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Need to use the bathroom on a road trip? Your solution is in the bag.

Here’s a stubborn, recurring dilemma. Your family is itching for a coronavirus escape. That means a road trip, which means trying to figure out a bathroom strategy. An increasing number of public restrooms are open, but not all of them. Additionally, there are still some among us who are not interested in public highway bathrooms at this particular moment.

It’s a real head scratcher, but I wasn’t about to let a little tinkle trouble stand between me and the open road. I’m a man of action, a man of ideas, and, apparently, I’m also now a man who urinates in plastic bags. COVID-19 has made 2020 mighty surreal, but for me the most surreal moment of them all was opening an umbrella in my car and placing it over my midsection for privacy as I strategically arranged a Travel John disposable urinal underneath.

The Travel John is a plastic bag that you put up to your, um, area, and then you do your thing. It’s not just a simple bag. It’s filled with some kind of magic absorbing chemical that turns liquids into a solid-ish gel. Before I continue, let me just reiterate that this is intended for liquids, and by liquids I mean pee. Perhaps vomit if it comes to that. My solutions can only go so far, after that you’re on your own.

The whole thing never would have occurred to me without a trip to a dollar store in Japan. Back in the good old days of 2019, I was strolling around a Dasio store in Kyoto. Dasio is the most amazing dollar store on the planet. When I’m there I enjoy buying crazy gifts for friends. One of the things I picked up on the 2019 trip was a travel toilet. The illustrations on the package indicated that it was something to be used in a car. Ha, ha. Imagine that. Needing to use some sort of plastic bag because you need to go that badly while on a road trip.

The joke was on me. Fast forward less than a year, and I’m actually using the thing. I suspect my friends who received one are using it as well, although none have fessed up. Perhaps the thank you cards were lost in the mail? Before you single me out as a weirdo for peeing in a bag, I’d like to point out that I’m not the only weirdo doing this. Searches for the product on Amazon increased dramatically between May and June.

The Travel John isn’t the only brand around, and, although the version I used seemed as if it could handle more than one kind of anatomy, there’s also the Travel Jane. I understand this entire concept may cause some problems for those who are pee shy. I can picture a road trip with a dad yelling “Everyone out of the car. NOW!” The privacy issue is also tough. I used the umbrella trick (not recommended), but I’m sure the more clever among you will have better ideas. If you come up with any, please share.

There is one thing I find strange about the product, aside from the product itself. It’s billed as reusable. Meaning if you don’t hit a certain fluid level the first time, you can seal it up and use it again. Um, no thank you. I try to stay positive, but in this case I’d prefer to think of the bag as half empty rather than half full.


Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.

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