Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nurse the Hate: The Worst Bathroom Ever

If you really want to break the ice at a party, I would suggest asking the simple question, “Where’s the worst place you ever took a shit?”.  While this is a seemingly distasteful question, this is a universal experience that is burned into each one of our collective memories.  The answer will tell you much about the person.  In my experience, the more interesting the answer, the more interesting is the person.  A plain answer, without nuance, will generally reveal a plain person, also without nuance.  Is this a perfect question in every social scenario?  Well, probably not, but you will learn more about the person than if you asked where they had gone to high school.

I have a few candidates for my answer.  There was an ugly incident in Selestat, France.  A train station in Monte Russo, Italy comes to mind.  There are several rock clubs on the East Coast.  However, allow me to take you to the summer of 1989.  It was a hot summer.  It was the hottest on record up to that time.  I was living in a bleak rental house without air conditioning.  My window, which never produced a breeze, looked out on a patchwork of utility lines and shabby backyards.  The house was really a wonder of construction.  Somehow, no matter which room you were in that house, there was never a breeze.  A shower would be followed by immediate perspiration.  The thick stale air always hung like a moist blanket.  The key to living there was to limit movement, as if a lizard on a rock.  That summer was absolutely brutal.

The decision was made to go see the Grateful Dead with the Violent Femmes opening up at Buckeye Lake outside Columbus.  An extremely unusual bill, it was right in our wheelhouse.  I was, and am still, an unapologetic fan of the Grateful Dead.  Without “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead”, the idea of “Americana music” would be far fetched.  The problem with the Dead for many people is the wrapping paper.  Look, I get the fact that hippies are really frustrating.  Yes, the Dead seem to almost always be out of tune.  I know, they sure do noodle around a lot on those 90 minute second sets.  However, Jerry Garcia’s inventive playing and enthusiastic interpretation of American roots music was my gateway into a treasure trove of music styles like bluegrass, jazz, and Appalachian standards.  After I went to a couple shows and saw how much fun could be had, I was all in.  Hey man, maybe they’ll play “New Speedway Boogie” tonight…

I got into the Grateful Dead a few years before that “Touch of Grey” video on MTV blew the lid off the scene.  After years of toil, the Dead were suddenly a cool thing for The Public to check out.  Let’s pretend it’s 1967 and get fucked up at the big arena!  The circus is in town!  Shows went from 12,000 to 60,000 overnight.  While the size of the crowds were overwhelming, add into the mix that about 15,000 of the 60,000 people at the show thought it would be a great idea to try LSD for the first time.  Thus things like “parking the car” and “entering the facility” became almost impossible.  Traffic would be backed up two miles because some guy had set up a teepee on I-79 and was seeing visions.  “Hey man… How can I go to the show when my eyes fell out a hundred centuries ago?”  Um, I’m not sure, but can you get your dog out of my seat?

The show at Buckeye was at the peak of this insanity.  Buckeye is a “facility” in much the same way “Montana” is a facility.  Buckeye was an enormous group of rolling fields with a stage plopped down in the middle of it.  Snow fences circled an area the size of Harrisburg to keep the ticketless out.  Cars were herded in via one two-lane road in a traffic nightmare from The End of Days.  We finally parked the car in a vast field with 31,000 other cars.  There was a small outcropping of woods on the left.  Rumor had it that the concert was roughly a mile east.  It was then I noticed that in the woods a small group of guys that all looked like Charlie Manson were freaking out on some drug or combination of drugs, eyes peering out between the leaves like rabid raccoons.  They were gone.  Forget about them.  They were going on a trip that was going to be a rocky ordeal.  It would be a Lord of the Flies thing by nightfall.

We had a few hours to kill, and started in on our tailgate supplies.  The hippie community was the first group I saw that truly embraced craft beer.  In 1989, it seemed like everyone was drinking Samuel Smith, Saranac, or Sierra Nevada.  I think we had Saranac Pale.  We should have gone with water.  It was 102 degrees.  There was no breeze.  Not a cloud in the sky.  People sat Indian style in any shade available.  We drank and laughed it up, the sun roasting our skin.  I felt great, in that way you only can when you are 21 without a responsibility or care in the world.

The first gurgle in my intestine was a warning shot across the bow.  I was concerned, but hoped this was something along the lines of “at some point you will have to deal with this, but not yet…”.  The level of gastrointestinal discomfort rose.  I had notched up to DefCon3.  I would need someplace to go to confront this situation.  Someplace soon.  Very soon.

