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  1. 6:00 AM Myself and a first (and last) time climbing partner I'll call "Elmer" met up at the parking lot in Squamish to climb Diedre, a classic 5.7 on the Apron. He is a cc.com lurker who said he is a "safe, all around 5.10 leader" who's been dying to climb this route forever. I've climbed the route before and led all the pitches, so I agreed to let him do the leading. 7:00 AM We arrived at the base of Diedre. The approach took somewhat longer than usual because Elmer insisted we rope up for the steep approach through the trees. There was a festival-like atmosphere at the base of the climb, with people of all ages from around the world. We found ourselves waiting for the party ahead of us, which was waiting for the party ahead of them, who was waiting for the party above them, who was waiting for the party above them--who was apparently superglued to the rock. Or perhaps they were just a pair of immobile manniquins that some jokers hung from the anchors of the fifth pitch to create a traffic clusterfuck. 8:00 AM After an hour, nothing had changed, and I suggested we climb a different line up the Apron. "Hell no!" said Elmer, "I've wanted to climb this route forever!" 9:00 AM The top party showed some signs of movement, thus proving they were, in fact, not manniquins. Elmer started taping up (?) and racking his gear, which included a double set of nuts, a double set of cams to 4 inches, 4 tri-cams and 7 hexes. 10:00 AM The sun cleared the top of the Chief and the day turned HOT. Elmer set off on the first pitch up to the little tree. 11:00 AM Elmer arrived at the tree and put me on belay. I walked up to the tree. 1:00 PM We reached the belay at the base of the corner. Elmer was--as advertised--a very safe leader. I returned the 11 pieces of gear I cleaned on the pitch leading up to the corner where the fifth class climbing starts. 1:30 PM The parties ahead of us had moved up sufficiently that we were clear to climb with no one slowing us down. Elmer started up the dihedral. Judging by the severity of the sewing machine leg he had going, he appeared to be a little nervous. But he protected the pitch very well. 3:00 PM Elmer arrived at the belay. Shortly thereafter I arrived and handed him back the 19 (!) pieces of gear he placed on the pitch. The insufferably slow parties ahead of us had by now left us far behind. We had clear sailing ahead all the way up to Broadway! However, now we appeared to be slowing down the pack of anxious climbers below us. 4:00 PM The scorching day got hotter. We drunk all our water. Elmer was showing signs of physical and mental strain after leading the first three pitches of 5.6 or 5.7. A noticable tick has developed in his left eye. I offer to take a lead or two, but he responds with surprising vigor: "No fucking way, I've wanted to climb this climb forever!" 5:00 PM Elmer is still within spitting distance of the belay, swearing and sweating as he tried to fiddle in an RP, his 6th placement on the pitch thus far. There were approximatly 8 frustrated parties jammed up beneath us now. I was starting to feel like the stubborn turd that's clogging the toilet. 6:00 PM Elmer arrived at the fourth belay. The climbing was taking its toll on him. Our water long since gone, I started to wonder how long it takes an average person to die of thirst. After resting for a half hour, his twitching had subsided somewhat and Elmer started up the next pitch. 7:30 PM Inexplicably, Elmer was building a gear belay 3/4 of the way up the pitch instead of continuing on another 40 feet to the bolted station. Gently, I queried him about his intentions. All I heard is a stream of angry profanity echoing across the valley and something about running out of gear. "I'm fucking leading this fucking climb...blah...gear...blah...fucking forever blah...blah..." I wondered to myself how it would be physically possible to place all the gear he was carrying (enough to stock several small retail shops) on one 5.7 pitch. And as the sun cooked me like a worm on pavement, I wondered idly if he was afflicted with Tourette's or perhaps some sort of degenerative brain disorder like Mad Cow disease. 