What YouTubers Taught Me About Survival Toilets — & Myself

A few months ago, my then-landlord sent me an unexpected letter — she was selling the building, and I had to move out. Instead of resigning my lease for another year as planned, I had to start apartment hunting. I scheduled viewings each night, with every realtor or broker that was available. One thing quickly became clear: Call me crazy, but I would rather live in a 200-square-foot apartment with a miraculously clean bathroom than an apartment five times as big with a crapper straight out of The Human Centipede. I was about to double my rent, but it seemed like the bathrooms were tripling —nay, quadrupling — in shittiness. We're not talking mundane, par-for-the-course, close encounters with pastel pink tile on House Hunters kind of shitty. We're talking, "That stain in the shower is so oddly shaped like a screaming person," kind of shitty. Suddenly, a lot of my time shifted to researching DIY bathroom renovation. One night, down a particularly deep rabbit hole, I stumbled upon a YouTube community completely consumed by the fear of a future in which indoor plumbing in America no longer existed. Whether by natural disaster or zombie apocalypse, these (mostly white, mostly male) self-identified "survivalists" were hell-bent on constructing waterless toilets so that their families could do their business during the inevitable End Of Days. One YouTuber suggested double lining a bucket with trash bags in case the first one ripped (ingenuity!); another insisted on constructing the "toilet seat" using a pool noodle for maximum comfort (is a "floaters" joke too obvious?). Each PooTuber had their own little lexicon for describing essentially the same thing — trying to craft the perfect perch to pinch a loaf. You won't find that on mom's Pinterest. As outrageous and insane as these toilet tutorials were, I couldn't help but wonder...in many ways, was I just like them? There was something at the root of their anxiety that I related to: I wanted a comfortable place to poop. And, this was something that I thought about — a lot. (But, didn't talk about, ever.) What these YouTubers aimed to do was, in its own way, kind of charming. You can't change your fate, whether you're confronting the perils of extreme budget bathrooms or trying to thwart the rise of the living dead with just a bucket and a dream. All you can do is work with what you've got — and get comfortable, however you define that, when the shit hits the fan.

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