I don’t have much shame…. At least that’s what my wife tells me. I have plenty of shame, though–just not as much of the “social” sort of shame. I possess a special “shame exemption” when it come to things that go down in the bathroom. For example, I have no trouble posting a blog devoted almost entirely to pooping. This lack of shame when it comes to issues of the scatological nature started at a young age….
When I was in about third or fourth grade, I was in this thing called “Cadets” — It was basically like Boy Scouts for kids in the Christian Reformed Church (there was a Christian Reformed version of Girl Scouts as well called “The Calvinettes.” Yes, they were named after John Calvin). Once a year, the Cadets would have a big camping deal called a Camporee or a Jamboree or a Dutchoree or something…. We would all drive out into the woods (there was no hiking), meet up other Cadets from all the other Christian Reformed Churches, and do a little light camping. We brought our floating Ivory soap and our crappy Coleman Car Camper sleeping bags, and we would fill the tent with the kind of smell that can only be created with the combustible combination of pre-adolescence and giant cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. We pretended we didn’t know that the counselors were smoking by the fire, and when we finally slept, we slept light–listening for the sounds of footsteps from other clubs coming to “raid our tent” (basically just pulling out all our poles and having everything come crashing down on our stinky little heads).
Anyway, no shame…. When you’re out in the woods for any extended period of time with a hundred or so men and boys, you need to prepare a place for everybody to take a dump. What they would do is dig a giant hole between two trees, lash two large limbs between the trees, and then affix a couple of toilet seats to the limbs directly over the giant hole. They brought us all out to the latrine to teach us the steps involved in taking a shit in the woods. I still remember the instructions: 1) Wipe your ass. 2) Shake a little bit of the lime over the poo. 3) Take the shovel and cover your crap with some dirt. 4) Rinse, and repeat–Wait, that was Pert Plus–I think it was actually 4) Don’t fall in.
I swear I’ll get to it…. After they went over the instructions, one of the leaders looked at the giant half-circle of elementary and middle schoolers and said, “Alright–Anyone want to give it a try?” Before the leader could let me know that he was just joking, I was up there with my pants around my ankles taking a shit in front of an audience of my peers. Now you might think that this was the “no shame” portion, but this is just part of the story. The real lack of humiliation is shown in the fact that this event did not make enough of an impression for me to remember it on my own–I had to be told this story by a classmate at a friend’s wedding…. Something that could have scarred someone forever was probably forgotten by me by the time I used the latrine again three hours later (I poop a lot).
Alas, a life of carefree bowel movements is not meant to last forever…. In high school, one incident at a friend’s house filled me with a feeling of anxiety whenever the door to the bathroom is not within arm’s reach that continues to this day….
I was upstairs at my friend’s house when nature called. Actually, it was less of a call than a scream–One of those emergency situations where your body says, “Listen–You can either get us to a toilet or stay right here, but very shortly, this thing is going to go down one way or another.” I did the honorable thing and took my screaming bowels downstairs instead of using the one right next to his room, as I didn’t expect things to go well. I hustled down the stairs, thinking about how I was pretty sure I was going to make it to the toilet, but if, for some reason, the door was locked I probably wasn’t going to make it back upstairs. While saying a prayer of thanks for an unlocked door, I neglected (somewhat ironically) to lock the door myself.
It took me about 10 seconds to realize that there was no toilet paper on the roller, and I immediately broke out into a full sweat. This could not be happening–if ever there was a time for a FULL roll of TP, it was now. I surveyed my surroundings, but there was definitely no replacement rolls to be found. It was one of those bathrooms that had a curtain separating a washer and dryer, and I briefly considered looking for some sort of dark towel that no one would miss. Before it came to that, I decided I would at least look under the sink for a new roll. The layout of the room went Washer/Dryer–Toilet–Large Sink (large enough to be out of arm’s reach)–Door. I shuffled over to the sink, with my pants around my ankles, and bent down to look under the sink.
The moment I realized that there was nothing under the sink that could help me was also the same moment that my friend’s mom opened the door to her laundry room with a full hamper of clothes and swung the door into me–Naked ass in the air. I am not sure of the exact view that she had, but I can still hear the words the spoke as she hurriedly shut the door–“Oh God, Chris…. I am so sorry.” It wasn’t the kind of “I’m sorry” that people say when you bump into them, or even when you break something precious of theirs–It was the sort of “I’m sorry” that you say when someone has died. And to make matters a little more humiliating, through the closed doors I yelled, “Could you bring me a roll of toilet paper?”
A part of me did die that day. It was that young boy, freely pooping in the woods as a half-circle of strangers looked on, without a care in the world. I guess part of the purpose of this blog is to resurrect a piece of the spirit of that little boy that knows nothing of shame.