose-assaulting experience. Old castles have these wells in high-up turrets, and they signal their presence long before you see them. Imagine! That's some potent 12th century pee. Then there's the full-on realistic viking village in Yorkshire, a time when I'm not even sure they had chamber pots; they just did it in the open air (or street). Get out your scented handkerchief before you hurl! Thank goodness we've progressed. Here in the 21st century we have toilets so high-tech they flush themselves, just like the old Roman toilets. And we treat our sewage so well that we produce something that smells worse than garbage, something so bad that an American landfill even has to hold its nose and is shutting its gates against it on August 1st. Sewage sludge. Now what to we do about it? Toronto's garbage crisis really is piling up.

In the remote Gwaii Haanas National Park, surrounded by trees, grasses, and the wild Pacific Ocean one suddenly stumbles across composting toilets. These are nothing like the old cottage outhouse where the stink of the pit and the caustic lyme vie with the black spider staring balefully at you through the darkness to get you to beat all speed records. No these are palaces of beautiful cedar planks, light and airy havens, where as I looked out from the throne, I ruminated that if I was ever wealthy enough to buy a cottage I'd get me one of these.

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Previous Garbage Talk:


The 20-Minute Photo Op

Premier's Electricity Conundrum

Let Me Tell You a Story

Toronto's Trash -- No New Thinking

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