8:00 PM Elmer finishes building his anchor and brings me up. The tick in his eye has deteriorated noticably and his pupils are dialated in a worrisome way. I can't help myself and comment on his anchor, which is clearly a work of art--if you're a Celtic knotsmith or some sort of mad engineer. The anchor consisted of 4 cams and 3 nuts each qualized with double clove hitches and backed up with a secondary anchor composed of two tricams, a hex, two RPs, a cordellete and four slings. Granted, I'm a fan of bombproof anchors, but this one could have survived a direct napalm airstrike followed by a nuclear holocaust and still held a factor 5 fall. He didn't appreciate my kind comment. "Are you questioning my fucking abilities you goddamn pissant?" Judged by his full-body spasms and the way he kept grinding his teeth, he was physiologically unstable and psychologically unbalanced. 8:30 PM After his outburst, Elmer calmed down a bit and started apologizing profusely, weeping and blubbering like a schizophrenic on a bad acid trip. I didn't want to say the wrong thing, so I just wrung out my sweaty shirt into our empty nalgene bottle, took a swig and offered him a drink, which he accepted gratefully. 9:00 PM We were still hanging awkwardly from his armageddon-proof anchor. Elmer had stopped crying and appeared to be in some sort of meditative state, perhaps visualizing the sequences or protection on the pitch above. An angry mob of climbers hoping to get off the Apron before nightfall had gathered below us, wondering what the delay was. (I'm sure they were also curious about all the yelling and wailing.) While we hung stationary at his gear belay, several parties simply climbed by us, including a grandmother in flip flops who was soloing with her grandchild in one of those kiddie backpacks, two hikers who apparently got lost on the Stawamus Chief trail, and a surprisingly speedy team of quadriplegics who were aiding the climb by placing gear with their mouths. 9:35 PM I was hesitant to disturb Elmer while he was concentrating on preparing mentally for the next pitch. However I was getting concerned about our pace--we were only about halfway up the 7 pitch climb, and I had to be back in Washington by tomorrow afternoon. I nudged him and once again I casually offered to lead a few pitches for the sake of efficiency. This threw the previously-peaceful Elmer into a blind fury: "No fucking way, I've wanted to fucking lead this goddamn climb for fucking forever! What the fuck do you think I am, some sort of fucking incompetent?! If you ever again try to take one of my fucking leads on this fucking climb I will take this fucking knife (brandishing his Swiss Army knife), saw your fucking ears off, then cut you loose to plummet to your death you fucking miserable condescending piece of shit!!!!!!" He emphasizes each word by puching the rock until his knuckes bled. One of his eyes rolled eerily back in his head. He was foaming at the mouth. 9:36 PM Hmmm. Fight or flight? That was the question. I figured pacifying this maniac was perhaps the best approach to the situation--or at least preferable to brutal hand-to-hand combat while tied in to a common belay 500 feet off the ground. 9:37 PM I put on my most sincere smile and said "Sorry, Elmer--you're the leader, you're on belay, climb when ready!" I said as cheerily and nicely as possible. Meanwhile I casually repositioned my nut tool on my harness for easy access in case I needed to kill this raving lunatic before he killed me. 10:00 PM It was getting quite dark. Elmer was finally ready and headed up the next pitch of Dierdre. I breathed a sigh of relief as the rope ran out (very slowly) and he put some distance between us. 11:00 PM Elmer finally reached the next set of bolts. Once I saw he was safely anchored, I yelled up "You're off belay!" 11:01:30 PM In the fading twilight, I untied from the rope, tossed the free end into space, waved up at a perplexed Elmer, turned and ran down the Apron (roughly along the line of Sparrow) as fast as I could. 11:15 PM I reached the parking lot, quickly disabled the alternator on Elmer's car, gunned my van towards the border and never looked back. Epilogue: "Elmer" apparently survived, because he is back in the Partners Section looking for another poor sucker to attempt one of Washington's classic routes. The moral of the story? You never know what kind of psychotic you might get hooked up with when browsing for a climbing partner on cc.com...
