Marina was on a mission. It was Sunday morning and she was scouring the tables at a flea market in Gent’s medieval neighborhood of Patershol.
She and Koen take their vegetable scraps to the community garden compost bin regularly but fruit flies hovering over the bucket on their apartment balcony were annoying. They needed a compost bucket with a lid.
She could have looked online. Garden Supply Company advertises leak-proof and odor-free compost pails that “match your décor.” Their top seller is a mere $39.95 plus shipping, but it’s doubtful they ship to Belgium. Besides, flea markets are so much more fun.
Marina spotted a white enamel bucket with a handle and a lid—exactly what she wanted.
“Young people are buying these again. I just sold one to another young person,” said the woman selling an assortment of goods.
Marina asked her what it was.
“A piss pot. 15 euro.”
“It will be a perfect compost bucket,” Marina said, handing her the money.
As she walked through the cobblestone streets with her prize, people kept saying, “Look, it’s a piss pot” or “She’s got a piss pot” and laughing. One elderly woman asked if piss pots were coming back in fashion. A gentleman asked how much she paid.
The proper Brits across the North Sea would refer to Marina’s find as a “chamber pot” but they are not so genteel in Belgium. Back in the days before indoor plumbing, you’d save yourself a trip to the privy in the middle of the night by relieving yourself in a portable piss pot. Marina got a real-life history lesson at the flea market, and shared her sustainability creed with the older generation: reduce, recycle, reuse, and repurpose. As an added bonus, there is not a fruit fly to be seen in her new compost bucket. Laurie Lynch
Written on Slate: We don’t have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we’ve got.” Andre Dubus
Granddaughter Photo Update: Papa Richard and Tantine Marina took Lais to the beach at Oostende. With her lovey Doudou in hand, Lais ventured into the waters of the North Sea and tasted the salt spray.