Note: This post comes from John’s weekly newsletter, The Daly Grind:
I wanted to start off this week’s ‘Daly Grind’ newsletter by first: hoping you all had a great 4th of July, and second: thanking those of you who’ve already pre-ordered a copy of my upcoming novel, Restitution: A Sean Coleman Thriller.
Since last week’s newsletter, other online retailers have started selling the book. So, there are now plenty of purchase options, including:
- Barnes & Noble
- Indie Bound (a website that helps you find where you can purchase books locally)
I’m also looking forward to doing a book-signing tour early next year, to meet with readers at bookstores and events, and talk more about the Sean Coleman Thrillers… which brings me to this week’s newsletter topic.
Last Tuesday, I took my parents to the Greeley Independence Stampede rodeo, an annual local event that begins the last week of June, and goes through July 4th (ending with a big fireworks show). The event attracts lots of people from around the state and Wyoming, and features not only a lot of top rodeo talent, but also big music acts (mostly Country) for nighttime concerts, vendors (food and otherwise), and a big carnival (with lots of rides and contests).
In between events, when I was walking around the stadium, I ran into an acquaintance — a gentleman I’ve met at a few book events over the years. Among other topics, we talked a little about the upcoming novel, and when I confirmed that I’d be doing some in-person promotion of it, he chuckled and said something like, “Watch out for the port-a-potties.”
It took me a second to get his meaning, but then I laughed. He was referring to a story I’d told on my website during my last book tour in 2019 (for Safeguard). It was about a specific event I worked.
The story got a lot of reaction at the time (I believe it’s still the most viewed post on my website), and I suspect most people who read it are like this person, in that they found it so entertaining (or possibly cringe-worthy) that they still remember it. But I don’t think I ever shared it in my newsletter (neither this one, nor the previous MailChimp one). So, for the pleasure of ‘Daly Grind’ readers (or perhaps displeasure if you have a weak stomach), I’ve decided to include it in this week’s letter.
Reader warning: it’s pretty gross.
Originally published on September 4th, 2019:
Last Sunday was the first stop on my Safeguard book tour. It was at the Windsor Harvest Festival in Windsor, Colorado. This is a very well-attended annual event (only 15 minutes from my house) that features a hot-air balloon launch, concerts, a big parade, and a carnival in a large park where individuals and businesses can rent booths from which to sell their products and services.
Every two years, I participate in the event to sell and sign early copies of my latest book (along with the rest of my books). I’ve been doing this since 2013, when From a Dead Sleep came out. It usually goes very well, and I have a lot of fun doing it. It’s become sort of a local tradition, in fact, to give Windsor readers first crack at the newest Sean Coleman thriller.
Anyway, Sunday was a good day. I met a lot of people and set a new record for book sales. Yay! But it was also an absolute scorcher outside — the temperature reaching 100 degrees. My awning provided some good shade, but it was still darned hot. I gave up a lot of sweat, folks. And since the event goes from 9am to 5pm, it was a very long day.
Around 4pm, once the crowd had pretty well thinned out, I began taking down my awning and putting my unsold books and booth items back in boxes. I was nearly finished with everything when nature called.
There were a couple of porta-potties pretty close by, but since I was alone, I didn’t think that leaving my plastic money box beside my dismantled booth would be a good idea. The box had a lot of cash in it, and the lid wasn’t even staying on quite right, so I shoved the box in my backpack, and zipped it up.
It wasn’t such an easy thing to do. My backpack is old and has a lot of problems, including one of its two main zippers being broken. I’ve only kept the thing around because it’s a good size and I like how it looks. Anyway, once it was zipped up, I pulled the pack over my shoulders and walked over to the porta-potty.
Now, I doubt you’ll want to hear every detail of this next part, so I’ll leave out some of the unnecessary stuff. I will say that, as most of you assuredly already know, porta-potties tend to feel about 50 degrees warmer inside than what the temperature is outside. And since it was still around a 100 outside, you can imagine how crazy hot I was the moment I stepped foot through the door. I will also say that this particular porta-potty had a toilet on the right side and a urinal on the left. I required only the latter.
