Frostbitten Cheeks

One of the innovations that the Alaska Pipeline brought to the state were warm toilet seats. Understand that, in Alaska, plumbing is a challenge. If you live off-grid you don’t have any. And you need live only a couple of miles out of town to be off-grid. Your plumbing options are one: an outhouse. Imagine suiting up (parka, mittens, insulated boots, etc) to sally forth for your daily constitutional. Imagine putting your fish-belly white ass on a toilet seat that is ambient—say 30 below. You don’t spend much time paging thru last year’s Readers Digest; thirty below tends to make you exceptionally regular.

Then came the Pipeline and, with it, blue foam insulation. My first two jobs on the Pipeline were laying 8’ x 2.5’ x 2”sheets of foam directly on the frozen tundra. Trucks backed up and dropped gravel on top of the foam to make the work pad. The foam insulated the tundra so that it didn’t thaw in the summer or with the weight (pressure lowers ice’s melting temperature) of the machinery working on the pad.

It didn’t take long for a creative Alaskan to realize that cutting a hole in a square of foam and putting it on the toilet seat might substantially reduce the incidence of frostbitten cheeks in the state. It is effective—stunningly so. Within seconds of sitting on the foam, the warmth of your butt warms the foam which warms you. It revolutionized sub-arctic shitting.

In Broken Angels, Annie and Ringer have foam on their seat. The outhouse at Ben’s cabin up the Alatna River, does not—to Kris’s distress.

I turned off my water last week—and cut out a hole in a sheet of lavender foam so that my constitutional can be taken with ease and delight.