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Everybody Poops

29 Sep

Pooping is a fact of life.  So why are so many of us embarrassed to own the function when we’re in a public restroom?  Come on.  Everyone knows there are only a limited number of activities you could be conducting in there. Imagine a world where you don’t have to pull an abdominal muscle because you were taming that turd until you were certain all the feet under the neighboring stalls had finally vacated.

Do we really care that a total stranger, whom we will probably never see again, might deduce that we’re taking a shit in the very receptacle designed for the task?  It’s absurd really.  But we’ve all been there, consumed by the fear that a restroom witness will see us again, and maybe she’ll be behind the other side of a desk interviewing us for our next job, and she won’t give us the job because she knows what disgusting things our ass is capable of.  Enough already.  Let’s just drop the charade.  And while we’re at it, we should also agree to reign in the snickering when we find ourselves in the role of public poop witness.

I myself am guilty of public-pooping-shame-games.  When I haven’t been lucky enough to find the solace of an empty public restroom, I’ve gotten creative.   I have timed the release of a violent fart with the flushing of another toilet in the line of stalls.  Diarrhea rumblings have been stifled by high-powered hand dryers.  The single plop of a regular poop has been masked by my own coughing, even though that same cough might pinch the loaf prematurely and prompt a do-over.

The next time you find yourself in one stall in a line of many occupied stalls, just let loose and see what happens.  Heidi found herself in that situation a few years ago after indulging in one too many helpings of refried beans.  She did what a lot of us who find themselves ‘cocked and fully loaded’ would do.  Wait.  And she did wait- until all the stalls were empty except for one.  After several painful minutes, it became apparent that urine was not on the agenda for either party.  Heidi decided to stop holding it in and let it rip.  The Mexican Stand-off was over.  Turns out the other woman had been playing the same warped version of shit-chicken, and Heidi wondered if she also had sweat dripping from her nose and running down the back of her shirt.   They proceeded to shit with all the fervor of people who thought there wasn’t a soul in a ten-mile radius.  It was a glorious duet.

And so it should be for all of us.

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Back to School Bathroom Blues: Update

27 Sep

Our little angel has enjoyed the “home-bowl advantage” for every BM since the school year started.  While I hope that this continues to be the case until Memorial Day, it is highly unlikely.  What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is cause for a little pinprick of alarm.  It seems that arm-length and a few lessons in ass-wiping isn’t enough to keep a crap-tastic disaster at bay.  The art of poop removal is a long process, the details of which have to be reinforced and revisited almost daily.

A few days ago, my daughter ran the last hundred yards of the trek from the elementary school to our front door.

“I gotta poopy!”

Enough said.  I jogged ahead of her and cleared a path to the toilet. When she finished her extracurricular activity she asked me to do the haz-mat cleanup.

“Mommy?  Will you wipe me?”

“No, sweetheart.  You’re a big girl.  You know how to do it all by yourself now.”  We’ve recently discovered that the novelty of wiping your own butt has about a two week shelf life.

“Please, Mommy.  Help!”

“I will show you how to do it again, but I will not do it for you.”

I’m not sure if what happened next was because she was pissed off that I wouldn’t clean her up or if it was a genuine lapse in post-poop hygiene.  My daughter took a swipe at her rear that deposited a tiny smear on the toilet paper and a big brown clump on her thumb.  Before I could administer further instructions or intervene with a steady hand, my daughter leaned forward and wiped her thumb on my jeans.  She did it as casually as if she believed I were a paper towel.

Work in progress.  That’s what toilet independence really is.  And I will quietly console myself with that information the next time I squeeze out a round of Shout to remove butt-paste from my favorite jeans.

Highway to Hell

19 Aug

Before small children were required to be strapped in like the mental patients they really are, parents drove around with kids bouncing around in the backseats of station wagons with no regard to the possibility of their flying through a windshield.

