Locked in the outhouse

For as long as I can remember I have always had to go to the bathroom three times in the night. I have no idea why, but it happens every night without fail, unless I am moderately dehydrated.

Massakory, Chad

For as long as I can remember I have always had to go to the bathroom three times in the night. I have no idea why, but it happens every night without fail, unless I am moderately dehydrated (which has happened on a number of occasions recently).

Over time I have become somewhat of an expert in navigating myself to the outhouse/bathroom, wherever that may be, doing what needs to be done, and then returning to bed, without ever having really woken up.

One night in June I woke up at 1 a.m. for my second trip of the night. As is often the case, I don’t recall the trip to the outhouse. Once finished my business I turned the door handle of the metal door – and I clearly remember this because the door didn’t budge.

I am sure that Medecins Sans Frontieres’ outhouses have been created to withstand serious attack. In addition to their heavy metal doors with slits for air vents, the outhouses are solid concrete from floor to ceiling (minus, of course, the hole to squat over).

I tried to turn the handle again – absolutely no movement. It took about 30 seconds before I fully woke up and realized the extent of the situation: I was locked in a concrete outhouse in the middle of a very hot night in Chad.

Trying to be self-reliant, I frantically fiddled a little longer with the door before calling out loudly for the night watchmen to come help me. He desperately tried to free this outhouse captive, but to no avail. He eventually went off in search of the hospital night watchmen.

The second night watchmen had no more success than the first. At this point I started to really feel the 45 degree night heat, and I noticed the extremely large camel spider on the ceiling.

I am not easily squeamish, but I find camel spiders frightening. They are generally quite large, and can be very aggressive. I decided that considering the context of the situation, it was best to ignore the spider and pretend it wasn’t there.


The night watchmen and I eventually decided that the project’s logistician had to be woken up. The logistician seemed to take it in stride that his sleep had been disturbed to save the expat locked in the outhouse.

He too tried unsuccessfully to turn the door handle (I decided it was not in my best interest to point out that if it was just a matter of simply turning the door handle, I would not still be in the outhouse). Once he was quite sure that the door handle would not turn, he left for the hospital, wrapped only in his towel, in search of a hammer.

Upon his return he began banging the door handle and lock off the door. With every loud bang on the metal door the spider got more agitated, and I got more worried. For the proceeding 45 minutes, I squatted in the corner of the outhouse, hiding from the door handle I was sure would be projected towards me at any moment, as the handle and lock were continually beaten/hammered. Eventually, drenched with sweat, I was freed.

Freedom seemed precious, and my bedroom, which on occasion seems like a cell in itself, appeared spacious and luxurious. Oh, relativity. Thankfully I had dehydrated enough during my time in captivity that I did not need to go to the bathroom again that night.

Tricia Newport is a nurse who lives in Whitehorse. This is part of a series of dispatches from Chad.

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