Last week on vacation the Lapsed Episcopalian and I were on the sixth fairway discussing this and that. (Real Presbyterians play golf and good ones know why. Watch out, Rick, I am contemplating a bumper sticker that reads, “Real Presbyterians Do It on Tees and Aprons.”). I had out driven him again. Though his short game put mine to shame, he kept telling me what a waste it was I don’t play more often.
In between various topics he brought up a list of the “Top 25 Things Vanishing from America.” He piqued my interest when he mentioned that outhouses were going the way of the Dodo. (Sidebar: The Lapsed Episcy is something of a Renaissance Man. He loves to keep up on world events and seems given to theories which have what some might call a more progressive slant. His advice to my wife and me way back in the day was to only have one child; he’s a retired hospital administrator, and I think he had just been to an in-service where some overpopulation doom-speak was all the rage. I can’t decide which legalism makes me bristle more, my in-law’s temperance that banned alcohol at our reception—which prompted the beer tent in my folk’s backyard, entertaining the groom’s side made up of everything from Bloomfield Hills W.A.S.P’s to Macomb County Roman Catholics—or dad’s odd but persuaded rationale for family planning.)
“By the 2000 Census, the number of Americans who lacked indoor plumbing was down to 0.6%. Even though that’s still an awful lot of Americans using an outhouse or pit toilet — 670,000 households or 1.3 million people — it’s a huge improvement from 1950 when 27% of households (and over half of rural households) didn’t have complete indoor plumbing.”
Remember when the Olsen family got indoor plumbing? It was another reason to loathe Nellie and her mom and be fed up with that sniveling husband Nels. I realize there are plenty of you who like to point to everything from the western world in general to democracy in particular, including running water and toilet paper, as evidence that the world is in fact getting better all thanks to the presence of Christians on earth. But that the dwindling use of outhouses is deemed an improvement in America seems an apt metaphor.