One of my favorite road trip games as a kid was to sit with my face nearly flush with the back window looking for truckers and pumping my right hand in the universal signal for, “please blow your obnoxiously loud horn for our amusement.”  My sister and I even kept score to see who could get the most truckers to acknowledge us with their high decibel battle cries.  During one of these contests, I kneeled on the seat, peering out the back window and scanning the highway for the next big rig.  What I couldn’t see was that the stretch of highway my mother approached was choked with accident-scene traffic. She slammed on the brakes.

Once airborne, my body accomplished an involuntary back-flip.  Did I stick the landing?  Hardly.  But I did manage to jam my head a good fifteen inches under the driver’s seat.  I briefly mused on the dust-bunny population, but this observation deteriorated into a claustrophobia-induced state of panic.  The rest of my body twitched in fruitless efforts to dislodge its upper half while my sister nearly pissed her pants with laughter and the family dog licked my exposed legs and feet.

Playing the parent role in the most recent car trips of my life has been an eye-opener.  Let’s just say I’ve offered apologies to my mother for offenses that took place when Olivia Newton-John was on Kasey Kasem’s Top Forty.  Oh my, does she laugh heartily when I recount our misadventures of the road.

This year’s annual road trip from South Carolina to New York started off like all road trips, with optimism and energy.  Our four-year-old and the dog were nestled in the backseat, blissfully looking out their respective windows without the slightest stirrings of car-sickness.  But after only thirty miles, our little Hyundai started bucking like it had never met a sparkplug.

“Didn’t you just get this thing trip-checked yesterday?” my husband asked.

I called AAA and ripped their technician a new one, but this didn’t solve anything.  We had a family reunion deadline looming twenty-four hours and 800 miles ahead, and yelling at a mechanic wasn’t going to change that.

We turned the car around, unpacked it, took our other car for a quick oil change and packed it up.  New York or Bust, take two.  Less enthusiasm and energy, but we determined to adopt good attitudes.  We even sang along to the radio and waxed optimistic that since we wouldn’t be hitting the Tri-State Area until after midnight, there wouldn’t be the usual parking lot of traffic to endure.  It was a freakin’ Kumbaya moment considering our setback.

We were cruising along pretty well for the first ten hours, as we always do; but then the little things start wearing us down.  Our little Phoebe started to tease the dog, waving a croissant in front of his face like an annoying hypnotist.  You know you’ve really earned “Mom” status when you acquire your ‘Go-Go-Gadget’ arms capable of snaking into the depths of a backseat to confiscate contraband or administer discipline.  I activated those suckers, retrieved the croissant, rolled down the window and chucked it out without saying a word.  That bought us some silence.

After the twelve-hour mark, my husband and I started scoring one another’s farts on a scale of 1 to 10, a sign we were cracking a bit.  I was in the middle of trying to guess the ingredients of my husband’s protein bars by the “ass-perfume” he had recently sprayed, when Phoebe decided to renew her crusade to annoy the dog.

“Knock it off!” I warned her.

She did it again.  Did I mention we’d been in the car for twelve hours?

“I said, knock it off!”  I was in the midst of deploying my ‘Go-Go-Gadget’ Mom arms when my husband decided to get in on the action.

Despite the fact that we were all depending on him to steer the car, and that we were in the left lane in a construction zone whose concrete barriers nearly kissed the side-view mirrors, my husband turned 180 degrees in his seat to pin Phoebe’s arms and scream, “Stop it NOW!”

“Brendon, you almost hit the barrier!  Just drive!  I’ll take care of her!”

“She’s got to stop it!”

“I know, but you don’t have to run the car off the road!”

“I don’t care!”

“Well, I do!  I don’t want to die!” I shouted.

And then we all enjoyed the most awkward minutes of family silence we’ve ever endured.  Even the dog hung his head low off the edge of the backseat, not daring to make eye contact.

After more than half an hour Phoebe finally ventured, “Can we talk yet?”

She had breached the silence, and we glossed over the near-death experience pretty smoothly.  Until we reached New York.  It was after midnight, but New York still felt obligated to live up to its reputation for nefarious traffic.