  2. TWISPTED REALITY (A monthly opinion column) Snafflehoundus terriblus Methow Valley News / July 6, 2005 The shenanigans of snafflehounds can drive even the most pacifistic of people to a state of rodenticidal rage. Two climbers apparently coined the term snafflehound in 1938 while climbing in the Bugaboo Mountains in Canada. During the night, cat-sized rodents ate their rations, their ropes and their boots. They named these voracious animals “snafflehounds.” The same species of snafflehound that terrorizes climbers and campers is the most notorious rodent in the Methow. Technically, snafflehounds are bushy tailed wood rats, or Neotoma cinerea . Most in the Methow simply refer to them as pack rats. Because of their nocturnal noisiness and petty larceny, pack rats are undesirable housemates. However, they tend to move in uninvited. As anyone who has ever tangled with a snafflehound will attest, evicting these wily and tenacious critters is no easy matter. My first snafflehound experience started out subtly enough. Coins, silverware, carabiners and screwdrivers started disappearing. Lacking faith in my short-term memory, I figured I’d just misplaced the items. One night I looked out my window and witnessed a huge rodent with big ears and a furry tail dragging my cordless drill off the deck. It all started to make sense. Then the snafflehound moved in. I hardly slept the next week. Each night, all night, I lay in bed while the snafflehound inside the walls and ceiling scratched, chewed and made a racket louder than a dance troupe of drunken cloggers brawling on a tin roof. Intending to relocate the snafflehound, I bought a “Have-a-Heart” brand live trap. The rodent ignored it. Instead he chewed a hole through the mosquito screen on my window, pilfered my alarm clock and proffered a huge pile of pack rat scat on my pillow. Murder in my heart, I returned to the store and bought a supposedly lethal device called “The Better Rodent Trap.” I baited it with peanut butter and dog food. As evidenced by the yellow puddle next to the sprung (but empty) trap the next morning, all the trap did was scare the piss out of the snafflehound. As if to mock me, the snafflehound chewed apart my phone cord, stole an engraved compass with sentimental value, peed on my favorite chair, and ate the cover plus the first 47 pages of Mammals of the Northwest. Once again I returned to the store, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. This time I bought an old-fashioned rat trap: nothing fancy, just time-tested, spring-loaded death. Or so I hoped. Each night I would bait it with tasty treats. Each morning I would discover the trap sprung, the bait gone. Out of respect for the snafflehound’s escape artistry, I named my elusive nemesis “Houdini.” Nearing wits end, I turned to Sun Tzu for advice. “Pretend to be weak, that your enemy may grow arrogant. Hold out baits to entice him. Feign disorder, and crush him,” wrote the ancient Chinese military philosopher in his book, The Art of War . As if conceding defeat, I abandoned my cabin to the snafflehound and slept outside on the porch. Inside, I scattered dog food on the floor to lure the pack rat and lull him into complacency. Sensing an ambush, Houdini kept a low profile for several days. I sweetened the bait, laying out a shiny galvanized joist hanger, a pair of dice, a socket set and some chopsticks. That night, I heard the snafflehound dragging something across my floor. I jumped out of my sleeping bag and through the open door into my cabin. Momentarily startled by the sight of a sleep-deprived madman naked as a plucked turkey and wielding a .357, the pack rat froze, eyes wide, nose twitching. Before I could shoot, Houdini darted behind the books in my bookcase. Intent on rodenticide, I slowly pulled book after book off the shelf. Finally, the rat was cornered somewhere between Desert Solitaire and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas . I split the difference and shot Mark Twain through the spine. Huckleberry Finn and the snafflehound exploded in a deafening blast of blood, fur, guts and literary greatness. I had finally succeeded in relocating the snafflehound - to another plane of existence. I slept well for a month. Then the next snafflehound arrived. But that’s a different story.