It will be hard to convey upon you the hopelessness of my situation.  From my immediate vantage point, I had two options.  I could go into the woods and shit amongst the freaked out Allman Brother looking guys, which seemed like a horrible idea based on the noises coming from those woods.  Option #2 was even worse, squatting between cars like a dog in plain view of 15-20 people depending on what angle I could work out.  This I decided would irrevocably erase the line in me between “man” and “beast”.  I would no longer be human, but some sort of biped animal to be mocked and feared.

I set out on a mission, a quest really, to seek out any change in circumstance that would approach anything close to an “acceptable” bathroom option.  Over hill and dale this intrepid adventurer traveled.  I walked past row after row of cars as the merciless sun beat down.  Sweat poured down my back.  The grass almost crackled it was so dry.  These were hard times.  Rock hard times.  Then, in the distance, I saw a lonely line of three portajohns.  I was like a man that had wandered the desert and spotted an oasis.  I walked unevenly in that direction through hacky sacks, nitrous tanks, and dead eyed girls in peasant dresses with cardboard signs offering palm readings.

By the time I reached the toilets, my gastrointestinal status had reached DefCon4.  This was happening.  This was happening soon.  There was a surprisingly small line of people waiting, as these three toilets appeared to be servicing 17,434 people.  As I waited in line, we all made nervous small talk and told jokes about how badly we all had to go, a brotherhood of the toilet.  I can still remember the stench coming from the toilets being overwhelming.  At this point, that did not matter.  Nothing did.  It was “go time”.

At last it was my turn.  I don’t know what the conditions of the other two portajohns were at that time.  Mine could best be described as “horrifying”.  I have seen some horrible bathrooms in my time.  Bernie's in Columbus.  CBGBs.  JBs Down in Kent.  Assorted gas stations across the USA.  This was unique.  It was almost beyond belief.  Part of the toilet seat and most of the backsplash had been sprayed like a hose filled with pudding had been fired into the doorway.  A brackish brown liquid sloshed around my feet.  The temperature was unbearable outside, but inside it was hot enough to braise short ribs.  However, instead of ribs braising was an unfathomable jambalaya of human excrement, perched just inches from the filthy seat.  I would have gagged, but didn't want to open my mouth.

Sweat poured from my brow.  I squatted above the general area, my shorts being held above the filth on the floor by my positioning my trembling legs like I was skiing snowplow.  I released.  Despite the monumentally terrible conditions, it was a moment of relief.  I rode the wave.  Imagine a can of Dinty Moore beef stew being shot out of a shaken Coke can landing on a heap of spaghetti sauce.  It was soft hitting soft.  I wanted more than anything to get out of that tiny filthy space, but I was held captive until my colon spasms ceased.  It seemed like I was there an hour, my shirt now soaked through.  Voices yelled from the outside.  “C’mon man!  What are you doing in there?”  Pressure.  Tension.  It was awful.  Then it was over.  At last. 

My relief turned to horror when I saw the roll of toilet paper puffed out from contact with God-knows-what liquid.  I reached carefully into my pocked and found a used Kleenex and receipts to pad myself as clean as possible.  It wasn’t, shall we say, ideal.  I walked out of the portajohn, making eye contact with no one and filled with shame.  The next person in line, probably as urgently needing to enter the facility as I had been moments earlier, wouldn’t have even noticed.  Even if they did, their focus would have completely shifted to taking stock of their new hellish reality that I would have been instantly forgotten.

I set back out with the sun in my face; unsure of where the car was or which direction I had come.  It was, without question, the worst place I had ever and hopefully will ever shit.


At November 20, 2013 at 12:03:00 AM EST , Blogger Walter Zoomie said...

I was gonna say that taking a dump in an artillery shell crater in Saudi Arabia at night and hoping another round wouldn't land on me would have to be the worst shitting experience ever...but I would have been wrong.

Congrats. Your experience was worse than the fear of death.

At November 20, 2013 at 12:50:00 PM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

When a porta potty is worse than a combat zone, you know it's bad...

At August 26, 2017 at 12:33:00 AM EDT , Blogger Jim B said...

This, by far, is one of the funniest things I have ever read!
Jim B
Days long ago and from a radio station far, far away. Think Cheese Whiz on the ceiling!

At August 27, 2017 at 10:33:00 AM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Cheers! Good to see you still out there fighting the good fight!


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