Of Outhouses, Missed Appointments and Crappy Days

(Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder from Pexels)

“You need to slow down, squirt! You keep driving past here at 80 miles per hour, and you should be doing more like 50!” 

The clipped, harsh words from the hatchet-faced gent were barely audible over the throaty rumble of his car’s twin glass pack mufflers. 

I swallowed a whole torrent of words that wanted to spill out and simply nodded politely at the city slicker in his souped-up sports car. Never mind that my old truck could barely do 65 down hills; I knew for a solid fact that I had never once been over 60 mph in the old delivery rig on this particular stretch of road. 

However, when you are standing beside the road and attempting to reload a battered shed that had been strapped to the trailer a few minutes earlier, there isn’t a whole lot you can say to make it look better. Humble pie always has a bitter taste, but at that moment, I was certain I had never tasted any worse.

It all started a few weeks earlier when Billy Bob Murphy strolled into my little sales office and abruptly declared, “I needs me a two-seated crapper. Is that something ya’ll can rig up for me?” 

Looking up from my desk, I pondered the enormity of the question. Partly because Billy Bob clearly was serious, and partly because Billy Bob’s bib overall size indicated actual need for the extra room. The second seat, however, had me bewildered. 

“You mean a side-by-side outhouse?” I cautiously asked. “Or do you want a split room outhouse with two seating areas?”

“I wants me a big ol’ outhouse with one bench and two seats next to each other,” he replied. “That way, when me and ole Josephus both gots to go, we ain’t gotta wait on each other.”

After a moment, he added, “Josephus is my dog.”

Momentarily relieved at the privacy issue, or lack thereof, I suddenly was jerked back to the reality of his words. His dog? 

Never mind, Jason, I told myself. You probably don’t want to know.

Aloud, I said, “Yes, I think that’s something we could set up for you. How big do you want it to be?”

That’s how I sold my first log sided, deluxe, twin seat outhouse, and Murphy spared no expense. This twin seater also had a small shower stall with a plastic water tank and a 12-volt pump to provide showers. The whole thing fit nicely on a treated 8-foot by 8-foot base. 

After filling out a work order that was guaranteed to give Henry, my shop foreman, a headache, and securing a deposit for the “crapper,” I thanked Billy Bob for his order and watched him drive away in his brand-new pickup. 

I couldn’t help wondering if I was being played for laughs or if there were hidden cameras recording me for Beverly Hillbillies. After a few minutes, I decided this was legit. Nobody popped out of a shed and shouted “April Fool!” Billy Bob did not return and ask for his money back. 

I had actually met this character and sold him a genuine, hillbilly, redneck, deluxe outhouse. Grinning to myself, I filed the work order away and suppressed a chuckle at the laughs this order would generate in the shop. 

Skip forward a few weeks, and the brand-new, shiny, log-sided privy was sitting on my shop parking lot all ready for its final trip to parts as yet unknown. When I called to set up delivery, Billy declared that he could only meet me at his “Back 40” on weekends. 

Normally, weekend deliveries are a no-go. I work hard enough to deserve that time off. Especially since at the time, I was spending a few hours each Saturday morning manning a sales lot for a friend. However, it seemed Billy Bob actually had no way to make weekdays work, so I grudgingly agreed to deliver it on a Saturday after I left the sales lot. 

Enter the fateful Saturday of our story. It was early, and I was sitting at home enjoying my leisurely breakfast when my secretary, Marcia, called. 

“Don’t forget that outhouse delivery today,” she said. “It is today, right?” 

I snapped bolt upright. Jumping Jehoshaphat! I had forgotten! Now I was going to be late to the office. Being punctual is a big deal for me, especially when opening an office for business. I grabbed my briefcase and dashed out the door, hoping to still make my deadline. 

Driving as fast as I dared around the back road curves to my shop, I came up with a plan and decided I would still make it in time. I’d load the little crapper, take it with me to the sales lot, and deliver it after I left for the day. Pulling into my shop parking lot, I turned off my personal pickup and hurried to my delivery rig.

The clattering of the old diesel cheerfully awakened the neighborhood as I warmed it up and ran for the forklift. I scooped up the deluxe privy with the long forks and carefully set it on the back of my trailer and strapped it down. The blue smoke from the old Cummins had cleared as I jumped inside and ground it in gear. 

Still time to make it, I thought cheerfully. The miles rolled away, and I was halfway to the sales lot in the next town when I realized I had left the office keys in my personal pickup. No time to turn around, I thought. I frantically grabbed my cell phone and called my buddy who had a copy of the key. 

Maddeningly, the cell service was just enough to get connected, but not good enough to actually talk. I’d hear, “Hello … ” and then static. After three or four times, I nearly threw my phone out the window in frustration. 

That’s when I happened to look in my rear-view mirror at the vacant road behind me. It took a second before it dawned on me that the road should not be visible in my rear view. The thousand micro connections in my brain could not be measured in time or space, but in a series of deductions that would have made Sherlock Holmes proud, I concluded that the high-class, redneck, hillbilly potty was no longer with me. 