  3. Fun when it’s done Methow Valley News Dec. 7, 2005 Adventures don’t always have to be "fun" to be fun. For example: # A few years back, three friends and I decided to attempt "The Inferno," a rarely climbed route on South Early Winters Spire. Still suffering from the previous night’s debauchery, we trudged upward toward the spire, our brains baking under the July sun like slugs on blacktop. Soon, we discovered whoever was supposed to bring the water, didn’t. We were so thirsty we simply wrung out our sweat-soaked T-shirts to get a drink. At the base of the route, we discovered whoever was supposed to bring lunch, didn’t. All we had was a pound of beef jerky which, when you are dying of thirst, is as appealing as a sand sandwich after crossing the Kalahari Desert. The first part of the route was steep and loose enough to qualify as exciting. Imagine climbing a teetering stack of refrigerators as tall as the Space Needle. Then we arrived at the hard part: a "5.10c overhanging, flaring five-inch crack." Translated into regular language, that means, "Run screaming in the other direction." There, already 500 feet off the ground, we discovered whoever was supposed to bring the big gear necessary to climb this section, didn’t. Covering oneself in bacon grease and throwing slices of Spam at a starving grizzly bear seemed like a sane idea compared to continuing upward. Fortunately, we brought along a madman – I’ll call him Mr. Peru – who volunteered to lead the pitch. Grunting like a constipated wildebeest while screaming self-motivational profanities creative enough to make the saltiest of sailors blush, Mr. Peru climbed. Although more dehydrated than our beef jerky, we survived and now laugh about the time we got singed by The Inferno. # The first couple of backhoe operators I approached to dig a waterline up the extremely steep hill behind my place looked at the job, laughed, and told me it was impossible. Finally, I found someone willing to dig the trench. But, he cautioned me, it was much too steep to backfill – I’d have to do that by hand. No problem, I thought. "Help wanted backfilling the Infinite Ditch of Woe," said the signs I posted on bulletin boards around the Methow. I figured it was truth in advertising: 500 cubic yards – or 50 dump trucks worth of dirt – would need to be moved by hand. By the next morning I had assembled a crew of seven people eager to make some money. Upon seeing the Ditch of Woe, one person quit before even picking up a shovel. By lunch, the crew had shrunk to five. The next morning, only four people showed up for work. At noon on the second day, two more workers suddenly remembered a bunch of other pressing commitments they had to attend to, and left. Some four days later, when the last shovelful of dirt was thrown into the trench, only one woman and I remained. The Infinite Ditch of Woe broke some spirits, but also created a lasting friendship. # As the rains of last January pounded down, our dreams of snowboarding powder melted faster than an ice cube in a hot tub. But we were determined to make the best of our weeklong trip to British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains. Sure, the area has a bunch of fancy commercial hot springs – but who wants to pay 10 bucks to soak amongst a crowd of blubbery Canadians and screaming kids? We decided to hike in to a backcountry hot spring, which was why we were now lost in a forest in a heavy downpour, wallowing through chest-deep snow. After wading two waist-deep creeks, we finally found the hot spring. We shed our soaking clothes and plunged our hypothermic bodies into the hot pool. The hot sensation lasted only three seconds. A torrent of icy melt water pouring into the hot spring made the pool about as warm as the Methow River in March. The soggy, snowy trek back to the car was a character building experience. "O-o-o-one, p-p-p-please," I said. Shivering uncontrollably, I handed my 10 dollars to the cashier back at the fancy commercial hot spring. "Pretty nice, eh?" said a well-fed Canadian as I eased into the steaming hot pool amongst a crowd of shrieking children. "H-h-h-heaven," I replied. # Looking back, it’s often the worst of times that make the best of memories.
