Happy Mardi Gras -- Where's the bathroom?

It's a natural question. We all have needs. But it's not always easy  --  or cheap  --  getting these particular needs met during Carnival.

Just how hard is it to find Mardi Gras relief?

Consider this: Between today and Tuesday, New Orleans will play host to an estimated 1 million people. And the City of New Orleans is letting them share 220 free portable potties.

Even a Florida election commissioner can see that it just doesn't add up.

To morons and drunks, the solution is obvious. But fortunately, public urination is still considered a crime in the Big Easy. Each year more than 90 percent of arrests along the parade routes and throughout the French Quarter are for public urination.

"It is just a constant problem that we have, especially around Mardi Gras time," said Sgt. Paul Accardo, a spokesperson for the NOPD. "It's caused by a combination of people having too much to drink and just not caring. They don't realize that it is a real health hazard. We want to encourage people to have a good time, but they need to keep their drinking under control. Otherwise, they start making irrational decisions that will get them arrested."

In other words, if you don't want to end up in jail or pay a $150 to $500 fine for public urination, you'd better not begin your Mardi Gras reveling without a well-thought-out potty plan. And notwithstanding the lyrics to "Ain't No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day," there are options. It's just a matter of whether you're willing to find them.

Over the years, restaurants, entrepreneurs and school and church groups have found profitable solutions to the potty problem. Some businesses close their restrooms to the public, but many others charge for their facilities or use receipts from purchases as tickets that grant patrons admission to their bathrooms.

Enterprising locals have been known to rent portable toilets, park them on the back of a truck and charge up to $5 a visit. And schools and churches have found that Fat Tuesday facilities can provide fund-raising riches.

One local not-for-profit has cornered the market on upscale portable potty experiences.

"It's quite a spectacle, really. To have a clean restroom is such a thrill to people that they don't even know how to react," said James Thiele, 30, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of New Orleans, 4301 St. Charles Ave., where youth group members keep 15 portables in tip-top shape by spraying the cabins with Lysol after every visit and passing out hand sanitizer. Single visits are $1, with five "express" toilets set aside for parade-goers who purchase $10 all-day passes. Proceeds are used for church mission trips.

"After a while the free restrooms can get pretty dirty and it's unfortunate that some people don't realize how much effort it takes to keep them up," Thiele said. "It's a great fund-raiser for the kids and in a way it is a public service."

Local businesses who are bombarded with threats, arguments and questions over why they don't just let everyone use their facilities would have to agree. Larry Hill, a manager at Krystal on Bourbon Street, said it's upsetting how rude some visitors can get when they find out they have to make a purchase to use the restroom. They don't realize, he said, that providing a restroom is a service and not a right.

"The cost involved in keeping the bathroom up, security, all of that is put on us," Hill said. "They shouldn't get mad at the managers or employees about the rules. It is for their safety that businesses have to make such rules."

At most bars and restaurants in the Quarter, owners have to pay for extra security to keep an eye on the bathrooms and many times enlist extra maintenance help. As one bar owner so indelicately put it, "Would you want to clean up vomit? I don't think so. Well, my staff doesn't want to clean it up either. That's why we have to bring in more help, and it's the reason why all of the clubs have had to start charging a cover or a bathroom fee during Mardi Gras."