Off Brand: When nature calls, perspectives can change

Despite having more belongings than I know what to do with, I always wonder what it would be like to have even more. This wonder manifests itself as a self-loathing complaint until I come across someone in harsher circumstances, providing me with some much-needed perspective. “Why can’t I have that” turns into “maybe I don’t need that rare VHS that costs $37 plus shipping.”

I play tennis with people twice my age. Despite the generation gap, we have common unifiers: hydration, and a constant need to water the plants. Since most Oak Harbor courts don’t have on-site restrooms, players of all genders resort to conducting their business undercover, which – according to Washington state law – is an infraction punishable by a $250 fine and a possible indecent exposure case. Though every U.S. state prohibits it, we have a total disregard for the law when brimming bladders are involved.

We roll the dice for a misdemeanor every time nature calls in nature. Growing up in small-town Ohio, there wasn’t much difference between a cornfield and a urinal; it’s a Midwest rite of passage. But here on Whidbey Island, the illegalities really shine. I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on public urination, but I suppose this serves as an open admission.

When you play a match long enough, the conversation inevitably pivots to the bathroom situation, springing up as your teammate searches for the least open area to go. Realistically, a lot goes into constructing a toilet, even temporarily: budgetary committees, zoning permits, plumbing, cleaning services, etc. Public infrastructure is not as simple as it is in “The Sims,” but our idealistic utopia hardly accepts that as an answer.

As a male, this minor violation is easy to get away with. For my female tennis partners – or those without particular faculties – it isn’t. Then again, everyone I play with arrives by car or bike with clean clothes on, willing to get sweaty for fun. We can drive or pedal to the nearest restroom yet we often make the choice to commit heinous crimes against vegetation.

Tennis was once viewed as a posh game for the rich, though I’d argue that anyone with access to porcelain is living in luxury. While we played doubles, a nearby houseless man slept. We were on the same court, under circumstances that couldn’t be any more different. He can’t walk into a public restroom without getting questionable stares, while we regularly refuse that comfortable option.

With the audacity to complain about our trivial bathroom issue, we embraced the cold to play while that man likely had no other choice but to be out in the lousy elements. In the gravel parking lot was a car waiting to be driven, and a pair of gloves in my pocket that he needed more than me. He was grateful for the gift, and I was grateful for what I had, holding it in until I got home.