  4. So I was partnerless, bumming around the Blue Lake parking lot, wondering about the wherebouts of Mr. Peru. As good luck would have it, bivied in the lot was another partnerless climber from Maine. He'd never climbed in the area, so I thot the NW Corner would be a good into. We put together a rack and headed up the trail. Maine was just heading up the first pitch when we heard what sounded like a crazed snafflehound whistling, hooting and hollering up through the basin below the spire. Sure nuff, Bobbyperu shows up a few minutes later. Instead of jumping on the NW corner, he opted to meet up with us later, instead entertaining himself on a solo the SW Rib of SEWS. Meanwhile on the NW Corner, I grabbed the lead for the zig-zag lieback flakes pitch--one of my favorites anywhere--which of course left Maine with the shoulder-eating offwidth. I've had the pleasure of leading it, and told Maine I'd feel guilty if he didn't have a chance to lead the OW, because I'd be cheating him out of the full NW Corner experience. He looked at me skeptically, searching for signs that I was sandbagging him, and then gamely thrashed up it. That evening the three of us met up at the newly re-opened Twisp River Pub where Mr. Peru was staffing the bar. Maine and I hung out and sipped a beverage or two while waiting for the arrival of Szyjakowski. He was making the trip up from L-town so we'd have two teams of two the next day. (Commercial side note: climbers, go patronize this place! Formerly the Methow Valley Brewing Co., which burnt down a couple years ago, they have employed a lot of talented local builders and artists in the rebuilding. They have fine brews, good chow, frequent music and a nice deck right above the river.) The next day the four of us parked at the hairpin below WaPass and headed up the gully towards the South Spire, each suffering somewhat from the late night before. While I would generally run screaming in the opposite direction of "5.10c overhanging flaring 5-inch offwidth," Bobbyperu had a wild hair to get on the Inferno Route, a rarely climbed line (I found no references to this route on cc.com?) on the SE face of SEWS. According to Beckey, the route was named for the scorching August day on which it was first climbed in 1966 at 5.9 A2, and was first freed back in the 80s by Yoder. Seeing as how the forecast was for a windless day of mid-90s, it seemed an appropriate day to get cooked on the Inferno, a corner which closely resembles a solar oven. The first pitch is vertical, juggy and loose--but at least there's uninspiring protection. BP led this while the rest of us hid in the cave at the base to avoid the rocks that came whistling down. The second pitch is the hardest 5.6 I've ever come across. It climbs a steep chimney filled with stacked loose blocks of all sizes then cuts out onto a slab, where you pass a steep bulge on shallow finger pockets. I moved carefully to avoid annihilating the three people below me with one of the car-door-sized blocks. Although I had some rope drag issues, the last few fingery moves before the belay are certainly thot-provoking "5.6." The third pitch is solid and clean and features a nice crack, followed by a spicy 9+ face traverse/step-across move to reach the base of the hanging offwidth. BP cruised it, and Maine and Szyjakowski led up on a separate rope right on our heels. The fourth pitch is the business. You see this intimidating feature coming for two pitches, and it just looms over you like "Come and get some of this you jokers, poseurs, hosers and wannabees!" As you get closer, it only looks steeper and wider and wilder. Below, a sharp dead tree we dubbed "Vlad the Impaler" juts like a spear right into the fall zone below the crux. The direct sun was baking our baked brains at this point. (This is you brain on drugs on the Inferno!) BP, maniacally enthusiastic as usual, launched up the hand crack that widens quickly to fists and then becomes wider still where it bulges out into a weird flaring overhang. He buried the 4.5 cam deep in the crumbly flare, and moved up and down a number of times, trying to figure out out to approach the section. There was no obvious gear above, and the nearest rest was a somewhat distant flake for a foothold on the otherwise featureless face next to the unrelenting wideness. After up and downclimbing several times trying to figure out the best way to tackle this monster, he took a short rest, then launched into a committing layback off the insecure edge of the crack. After reaching the flake and whooping it up, he realized that it wasn't over yet. There is another difficult move to get back into the 5 inch crack to top out, the nearest gear being the 4.5 left down below the 10c layback crux. Heady fer sure! Out of respect for the women and children that may read this site, I hesitate to detail the sweating, swearing and psycho-physical scarring that followed as the rest of us did battle with this beast. But we made it and finished the route off with a couple hundred feet of 5.6 tree wrestling and dirt climbing. By which time the water content of our sun-fried hides was approximatly that of the "Hey Dude" brand of beef jerky I'd brought and could not eat for lack of water and a dying-in-the-Sahara-Desert-case of drymouth. Let's just say we all got a little bit singed a bit by the Inferno.