“Un-fucking believable.”  This is what my husband always says in traffic.  Even if the situation that induced the traffic is entirely believable.  In this case there was some construction on the Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway, but that this was causing a back-up that had us at a dead stop for forty-five minutes in the middle of the night was pretty “un-fucking believable.”  Then the only thing that could have made our situation worse happened.

Phoebe woke up.

“I have to pee.”

“Of course you do! It’s the only piece missing from this wonderful scenario.  We’re on a bridge with no shoulder at a dead stop. Of course you have to take a piss.”

“It’s okay Phoebe, we’ll think of something,” I assured her.  I started rooting around in the car for a receptacle and could only find the dog’s water dish.

“Are you kiddin’ me right now?” my husband asked.

“Desperate times,” I laughed.

“No.  We’ll find something. Phoebe can you hold it for a little while?”

She nodded her sleepy little head.  I immediately went to Plan B, which was to root around for paper towels and napkins to soak up the coming flood. But then the traffic started moving and we were able to pull off at the next ramp which landed us in the middle of a residential area with dimly lit sidewalks.

“Mommy, I gotta go right now!”

“I know, I know.”  I have never unbuckled her so fast.  I maneuvered her onto the sidewalks and yanked her pants down just as the floodgates let loose.

And then we were on the road again.  And then I lost my mind with laughter.  I couldn’t help but think of Clark Griswold rallying his troops after the iconic station wagon has been launched off the road as if Evel Knievel were at the wheel.  I used to think National Lampoon’s Vacation was far-fetched when I was a kid.  And maybe the part about losing the dead aunt’s corpse while she was being towed behind the family car is stretching the average experience a bit.  But most of us have experienced the onset of delirium courtesy of the accumulation of mishaps.

That brand of delirium is an odd emotion, but one I always give in to.  I call it Road Trip Catharsis,  or Car-tharsis, if you will.  It’s yet another example of the saving grace of laughter: when you feel like you’re on a highway to hell it will keep you from crying, and it’s a lot more fun.

Check out this classic scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation


Bridesmaids: Welcome to the Boys Club of Bathroom Humor, Ladies

8 Jun

While hanging together for a week to work on our writing projects, Jane and I took the opportunity to have a bit of girl time and what better way to do that than watch the ode to female friendship currently playing to packed theaters: Kristin Wiig’s brilliant Bridesmaids.

What makes this comedy a revelation is that the female friendship story line that usually takes a backseat to the romantic plot in most chick flicks has been brought front and center. The friendship between two women, played by Wiig and Maya Rudolph, is the core of the movie, while secondary friendships and a romantic subplot between Wiig’s character and a lovable cop add conflict and support to the main plot: what happens between two best friends when one marries and the other is left behind?

Women (and even a surprising number of men) are flocking to this movie not only because it’s incredibly funny, smart, and superbly acted, but it’s a film any one of us can relate to – we’ve all had friends that we’ve lost to the monumental changes in life: marriage, babies, moves, graduations. While we all may not have shit ourselves in the middle of a busy city street while wearing a couture wedding gown, most of us have shit ourselves at one point in time, sometimes in awkward places.

Finally, women are no longer deprived of an intelligent comedy that doesn’t revolve around an uptight woman and the perpetual frat boy that the film makers force us to believe is perfect for her. With Bridesmaids’ huge success, will Hollywood get the memo and deliver more of the same?

If producers are interested in making money they will, because at last, funny ladies are welcome to the boys club of bathroom humor. Bridesmaids has ushered in a new era for women’s comedy – suddenly, it’s not only okay to have a vagina and tell poop jokes, but according to a study done by eHarmony, men actually love their women to employ juvenile or sarcastic “guy humor.” If you can deliver potty humor, guys think, “I can joke around with you and have sex with you? Jackpot!”

So, ladies get in touch with your inner Daniel Tosh and let the funny shit fly!

