Crazy Car Conversations: The Tinkle Tax
Our family spends way too much time in the car. Shuttling between two homes with two boys, two girls, two parents and two dogs, it’s actually easier not to take the plane with our personal pilots and other paraphernalia. We arrive faster and fresher by driving.
I thought. We may need to rethink that.
During the school year, the kids have schoolwork to keep them busy. Some continue to do odds and ends—book reports and such—over the summer, but there’s a good chunk of time spent staring out the windows. Our oldest son and I have non-stop archaeological readings, and my husband drives while listening to his own lectures.
Part of the time, our teens sleep, as do the dogs. For some odd reason, we wake them up after two to three hours of languorous lethargy.
Benedetto believes they require entertainment, and naturally, I am more than willing to oblige. Everything from etiquette, to interviewing techniques, to the art of fine cuisine, and conversational dos and don’ts.
The collective yawn is deafening.
We pause at a dog park along the way and by the time everyone jumps back into the SUV after stretching our legs for five minutes, my husband-the-classicist has taken over.
You see, our youngest has a fascination with bathrooms. In much the same manner as our dogs might have to mark their territory and lift a leg on every fire hydrant, bush, and tree trunk, so our daughter loves to spend vast amounts of time in every bathroom known to mankind.
Hence, Benedetto ignores my conversational dos and don’ts and begins to lecture the children on the Emperor Vespasian and Italian urinals. That’s right, back in 74 A.D., he introduced public toilets which, I’m sure, were an improvement back in the day, but having glimpsed some hanging from the side of historic Italian buildings, I could live without any further mention of them.
“Ummm—“ I clear my throat loudly, trying to dispense with this topic.
“The point is the Urine Tax,” he informs me.
Of course, certainly, there had to be a point. But the Urine Tax?
“A Tinkle Tax?” it gives me pause.
This is how Vespasian made oodles of money back in the First Century. The urine was needed as a source of ammonia to wash the white woolen togas. The Romans tinkled in the public urinals, the urine was collected, sold, and the buyers paid the tax.
Titus, who received an allowance from his father Vespasian, had the unique capacity of youth to complain to his dad about the disgusting nature of the tax. The emperor showed Titus a gold coin and asked if the smell offended him. When he said it did not, Vespasian replied, “Yet it comes from urine.”
A well-known phrase, Benedetto quoted in Latin, “Pecunia non olet”, or “Money does not stink”.
Depending on its origins, I’m not so sure about that. Yet, on those long family drives, punctuated by multiple bathroom breaks, the Tinkle Tax may be an idea whose time has come.
—————Tags: crazy family conversations, family chats in the car, family life blog, how to entertain kids in the car, long family drives in the car, public urinals in Europe, Vespasian's Urine Tax