  5. The OPC, yeah you know me. Who's down with the (O)lympic (P)eninsula ©rew? Got a late start and wasn't on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry till 11 o'clock. I've always enjoyed riding the ferries. Its a chauffeured trip where you can do whatever you want--get out in the fresh air and watch the organized chaos of the wake or sit inside and check out the people. If you make an effort, you can corner one of the couch style seats and let the vibration and humming of the engine lull you into a short nap. You get to turn over responsibility for your travel and become a willing captive for an hour or so. Unlike a bus or a plane, though, there is none of the stale air and claustrophobia. Generally on a ferry you can be as alone as you want or you can relate to people without being stuck in a situation where either is compelled. When we were young, our dad the captain told us the fire axes attached to the walls around the ferry were for fighting off huge sea serpents. Though rare, he said the sea serpents would occasionally wrap their coils around the whole ferry and try to drag it under. The axes were for chopping off the tentacles. For a long time, I believed this and repeated it as gospel to my friends, who also became believers in the serpents of Puget Sound. At some point I realized that there weren't such things as huge sea serpents and I was disappointed. Any less use for axes seemed mundane by comparison. One by one the mythical mysteries of childhood are revealed to us and magic leaves the world. True in one way, but at the same time there is no shortage of the mysterious, wondrous and awe-inspiring in the world here and now. Its just that we lose the sight to see it, our imaginations repressed by the scientific method, a culture of cool calculated contempt for that which falls outside the bounds of our understanding. We are resigned to not knowing and lack the child-like audacity to make it up. But what the fuck am I talking about the ferries for? The engine slowed and I returned from my reverie to the lower deck. The unloading began--always a good spectator sport. First, the bicyclists are freed and they sprint for safety like spooked deer. Having given the poor peddlers a sporting lead, the deckhands let loose the snarling pack of hawgs, ninjas, phantoms and other rice-burning crotch rockets, which blast up the ramp in hot pursuit of the terrified cyclists. Lastly, the four-wheeled superpredators of the pavement rumble off the ferry: the Ford Super Duties, Peterbilts, Komfort Kampers, etc. Each piloted by a twitching, traffic-twisted, caffeine-crazed commuter. And thus carnage commences! Blacktop Darwinism in action! I hurtle westward into the foggy forest and smell the smell of wet wood burning from the few unseen shacks tucked back in the dark caves beneath the trees. The further westward you go, the more you get a sort of creepy feeling unique to the Olympic peninsula. Remote, wild, shrouded in rain and fog, the Olympic Peninsula is haunted. Its more than just the edge of a continent--it’s the edge of reality, a border of sanity. I pass through a portal of dark towering trees and oppressive gray sky and I entered a world tweaked in some fundamental way. The sound of a forest: respiration. Rural poverty, the drip of water, angry loggers, alcoholism, guns, stumps, the ghosts of Indians dead, the smell of wood smoke, rot and rain. A while ago I met a girl in Forks who collected mushrooms and moss in the forests of the Olympic peninsula. She would spend days at a time wandering alone in remote areas of the peninsula forests. She says there were many times that she could feel somebody watching her. She said there were many people who lived way out in the woods, even whole families who would live for months at a time without contact with the outside. You occasionally spot the "tree people" as they were called walking along a deserted road. If you turned around, they are gone, vanished into the darkness of the trees. Don't believe in Sasquatches? Evidently you haven't been to the Hang Up Tavern in Forks, WA on a Saturday night. I witnessed a charming act of kindness at that particular establishment: After beating a uniformed military officer silly, a huge hairy cranked-out logger was kind enough to put the guys missing teeth into his front pocket of his bloodstained dress whites so that when consciousness found him, he would find his teeth. Thus the stage was set for our climb that weekend. A climb which turned out to be every bit of a vicious, knockdown, dragout street brawl like the one we witnessed in Forks. More coming later...