As for the rest of the guys still resistant to women and gross out humor – get over it. Pandora’s Toilet has been opened and women aren’t afraid to let you know that, yes, we shit and sometimes it can be hilarious.

Passport to Dis-ASS-ter

13 May

When anticipating a trip to a foreign country, most people worry about things like passports, language barriers and “did I forget anything?”  However, when I plan to visit a country for the first time, I worry about toilets.  And after many trips to different places around the world, I have good reason to be anxious.  If you’ve never left America, you probably don’t understand my fear of the toilet unknown, so I’ll explain how toilets came to be my number one concern when traveling.

A dance club in Songton, South Korea provided a unique toilet experience. To use the one private toilet in the place, women had to walk past the urinal trough that all the men pissed in. However, once you made it to the lone toilet room, you had to hover over the ancient toilet bowl with no seat – a toilet with a permanent crust on it that can only be described as outhouse nasty. Hovering was no easy feat when drunk and there was always a good chance you’d fall into the hole unless you had a girlfriend holding your hands. So any given night out, you’d find yourself and a couple of your best girlfriends crammed into a little stall laughing and holding onto one another while each one pissed. And if you couldn’t contain the belly laughs long enough to sustain your friend’s hover and you dropped her – party over.  It was a long walk back home. Also, you’d better find yourself another bathroom buddy because always in the back of your mind you were wondering if she wasn’t planning her own horrible toilet plunge revenge on you.

In Germany, no two toilets are alike, so every time you go to the bathroom, you play another game of “Find the flush button.” Some would have the button or lever on the top of the tank, on the side, in the wall, and sometimes even in the floor. One restaurant’s toilet had me so stumped after 15 minutes of looking for the flush button, I had to track down a waitress to show me where the thing was hiding. With some exasperation, she showed me that it was a step button on the floor that happened to blend in with the floor tile. I was so annoyed that I wished I’d had a stinking turd in the bowl waiting to offend her further.  A friend who just recently returned from a trip to Germany said he got these directions from a host: “FYI, the flush button is behind you to the left, about four feet off the floor, near the light switch. And it’s shaped like a poorly made pancake.”

And then you have the coin operated restrooms found in many European cities. I was visiting Ireland recently when the urge to relieve my bladder overtook me. I thought that the coin operated restrooms would be the way to go since everything is automated from the toilet paper, the faucet, the soap and the paper towels dispenser and the enclosure is automatically washed and rinsed after each use…or is supposed to be. I put my coins into the slot and the door opened. I rushed in without looking around and after the automatic door shut behind me, I was horrified to find that the automatic washing was not washing anymore and hadn’t been for some time.  There was vomit, shit and pee all over the tiny room. The few seconds it took for the door to open and let me out felt like an eternity. Thankfully the room next to the filthy one was clean and ready to go, so I quickly used it and went on my way. Needless-to-say, I made sure I used restrooms in restaurants and hotels and stayed away from the glorified port-a-potties for the rest of the trip.

Sometimes there isn’t a toilet at all; sometimes it’s a hole in the ground. One trip abroad was to a little village on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. Our hotel had its own water supply and running water, so I naively assumed that other businesses in town would have running water too. Imagine my horror when I had to use the restroom for the first time at a restaurant in town and the waitress proceeded to escort me to a hole in the ground in a courtyard behind the building.  Most would’ve thanked her and waited to go once they got back to their hotel.  But me? I had the first rumblings of Montezuma’s Revenge building up so there was no waiting. It was going to be the hole in the ground or my shorts, so I chose the hole in the ground. It was terribly embarrassing as the little kids who lived around the courtyard laughed at every grunt and fart. After wiping with the few squares of toilet paper provided and no way to wash my hands, I couldn’t get back to our hotel fast enough. Thankfully I never had to the use the hole again the rest of the trip.

Before I’d ever ventured past the borders of the US, I never thought I’d one day give thanks for my easy-to-use, clean, private toilet, but I do say a prayer of thanks for my toilet, after every single trip.

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