June 2, 2006

The Hartford Courant  

FALLUJAH, IRAQ -- It's the one thing
everybody's got to do every day, usually several
times, but here, as with so many other things, it's a
little complicated.

Going to the bathroom can be hazardous to your

Even if there were no other dangers, having toilets
outdoors requires a bit more planning in your daily
routine than back home, where most have a
bathroom just down the hall, or even in the
bedroom. But there are other dangers.

Though only a few dozen steps away from Charlie
Company's main building, a journey to the
port-a-johns could expose one to the many delights
of Fallujah: mortars, random rocket-propelled
grenades, sniper fire. So the trip has a dress code:
body armor, Kevlar helmet and ballistic eye

The toilets are the standard, plastic-construction,
21st century outhouses most have used at the local
fair or outdoor concert. But when you use them
every day, you become intimately familiar with
their construction, with every plastic nook and
cranny, with every profane or thought-provoking
word of graffiti.

Negotiating it all with body armor, including a
hanging groin protector, is like trying to waltz in
bunny slippers. But it's hard to deny its
practicality after the recent mortar attack that
dropped a dud (luckily) mortar round a dozen
yards away. It's a real, living dread in most
Marines' hearts to get hit while on the can.

There are secondary dangers, too. A photo of a
man suffering the "Baghdad boil," a face-deforming
infection, hangs on the chow hall door, a warning to
keep the toilet lids down. If flies land on the toilet's
contents and then on an open cut, such a fate could

Going at night eliminates sniper danger, but adds
the excitement of walking over the uneven ground
without a light. So, instead of gearing up, navigating
the building's stairs and the walk, Marines have
been known to invent their own off-the-record
alternatives for skipping that nocturnal trip,
solutions with even greater portability but
questionable hygiene.