  6. Hey ya'll, thot some might get a laugh outta this piece I wrote for the local paper. Bring your headlamp if you want to take a dump in Twisp! ------------- Sitting in the dark Methow Valley News January 7, 2004 As a prolific pooper without a proper crapper, I greatly appreciate the public restrooms scattered about the Methow Valley. Wherever you need to go, there they are. Aside from the restrooms that have been hidden away at the Community Center, Winthrop started the trend of providing bathrooms for the people. In 2002, a set of primitive but stylish public restrooms sprang up in Mazama. Not wanting to be left out, Twisp added public facilities in The Merc Playhouse building last year. I remember my first visit to the Twisp restrooms. There I was, doing my business and appreciating the bright, sparkling new construction. Then the lights went out. My first thought was, "Shoot! Perhaps a tree fell on the Loup powerline, causing the Methow electrical grid to crap out." Then I realized the restroom lights were on a timer. You see, in order to save energy, Winthrop and Twisp installed the restroom lights on a motion-activated sensor. When you walk in the door, the sensor detects your movement and the lights click on auto-magically. But once you enter the stall, the sensor can no longer "see" you, and the clock starts ticking…. Sitting there in the darkness, I realized I had exceeded the allotted time to do a number two. Now I don’t linger, and I do eat my share of fiber, but subsequent visits to the Twisp public bathrooms almost always ended the same way: me sitting in a stall as black as the proverbial bowels of Hell. In an effort to achieve enlightenment, I’ve tried waving my arms over my head to get the attention of the motion detector. It doesn’t work. Standing up in the darkness with pants around ankles while waving one’s arms in the air is also futile and fraught with potentially messy peril. Trust me. Inevitably, just after the lights go out, someone else arrives to use the restroom. They open the door and step into the darkened bathroom, which causes the lights to turn back on. Whereupon they immediately notice two boots visible under the stall wall. I can practically hear their thoughts: "Why is someone sitting in the public bathroom in the dark?! How long have they been there? Are they even alive?" This recurring experience raised some profound questions, such as "Has the Town of Twisp imposed comically unrealistic time limitations on illuminated defecation? Or am I just a slow go-er?" Clearly some scientific research was necessary. I recruited a female assistant who owned a stopwatch. This allowed me to get precise time measurements for all Methow public bathrooms, while avoiding the difficult task of explaining to the police why I happened to be sitting in a women’s public restroom with a stopwatch…in the dark. Measuring the time for the Mazama bathrooms was easy. They have no light or heat, so just remember to dress warmly and bring your own flashlight. Winthrop is the land of equal pooping opportunity. The automatic timers in both the men’s and women’s rooms are set to allow visitors a generous 17 minutes of light. By contrast, the Town of Twisp gives women 11 minutes of light to do their business–less than Winthrop, but still plenty of time. However, if you’re a guy in Twisp, you get a mere 2 minutes and 31 seconds before the automatic lights go out. I’m not shi…uh…kidding you: 2 minutes and 31 seconds. My suspicions regarding the timed lights in the Twisp public bathrooms were confirmed, but this only raised more profound questions. Why do men and women receive the same amount of time in Winthrop, but wildly different amounts in Twisp? Is the town of Twisp simply more zealous about saving energy? Or are those who use the Winthrop bathrooms on average six times more constipated and thus need more time than those who use the Twisp restrooms? I don’t know, but these are questions to consider next time you use the public facilities in the Methow. Should the Town of Twisp reset the timer in the men’s room to allow for a more leisurely and gender-equal public bathroom experience? Definitely not! Every town needs unique and distinguishing features. Instead, Twisp should install a one-word sign in the men’s room stall: HURRY. First-time visitors would sit there pondering its meaning–for exactly 2 minutes and 31 seconds–at which time the lights would go out, and sitting there in the dark, they would see the light.
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