Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The History of Poop

Today I learned about the history of poop. That’s right I’m going to talk about poop. My second post on this blog and it’s a shitty one, literally. Well, if this doesn’t chase you away then you must be a brave soul. God shall reward you with cookies. So today at college I learned about poop, ah college, the best education money can buy. Ok actually I think Yale is the best education money can buy, but for this moment we’ll pretend its WSU just because I like my little phrase. Anyways, I thought I knew all there was to know about poop. I poop, you poop, they poop, poop happens, what more do you need to know? There’s more, and it’s very interesting as well as gross; but I’m sure you knew the latter already.

So, let us pretend we are in 19th century London … ok now let’s hurry back because if a person was actually able to travel back in time they wouldn’t be able to handle the stench. How did 19th century London deal with it? Well, they were exposed to it their whole lives so although I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant, they did have a sort of tolerance for it since they didn’t actually have a choice. Why didn’t they have a choice you may ask? Duh, they didn’t have toilets or a sewage system. Pfft. Dumb ass.

What they did have though were chamber pots. Go get a bucket real quick … go on, I’ll be here waiting. Ok now stand in your dining room and pretend that is the size of your house, set the bucket down, now poop in it. Well, what are you waiting for? Oh I see. That’s disgusting, hmmm, also no privacy, plus what do you do with the poop after. You throw it out the window of course. Right onto the city streets. Of course since the stench is outside as well as in your house you’ll probably wait until it’s full before you toss it because it doesn’t make a difference anyway. If you actually pooped in the bucket like I told you … well … your disgusting, but, you also got a taste, and smell, for what it was like to be a 19th century pooper. On a side note, only the upper class had enough money to buy a house with enough rooms so that the chamber pot could be in a secluded room and thus gracing you some well deserved privacy, but, it was about the same equivalent as using a porta potty today.


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In London there were people everywhere, around 2.5 million people, the average person disposes of a half a pound of poop a day, there were also a lot of horses as well as other various animals, I don’t know how much a horse poops a day but I’m sure it’s more than a half a pound, so close your eyes and image for a minute just how much shit was on those London streets. Not to mention there was always the risk of having crap thrown on your head when people dumped out their chamber pots just as you were walking by. Hence why people ran for cover when they heard a voice above yell out "Gardez Lui" - or, loosely translated, "Look out" right before dumping their pot; this is where the term “Lui” comes from in England. This is also why women walked on a certain side of a man so that she was closer to the street so that a man would be struck by the offensive disposal before a woman would; ah romance. I’ll give you a minute to process that, and throw up if you need to.

Are you done? Do you feel better? OK, back to poop. So eventually a man named Edwin Chadwick woke up one day and decide there must be something done about all this crap. His solution was to clear the cesspit known as London by flushing all the sewage into the Thames; pronounced temz, Thames is a river in England. This way they could flush, literally, all the poop off the city streets. Problem solved right? Perhaps, except that the good people of London not only used the Thames as their flushing system, but they also got their drinking water from it as well. What could go wrong right? A lot could, and in 1832 London had its first outbreak of Cholera.

Cholera is characterized by profuse diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, etc. ECT! My God, it gets worse? From 1848-1849 50,000 people died of Cholera, in 1853-1854 15,000 people died, and in that same year 750 people died in a two block area within 3 days! This disease had become so consistent that eventually it was just a normal part of life for the people of London to watch everyone around them die, and yet, they had no idea why. They believed that the bad smelling air was what caused this disease and they named it Miasma. Could it be the water perhaps? Nah! Au contraire my friend. One day a man named John Snow opened his mind just a little bit wider than anyone else that day and thought to himself, “Could it be the water?” Yes, it could be! After thousands upon thousands of deaths someone finally figured it out. Ok, I’ll stop talking about poop now.


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Night (Four Times of the Day) by William Hogarth, 1738

2 comments:

Leslie Ligon said...

Pretty damn funny. Quite informative too. Glad I live in a time with plumbing.

Leslie Ligon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
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