So, while I was conducting business, and another bucket of sweat was pouring down my face, I suddenly heard a loud crash from somewhere behind me. Being that the lavatory was on the shoulder of a street, I worried for about half a second that a car had slammed into its side wall. Unfortunately, that would have been the preferable explanation.
When I turned my head, I gasped in terror at the sight of my cash box and some other stuff that had been in my backpack, dropping through the open toilet and into the murky depths below. The zipper on my backpack had slid open, and nearly everything had fallen out of it — some onto the floor, but the most important stuff right into the toilet.
“F***!” I yelled, quickly wondering if anyone within earshot thought I was having some type of medical issue. (If they did, they didn’t bother to check on me).
To add to the horror, I couldn’t immediately attend to the situation because I was still dealing with a more organic plumbing issue. Once that was resolved, I yanked up the one zipper in the vicinity that was actually functioning properly (while careful not to reenact a scene from There’s Something About Mary). I then glared at the abominable scene of my open money box (lid floating nearby), hundreds of dollars in cash, and my new Square credit card reader resting on a large wad of toilet paper that was floating above blue water and…other things.
Again, I will leave out the non-crucial details. Let’s just say that a porta-potty used by hundreds (maybe thousands) of people that day, who had eaten carnival food, wasn’t a place I wanted to spend a lot of time in, let alone having to deal with the reality that if I didn’t get much more intimate with the situation — and quickly — I was going to lose a day’s worth of hard-earned money.
Make no mistake about it… Time was of the essence. Everything that had just gone in could sink like the Titanic at any moment, at which point the situation would become immeasurably worse. There was no time to look for gloves, plastic bags, or any other kind of sifting tools that could soften the blow.
Taking the advice of Dr. Jack Shepard from the television show, Lost, I allowed the fear to only take hold for 5 seconds. I then sprang into action, lowering to a knee and moving quickly and deliberately with my hands like a surgeon, separating the things I wanted from the things I didn’t. I ignored the smells and colors, and I salvaged everything but a handful of bookmarks that I decided to leave behind for the polyurethane gods.
I then stood back up, squared my jaw, and quickly slathered on some blistering hot hand-sanitizer from the dispenser next to me.
Though I don’t really remember actually exiting the porta-potty, I imagine it probably looked something like this from The Descent:
Minutes later, I had packed up everything and was driving home. That’s when my writer’s instinct kicked in, and I began considering whether what had just happened was some kind of metaphor. Did it mean my writing career was going to end up in the toilet? Did it mean my new book stinks?
Or was I just meant to finally return to my blog, to share this delightfully cringe-worthy story with the rest of you (and maybe compel you to think twice before shaking my hand if we ever meet)?
Hard to say…
Well… there you go, folks. Happy Monday!
Do you have a gross porta-potty story? If so, please keep it to yourself. I can handle a re-read of my own, but that’s about it.
Congratulations to ‘Daly Grind’ subscriber Ellen B., who won signed copies of three of my Sean Coleman Thrillers over the weekend. Your books will be mailed out this week!
I’ll be doing more exclusive newsletter giveaways in the future, so stay tuned.
Hey, remember Bridget Fonda?
Obligatory Dog Shot
“Sunshine on my shoulder… makes me sleepy.”
1970’s The Worst of Jefferson Airplane (which is actually a ‘best of’ compilation that includes the band’s top songs up until that point) is a must-have for any rock fan’s vinyl collection. It includes their big psychedelic classics, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” and was the final album from what music fans consider their “classic” line-up.
Many children of the 80s (like me) were introduced to Grace Slick through the cheesy pop-rock band Starship, which I suppose some would argue was the last of multiple incarnations of Jefferson Airplane. But it was Slick’s work with the original band in the 1960s that made her an icon. The album’s a great listen.
On a side note, I contend that the best cinematic use of a Jefferson Airplane song was not in “The Cable Guy”, but rather the Coen Brothers film, “A Serious Man” (both at the beginning and end of the movie).
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
Want to drop me a line? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, please click on the “Subscribe now” button below. Doing so will get these posts emailed directly to you.
Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!