SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Go North!!!
By Dave Kiffer


March 14, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - So, I was minding my own business sitting in a public convenience in a large western American airport - okay, SEATAC - recently.

jpg Triangulate This, NAVSTAR! By Dave Kiffer

No, I was not using my computer. I don't travel with one because my trusty UNIVAC is not considered carry-on (although technologically it could be considered 'carrion.').

Yes, I have been thinking about getting a laptop abacus to go with my desktop one, but I just haven't made that technological leap yet.

And no, I was not using my cell phone. Even if I did have one with me, I would not bring it in to the bathroom. Some things are just private, people!!!!

Heck, I wasn't even sending a "life and death" text message ("I1DERWURDATM?? IAITBRTAD!!!).

I was actually using the facilities, taking care of "business" to one of my grandmother's favorite euphenisms.

Then suddenly a large person slammed against the door. KAATHUMP!

Then he hit it again. KAATHUMP!!

He muttered something that sounded vaguely foreign.

Was it a terrorist act?

Had the threat level risen above "orange" without my knowledge?

Was I supposed to seek help from the nearest TSA agent?

Should I just duck and cover?

Then the interloper muttered something in clear English.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!"

He also seemed to struggling with his pants.

I had a sudden realization:. He must be a United States Senator!

No one invokes religion in more inappropriate manners or places than United States Senators (and Congresspersons!).

And it as also been well established that Senators have been known to try to boost constituent contact time in airport public accommodations.

I immediately checked my feet.

They were located exactly one floor tile apart.

No "wide stance" here.

Had I invariantly dropped a piece of paper the floor and signaled "interest" by reaching down to pick it up?

No sign of any "paper," toilet or otherwise, on the floor.

Then it hit me.

I couldn't be trying to contact anyone in an adjacent stall because there were no adjacent stalls. It was one of the those little-johns that airports have been installing lately in an effort to increase service without using up important space that could be better spent on either retail opportunities or TSA break rooms.

One urinal, one potty, one sink, one soap dispenser that doesn't work

And - horrors - one underpowered air blower to dry your hands.

Just another result of the Paper Towel Reduction Act of 1985 that decimated our national wood products industry..

Anyway, as I was pondering all of this, the large gentleman was still "kaathumping" against my stall door.

I decided to exit the men's "room-let" quickly, not even bothering to use the !@*@#!$%#! air blower.

The man immediately dove into the stall.

As I walked out, I realized he looked familiar. He was tall, broad shouldered and had that type of wavy, shellacked hair that used to be called - rather pejoratively - "helmet head" but now in the talking head television era is simply called "senatorial."

No wonder I had mistaken him for a national politician.

But in this case I had not previously seen him bloviating on C-Span or even obfuscating on a recent edition on Bust A Predator TV.

I had noticed him earlier holding court a couple of rows behind me on the SouthWurst flight up from Albuquerque.

It had been a typical long range commuter flight.

Folks shoehorned into seats on a 737 so old that it had qualified for AARP status during the Carter Administration.

But it did have one particular new torture to contribute to the genre. It had the smallest rest room I have ever seen in an airplane that was not part of a child's play set.

No really, it was THAT small. Mr. Mini Lego guy would have had trouble using it.

When I tried to use the airplane "head" my knees were almost touching my head. They were also hard up against the opposite bulkhead. I felt like if I nodded my head more than a couple of inches I'd whack the wall, set off some alarm and get immediately "taken out" by one of the armed cabin attendants.

And standing up wasn't an option either because I would have had to straddle the bowl and then aim backwards.

Granted, I am mildly claustrophobic, so perhaps I am exaggerating.

I once had a serious attack of claustrophobia when I was stuffed into a Volkswagon Beetle with 14 1/2 other eighth graders.

And once I thought I was going to die when I recovered a fumble in a rain filled end zone during a youth football game several decades ago (I was under 10 other bodies and about seven inches of water!!!).

So you could say that I possibly am exaggerating when it comes to my impression of the tiny toilet on the plane.

Except, that when my son Liam (who is still just a wee bit smaller than me, at least this week) came back from his visit to the "little john" his first words were: "Daddy, that was kind of scary."


"The bathroom is really, really, really, really small, Daddy."

So it seems even a little boy who is "fraid o' nothing" seemed a little scared of getting locked in a bathroom the size of a candy box.

Suddenly, I understood why that pilot on another airline shot a hole through his own cockpit a couple of weeks ago. When you gotta go, you gotta go and he probably didn't fit in the micro-crapper either.

I can only guess what the big important guy from Row 22 on our flight thought when he tried to get into the "wee water closet" on that plane.

After all, his whole outward appearance was of someone of substance. Even if he was apparently younger than me. Of course, as I approach the big 50 (and we ain't talking Hawaii here) a larger and larger percentage of the population falls into that category.

But I digress.

Anyway, this young man was a big guy, in that size 54 suit kind of way. It probably didn't help that he was also one of those types who freely enjoys the $5 a glass liquid refreshment as we sail high about the "Great American Empty" west.

So when the plane landed, he rushed into the terminal and found nearest bathroom. Unfortunately it was "muy occupado" but he was obviously desperate.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph" indeed!

I trust he found the ground bathroom a little more spacious than the airborne one.

In retrospect, I should have used my close encounter with the OIF (obviously important fellow) to pitch the appropriateness of coming to Ketchikan.

Why you ask?

Heckfire, we are in the process of significantly upgrading our public conveniences these days.

The new port facility is spending more than $1.3 million dollars on not-so porta potties alone. You've seen that bunker like facility that is going up on the dock?

It has something like a dozen stalls for the ladies and 12 or 13 (half stall, half urinals) for the laddies.

By my estimate that's about $50,000 each for these executive outhouses (and yes they do seem to be somewhat open to the prevailing elements, probably saving on cleaning costs!)

So while other folks (SouthWurst, Seatac) seem to be cutting back. We here in the First City are proudly saying "Go North, y'all"

We are indeed open for business.

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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