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Biffy gift nifty for Cottage Grove boy

Caleb Karnitz excitedly checks out the portable toilet delivered to his home as his family and friends look on. Karnitz, who turns 8 Sunday, for several months has had a fascination with the Jimmy's Johnnys portable toilets. The interest in a seemingly random item is a characteristic of Caleb's autism, his parents said. A family friend organized the delivery. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)1 / 2
Caleb Karnitz got a T-shirt along with the portable toilet delivery from Jimmy's Johnnys at his family's Cottage Grove home Saturday. Karnitz is on the autism spectrum and his parents said in recent months he has been interested in the company's portable toilets, going so far as to learn about them online and ask to ride his bike to nearby parks to see them. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)2 / 2

Caleb Karnitz spent the past few months fascinated by portable toilets.

The Cottage Grove boy researched porta-potties on the Jimmy's Johnnys company website, asked to visit nearby parks with satellite bathrooms and even watched videos about how they're cleaned and delivered.

So imagine Caleb's excitement when he was told to wait outside his home Saturday morning for a birthday surprise — and a Jimmy's Johnnys truck pulled up and dropped a toilet in his driveway.

"What the heck are they doing with that?" a giddy Caleb asked while his parents, Jason and Susan, recorded his reaction. "Wow!"

The obsession with a seemingly random object is a characteristic of Caleb's autism, his father said. The Grey Cloud Elementary School student is high functioning on the autism spectrum, and certain things just stick with him.

Portable toilets have been Caleb's No. 1 interest of late.

"This is his absolute favorite thing — bigger than 'Star Wars,'" his father said as the family and their friends gathered outside their 62nd Street home.

The delivery was organized by Angela Scheller, a friend of the family, after she saw Jason Karnitz's recent Facebook message to Jimmy's Johnnys about his son's interest in portable toilets and his request for a small model toilet for the boy.

Scheller contacted the company directly and asked to have a portable toilet delivered in conjunction with Caleb's 8th birthday Sunday. She said the company owner agreed to donate a portable toilet for a few days.

The clean toilet was delivered by Jimmy's Johnnys employee Ben Pilquist, who said the boy's interest was great.

"Normally when I pull up people run," Pilquist joked.

Instead, Caleb jumped up and down in excitement and checked out the spiffy biffy over and over with his 5-year-old sister, Lexi.

"You like these things more than I do," Pilquist joked to the boy.

"I think we need to get Caleb a job there," his dad said.

"Oh, he's hired," Pilquist replied.

Eventually, someone asked the question everyone wondered about.

"If he wants to use it, that's OK — just don't tip it over," Pilquist joked.

The toilet was placed next to the garage and visible from the street. Jason Karnitz said anybody who knows Caleb would understand the unusual sight.

"This is incredible," his father said. "He'll never forget this."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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