Judge John Hodgman 112: Court-o-Potty


Meg and her boyfriend Tony share a one-bathroom house in Portland. Meg suggests using a chamber pot when the bathroom is occupied, but Tony is appalled by the idea. Should Meg be allowed a "Plan B"? Only one man can decide.


Special thanks to listener Catherine Molaphny for inspiring this episode's title!

(submitted by Meg)

Exhibit A:

The chamber pot.

Exhibit B:

The chamber pot (in closed and open states).

Exhibit C:

The upstairs area.


We do NOT use chamber pots in Montana.

Gross. I was born and raised in MT - there is no way this person's family used a chamber pot AND knew 2 others who did. That is a ridiculous claim.

stunned in new jersey

is the vermicomposting bin indoors? i've heard of indoor composting and the thought of adding urine to an indoor vermicomposting bin skeeves me out... i also think rules should be made as to when it could get used, as the chamber pot shouldn't be used as an alternative to peeing while tony is in the bath. i'm all for bathroom privacy, but growing up with 5 family members and one bathroom, part of that was accepting that if you took a shower, you might have someone come in and use the toilet during your shower... to me that seems less gross than using a chamber pot and dealing with disposing of the urine and cleaning the pot afterwards.

You Go, Girl!

Meg (a.k.a. Thunder Jugs) sounds like a great gal. And if she or Tony should ever need to resort to plan B.M. I say go for it. That chamber pot can withstand the fallout from that particular situation in ways an empty Mountain Doo bottle never could. On a side note, in my mind I occasionally bring giants of culture and history down to the common level by picturing them straining at their stool: Madonna, Queen Elizabeth, Hitler, Elvis (of course). Toity--the great equalizer.

Alternative non-indoor plumbing evacuation techniques

Why all the fuss over a chamber pot? Let's talk about flying toilets instead:

"A flying toilet is a facetious name for the use of plastic bags for defecation, which are then thrown into ditches, on the roadside, or simply as far away as possible. Flying toilets are particularly associated with slums surrounding Nairobi, Kenya, especially Kibera. According to a report from the United Nations Development Programme launched in Cape Town on 9 November 2006, 'two in three people [in Kibera] identify the flying toilet as the primary mode of excreta disposal available to them.'"


Chamber pots and modern plumbing

The judge expressed incredulity that anyone in modern North America could have indoor plumbing and a chamber pot. Let me tell you a story.

I had a roommate in college in the late 70s and early 80s who grew up in rural New Mexico on a former commune whose residents eventually subdivided up the property. The house he grew up in had an outhouse. Eventually, they added indoor plumbing, including sinks, a shower, and a washing machine, but never got around to putting in a toilet. They continued to use the outhouse, but at night his parents preferred to use the chamber pot that they kept in their bedroom. Outside at night it was dark, often cold, and who knew what kind of wildlife was out there.

I visited in the late 80s and the mid-90s and this arrangement was still in place; I witnessed it with my own eyes.

So, this sort of thing does still happen. I imagine that there are a lot of people with outhouses who would prefer not to use them at night, regardless of whether or not the house otherwise has plumbing.