Tom Germond is executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers.
There are probably worse things that can happen to you than being unable to get out of a stall in a crowded bathroom outside the stadium at a Florida-Georgia football game.
Such as waiting in line indefinitely to get into the stall.
I experienced both recently, and here’s the best way to sum up my experience: Peeeeeeeeu!
And I promise, that’s the last time I’ll say peeeeeeeeu! in this column, even when referring to the Gators’ performance on the field that day, Oct. 27.
After using the toilet in the bathroom in our parking area, I tried to slide the lock lever to make my escape from the bathroom stall, but it wouldn’t budge. Seconds turned to minutes as the line of football fans who wanted to use the stalls got longer and longer.
Peering over the side of the stall, I confessed to anybody in earshot that I was unable to free myself from one of the most sought after spaces in Jacksonville that day.
“I’ve got a screwdriver, if that will help,” said a fan, waiting in line.
Ah, once again my lack of preparedness has failed me. Note to self: Always make sure you have a screwdriver in your pocket if you go to a football game.
Fortunately, there is a god looking over my shoulder because I was able to summon all of the strength in my fingers to pry open the lock and make a dash for freedom.
Lines at the portable toilets weren’t any shorter, which was a conversation piece among the tailgaters at the game.
“He’s been gone for a long time, think we’d better notify the police?”
“How far away is the nearest kidney center?”
Later, as I was waiting in line again to use a portable potty, a young football fan toting a bag of beers made an end run around us and stopped in front of the facility.
“Please, sir, I really have to go. I will give you all these beers if you let me go ahead,” he said.
“Just go,” I said, only hoping he wouldn’t get stuck in there.
Not sure there’s a surefire way to make the waiting experience for fans in line to use the portable potties more relaxing and entertaining.
“Anybody have a Hula Hoop?” a fan said, sarcastically.
Ran into some folks who came up with a different game plan. Embracing the time-tested philosophy, “when you gotta go, you gotta go,” several guys abandoned the line and found a place behind a building to relieve themselves.
As I stood in line, I chatted with a Florida fan and offered to shake his hand, but he declined.
“I just used the wall around the corner,” he said, adding that he was only in line to be with his girlfriend, a Georgia fan.
She also had a lot to say about the lack of bathrooms, especially those for women. Sympathized with her, even if she was a Gator hater. A couple of women pleaded with men to be allowed in line for the indoor men’s restroom. No problem; chivalry ruled the moment.
A few friends of mine, seasoned veterans of many Florida-Georgia campaigns, succumbed to instant relief, the old jar in the car, to bring about the desired results. I declined, fearing the consequences of misaiming would be more painful than losing to Georgia.
The “Annual Celebration for the Repeal of Prohibition,” the late humorist Lewis Grizzard’s name for the Florida-Georgia game, isn’t the only event of its kind that’s the butt of bathroom humor.
The lack of facilities in parking areas at other large events also is a problem, said Robert Brubaker, a spokesman for the American Restroom Association, and the nonprofit organization gets complaints about the issue.
Some people are hesitant to leave their houses to go to certain events for fear they will be out of range of restrooms, Brubaker said.
Don’t have all the answers here. No doubt many tailgaters are out of control and have too much to drink at any sporting event. But there’s room for sensitivity on the part of event planners, too, to ensure that attendees have adequate access to functional restrooms and portable toilets.
Besides losing to the ’Dawgs, the only other issue that bothered me at the game was seeing campaign signs wedged into sacred tailgating grounds. Bad enough that people despoil it with their bladders, let alone with politics.
More portable toilets would be a simple solution to the tailgaters’ dilemma at the annual Florida-Georgia football game – and other events.
At least on that issue, Georgia fans I met in our parking area agreed.