Full-blown panic flooded my system, and my tongue lodged in my throat. Of course, the road at that particular place was too narrow to permit a pickup and trailer to turn around. I drove frantically onward for nearly a mile before reaching a side road with room to swing in and back out. Gravel flew and the clutch protested as I slammed the gears and power shifted my way back to an unknown fate. 

Visions of wrecked school buses, screaming children, and bloodthirsty lawyers flooded my mind. Never mind that it was Saturday and there were no buses. Worst-case scenario syndrome was in fine form that morning as I raced back in ever-increasing panic. 

Curve after curve failed to reveal the certain mayhem I was prepared to find and mile after mile rolled away with no glimpse of an upside-down privy on the road. I was beginning to wonder if I’d missed it in the ditch somewhere when, finally, I rounded the dreaded corner and saw the upscale outhouse in all its glory. 

Flashing lights hit my eyes, and it took a second to realize it wasn’t the dreaded blue and red of police. A tow truck driver was there with his rig and had pushed the privy off to the side a bit so traffic could get around it. Equal parts relief and dread flooded my veins at an alarming rate. My elation at no wrecked cars and screaming people was tempered by the grim-faced tow truck driver. 

To make matters worse, I knew the driver. It was good old Howard Constable who had worked on my vehicles in his shop on numerous occasions. There was simply no way to make this look good. In fact, there was no way to make this look anything less than dreadful. 

The fact that the deluxe crapper had torn off the skids and my straps were still tightly holding the 4 by 4s down was of little comfort. What I had going for me in tiedown ability was negated by a poorly built structure and my obvious distraction by driving four or five miles without noticing my cargo had taken flight. 

As I pulled up and got out, Howard looked at me reproachfully. “You know Jason, when I drive my tow truck, I look ahead, then I look in my left mirror, and then my right mirror. Then I look ahead again.” 

Misery and shame held my tongue. What could I say? “Hey, I was on my phone and didn’t notice. Give me a break”? Nope, I figured that’d only make it worse. We had no ban on cell phone use while driving back then, but grumblings were starting about distracted drivers. Mr. Constable must have sensed my misery because he softened up and gave me a fatherly grin. 

“Hey, I was just about to claim this thing,” he joked. “I figured it was abandoned.” 

Looking it over, I decided I would get it back on my trailer one way or another. Thankfully, traffic was still light at this early hour, and I had no difficulty maneuvering around till I was backed up to the prone outhouse. 

Just as I was pulling out the straps and beginning my recovery process, a rumble of exhaust pipes caught my attention. Squinting in the early sun, I saw a shiny Corvette pull up, and the tinted window rolled down enough to reveal a hatchet-faced Clint Eastwood type in the driver’s seat. 

“That’ll teach you to be flying around here, you moron! I should call the cops on you!” 

The irony of his words nearly choked me. I had seen this character tearing around the neighborhood in his shiny midlife crisis car, and I knew he seldom drove under 70 mph with it. However, my own sins rose up to silence me, and I swallowed a generous portion of crow. 

No sense making it worse, I told myself. Choosing to ignore the critic, I started loading, but he smugly kept watching me while throwing insults about my driving. When I thought I’d taken all I could and the next words from him would be crammed back down his throat via my hat, he blipped the throttle a few times. With a chirp of the tires, he rumbled on. 

My humiliation was nearly choking me when Howard came over and gently remarked, “Don’t worry about him. He’s a real jerk. However, you should take a good lesson from this. Drive slower and watch your mirrors.”

For some reason, that advice was a lot easier to receive than the diatribe from the city slicker. Politely, I inclined my head in humility and thanked Howard for the tip.

After about ten minutes, with Howard’s tow truck helping, we had the battered little shed back on the trailer. I threw a few straps over the top and cinched it down snugly.  By now, it was far past time for me to open the office, and I still had no cell service. 

While driving carefully drove back to the shop, I finally reached George and asked him to use his key to open the office for me until I could get there. Billy Bob was clearly sleeping in because I could not reach him to cancel the delivery. Finally, I gave up and figured he’d call me when he woke up. 

When I reached the office two hours late, my friend left me to my misery. Sure enough, I had missed a customer who had been there promptly at opening time. He had left a message for me, explaining it was poor business etiquette not to open when we said we would. 

Ignoring this effort to add insult to injury, I just put my head down and let it run off my back. There was nothing I could do about it anymore.  All day, I kept waiting for the dreaded call from Mr. Murphy, but it never came.

When I finally closed up for the day and headed for home, I double checked my messages. Sure enough, Billy Bob was waiting on his delivery. He was all excited about it and couldn’t wait … for the appointment next Saturday. 

As I stared at my phone in disbelief, I heard an anguished scream above the roar of the Cummins under the hood. I decided it was my trailer brakes. They had been squealing a lot of late. Time to change them, I decided.

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