Short a Potty

Relief facilities at inauguration may be disastrously scarce

Congratulations, inauguration-goers! On Tuesday you will witness an historic event of grand proportion unlike anything Americans have seen in years: rampant public outdoor urination on a scale unrealized since the invention of indoor plumbing.

(There will also be an inauguration of some sort.)

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has rounded up somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 Porta-Pottys to serve an estimated 1 to 1.5 million people, which should be fine, as long as about half of those people don't have bladders.

Porta-Potty experts have produced all sorts of mathematical calculations to explain why the Committee would arrive at this shockingly low figure of 5,000 commodes. Apparently it takes the average person just one minute to use the loo -- which seems to disregard the fact that many of these poor inauguration-goers will be wearing sixteen layers of clothes to protect them from the bitter cold, and may have spent the morning chugging coffee to keep warm. It also ignores that roughly half of the crowd will be women, who are notoriously slow in restrooms.

Here are some discouraging back-of-the-envelope calculations from the sewage specialists over at the Wall Street Journal:

[F]igure on spending a minute once every three hours, or 1/180th of your time, in a portable toilet. Assume an average crowd size of one million people over the duration of the event, and you'd need more than 5,000 portable toilets. And that means they'd be used constantly; uneven demand would produce massive lines.

If about twice as much time is needed per person, Old Dominion University's Lawrence Weinstein, a physicist, and John Adam, a mathematician, co-authors of "Guesstimation," guess that 10,000 toilets will be needed. "Since the usage will be randomly distributed (and hence with periods of both under- and over-utilization), it will be much safer to have three times that number," Prof. Weinstein says.

One toilet for every 100 people is conservative, compared with other standards.

It will be bad enough that on Inauguration Day, visitors to D.C. will have no place to park, sleep, sit, stand, or breathe. The disastrous lack of relief facilities means that visitors will witness the terrifying spectacle of millions of their fellow countrymen befouling themselves in the largest public sanitation disaster of the 21st century.

If this sounds like your idea of a good time, go ahead and show up for this inauguration. The rest of America will be watching you on the television, shaking their heads sadly before ducking out to use the restroom.

Sara K. Smith writes for Wonkette and Plumber's Weekly.

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