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Where Do You Go to the Bathroom During a Riot?

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An anonymous reader wrote in to say, During mass demonstrations (such as have been happening in Egypt) in large public areas, where do people go to the bathroom? These things aren't always predicted so that port-a-potties can be strategically placed in the area. Just thought it might be one more terribly uncomfortable thing to think about while protesting.”

According to reporter Sarah A. Topol, who was in Egypt two years ago during the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, logistics issues like finding places for thousands of people to pee aren’t that daunting and protests like these can be home to the occasional “surreal moment of normalcy.” 

[In Tahrir Square] the men have three choices: the metro station (i.e. the submerged sidewalk going to the underground which has been shuttered for over a week), and the bathrooms of two mosques. If you're a woman, there's only one option: the women's section of the square's major mosque. That's also where many women, especially those with children, sleep.

As we entered the mosque, I got a gentle pat down and a soft apology for the inconvenience. Inside, women sit and chat in the dim light. The cool green tiles of the bathroom are a far cry from the open sewer just 10 feet away from the entrance. There are only two working stalls, but they are immaculate.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the social justice group CODEPINK, was also in Cairo during the Arab Spring and asked protestors the same thing.

“Where do you go to the bathroom?,” I asked one of the women, as there is not one port-a-potty or bathroom in sight for this sea of people. “We go out to the street, knock on doors and ask to use the facilities. Complete strangers are opening their homes to us,” she answered.

Occupy Wall Street protestors also had to rely on the kindness of strangers and hope that local businesses would let them use the facilities, says Business Insider’s Robert Johnson. They got mixed results. 

Burger King put its foot down and required protesters to make a purchase before using the facilities and enforcing a 20-minute time limit on seating.

McDonald’s has been far more accommodating by allowing anyone off the street to some in and take care of business.

I caught the janitor leaving after his shift and asked him how the group was behaving. He narrowed his eyes, looked me up and down, and finally said "They're cool," before rushing off.

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Big Questions
Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
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CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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