Ervin: Bedpans and Beyond

Mike ErvinCripples are just like everybody else. We just pee different. A lot of us pee through a tube. A lot of us pee into plastic receptacles. Some boys pee sitting down. Some girls pee while lying on their backs.

When we pee or poop into receptacles, we are in solidarity with all the revered founding fathers of the United States of America. They all peed into receptacles. Except their receptacles weren’t made of plastic. They were fine ceramics with roses or majestic mountain-scapes painted on the side. They called them chamber pots, which sounds much more elegant. The first half-dozen or so presidents who occupied the White House eliminated into chamber pots. So did all those kings and conquerors, real or imagined, in Shakespeare plays. So did Jesus. Or maybe not. Jesus was a man of few possessions, so he probably didn’t even own a chamber pot. He must have either borrowed his disciples’ chamber pots or just went behind the bushes.

My point is, if so many of our most celebrated role models were chamber pot users, then why all the stigma today? If you don’t think there’s a big old stigma sullying the image of urinals and bedpans, compare them to eyeglasses. What are eyeglasses? Eyeglasses are assistive technology devices that are used to help people see. You can prance into any shopping mall anywhere and find stores that sell eyeglasses with frames that come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes and colors. There are designer eyeglasses, like Louis Vuitton.

Bedpans and urinals are assistive technology devices, too. They are used to help people excrete. But in no shopping mall anywhere will you find a store called Bedpans and Beyond. There is no Louis Vuitton line of designer urinals. There isn’t even a Christopher Reeve line of designer urinals. Bedpans and urinals don’t come in a wide variety of colors either — just a few humble hues.

And it’s all because of stigma. And I bet this stigma costs our economy millions each year. Imagine the windfall that awaits the marketer that dares to re-imagine urinals and bedpans. Like suppose urinals were among the merchandising items for movies like Spiderman? Do you have any idea how many hundreds of thousands of criplets go see Spiderman and how relentlessly they would harass their parents until they bought them a Spiderman urinal? And there’s also sports marketing: The official bedpan of the National Football League. As a kid, I would have given anything to have my very own bedpan bearing the logo of the Chicago Bears. I also would have given anything to have my very own bedpan bearing the logo of the Green Bay Packers, so I could take a dump on it.

Urinals and bedpans aren’t always necessarily just for cripples, either. A whole new market could be tapped if they were touted as convenience items for people who are really lazy or really busy. They should be sold everywhere that lounge furniture and gigantic-screen televisions are sold. You can vegetate in front of the TV all day, and not even the call of nature can make you get up! Or suppose you’re a trucker and today it’s 500 miles or bust. You don’t have to stop to pee. You can drive with one hand while you pee with the other! Or if you’re a woman, look, ma, no hands!

Bedpans could also be sold in those New Age stores where they sell incense and bead curtains and sitar music CDs. I’m sure there are millions of citizens out there like me for whom our daily dump is our sacred shard of “me time” to meditate and reflect. But with today’s technology, i.e. the bedpan, this exhilarating ritual of release doesn’t have to be confined to the bathroom. You can turn any room of your house into a meditation chamber with incense and sitar music and expand dump time into a Zen-like experience.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect any American entrepreneur to lead the way in shattering the bodily waste receptacle stigma. As always, some visionary from another country will beat us to it and thus that nation will reap the economic rewards. It’ll probably be the damn Chinese.

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