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Toilet Skills for Skaters

by Leah McClellan

There are so many skills a beginning inline skater must learn. Balance and braking are at the top of the list. Expertise in maneuvering around unwary pedestrians and Mack trucks are other crucial techniques that any serious skater must eventually master.

One skill that few novice skaters learn before they absolutely have to is how to answer a call of nature while skating. As an instructor, I realize this is the last thing beginners are thinking about as they wobble around precariously. I sneak this little lesson in without my students even realizing it. If they make it beyond the beginner stage, one day they will put it to use.

The Imaginary Toilet Skating Drill

"Knees bent, arms out!" is my mantra as I demonstrate proper balance, arms stretched before me as I straighten up, my knees at a slight angle, and then squat way-y-y down. Students fumble. If arms aren't stretched out as they bend their knees, they may roll backwards and fall on their butts. Or their arms might be stretched out, but their knees don't want to follow instructions. This is where I put in my pitch about toilets. I call out to get everyone's attention.

"All right everyone! Picture this. You're at a toilet somewhere: a restaurant, a job-johnny in a park, or a public toilet along a street. You' ve got to go REALLY bad, so bad it hurts. But the commode is positively filthy, and there's no way you're going to sit on that thing. What do you do? You SQUAT! You grab on to anything in front of you for balance, and you lower yourself just above the seat. Get it? Knees bent, arms out, and squat!"

This speech invariable produces giggles, but suddenly everyone gets it. Knees are bent and arms are stretched out. By the time the lesson is over, most students are skating around with a fair degree of confidence.

It may be weeks, months, or years before the image of squatting over a toilet in their skates becomes a reality. Even if the toilet is one they might consider sitting on, actually DOING that with skates can be a bit tricky, to say the least.

The Real Thing

The first thing to consider is that you're a lot taller in skates, so you've got a ways to go in getting down to sit (or squat, as the case may be). And obviously, you're on wheels, so it's quite possible to roll forward as you' re positioning your behind. If you're not careful, you may plop a lot deeper into the pot than you intended. Or miss it entirely.

Here are some tips. If you're a woman going for a number one or two (or a man for number two), assess the surroundings. With the toilet behind you, find something to hold onto. A doorknob, toilet paper dispenser, anything sturdy. While holding on with whatever you've got, position your feet in a triangular formation (toes in, heels out) to prevent rolling forward. Use one hand to get your pants down (make sure you get them down far enough--it might be difficult if you're sweaty). If you're actually going to sit down (this is for the type of toilets that allow you to sit) this is pretty easy. Once you're sitting safely (you'll find your knees up much higher than usual), do your duty, and then reverse the order of things for getting back up carefully.

If there's nothing to hold onto, you've got to depend on your balance. This can be very tricky if the floor is wet. Keep your skates in the triangular position (skiers call this a "snowplow") and lean far forward with arms on your thighs and hands clutching your knees as you squat down. If there's a wall nearby, you might steady yourself by pressing one hand (or possibly a shoulder) against it as you ease on down. If there's a door directly in front of you that goes all the way to the floor, as is the case with most portable johns, you might be able to use it for balance (as long as it's sturdy and not likely to fly open with the pressure!). Position your front wheels against it as you lower yourself. If you're on five wheels or have long frames, you're in luck. Your wheels may reach the door quite easily and be an excellent prop.

If the floor is wet and you find yourself skidding sideways, place some tissue or towels, if any is available, on the floor. Just be sure to kick it off of your wheels before leaving because that stuff will stick.

Another word of warning about things that stick: if you're the type to place paper on the toilet before you sit on it, be careful. If you're sweaty, the paper may stick to your butt. ANY paper may stick to your butt, or leg, or other body part. Have a friend look you over when you're finished, or you may have paper trails flying in the breeze for miles.

Speaking of paper, your best bet is to be prepared before you go off on a skate of any distance. Bring a pack of tissues or a traveler-size roll of toilet paper in a fanny-pack or backpack. Some antibacterial moist towelettes for your hands are also a good bet, or a little bottle of no-water-required antiseptic hand washing lotion.

If you're facing a toilet you wouldn't sit on even if you were paid for it, you've got a major balancing act to do. Remember "Arms out, knees bent?" This is a great toning exercise for your quads as you balance over that icky commode. If it's stinky, this may require a good deal of concentration akin to meditating. Close off your nasal passages so you can't smell anything. Breathe only through your mouth, but keep it to a minimum. Maintain your balance and position over that rim (without touching it) no matter how bad your thighs are burning. And then, relax. Do what you went in there to do. Think you can't relax in that position? Well, you've GOT to. Get an image in your head of a waterfall or a dripping faucet or a load of cement pouring out of a truck. Your friends are waiting for you. Or maybe there's a line outside. If you can't do what you went in there to do, you'll go on skating in a state of misery.

For Men Only

If you're a guy just needing to hit the head, so to speak, you shouldn't have much trouble. Stand in front of the toilet, commode, hole or whatever. Get your skates in a very wide triangle or "snowplow" position, and grab hold of something (if available) for additional balance. Get your pants down with your other hand. That might be tough if you're really sweaty (consider unbuttoning, if needed, before going in). But you don't have to get them down very far. Aim as best as you can. Shake it, and get your pants back up. If your aim wasn't so great and there's paper available, do be considerate and wipe things down. If the toilet's filthy to start with, skip that part.

The International Squat Toilet

If you're traveling and skating in countries where many public toilets are little more than holes in the ground (rather common in Europe and elsewhere), you actually may have a less complicated task. Some of these (often called "Turkish toilets") have metal grids where you're supposed to put your feet for proper aim. If you place your skates at a slight angle, these grids really help your balance, even if they're wet. If there are no grids, you may be able to place your wheels or hands against the walls if they're close enough. Just make sure you get you pants WAY down around your knees or you'll mess them up: this is a DEEP squat from a tall position in skates. If you're wearing shorts or long spandex pants, no problem. If you' ve got long jeans or other loose pants on, you'll want to roll them up a bit before you pull them down. Women need to lean far forward to accomplish an appropriate aim (doing a number one) in the direction of the hole rather than their skates. Men need only maintain their balance while standing and aiming.

With these kinds of toilets, you'll be lucky if you've got anything to hold onto other than a wall. You won't likely find paper, and you'll also be fortunate if there's a door. But if you've gotta go, you gotta go, and getting down over a hole in the ground is a lot easier than doing a balancing act atop a toilet bowl.

Using a toilet of any kind while on skates is a true test of balance and skill. If you've mastered "knees bent and arms out," you'll be well prepared to deal with just about any kind of toilet. And once you've done it, you'll be proud to know that you may now consider yourself a member of that select group of skaters called "experts."

- Leah McClellan

Copyright © Leah McClellan

leah McClellan
About the Author
Leah McClellan leads an active life filled with inline skating, skiing, and traveling to exotic places. She is a stunt skater, former skating instructor, and a member of one of the largest inline skating clubs in the United States.

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