I’m twenty-four years old. I have a wife, a house, and a college degree. Two days ago, I almost pooped my pants. I say this not with shame, but with triumph. The mere fact that I can say “almost” instead of “actually did” is a testament to the superhuman strength of my sphincter. That’s the kind of accomplishment you bring up at your high school reunion: “I’m not doing a whole lot career-wise, but let me tell you a little story about bowel control.” My résumé and obituary will be updated accordingly.
This is the point where I should warn you that if you not interested in reading 1,000 words about the nuances of my large intestine, you should probably slink off to some other corner of the Internet. I don’t know why you would, though. This is the kind of tale they put in the Bible: “And then Moses almost shat his pants, but he did not. And Pharaoh was so filled with awe and disgust he finally granted the Hebrews freedom and adult diapers by the dozen.”
This poop story, like all good poop stories, begins at Chilies. Lola and I were on our way back from an ill-fated trip to Cincinnati. We drove an hour from Lola’s sister-in-law’s house to get there, but we never actually got out of our car. Parking was $10, and a random selection of unfamiliar streets was about to be shut down for a fireworks show not scheduled to start until much later that evening. Rather than paying a modest parking fee to spend several hours trapped downtown with Lola’s family, we made the split-second decision to turn our car around and start the two-hour trek back home.
If there’s one thing that makes me hungry, it’s blowing off Lola’s family members. The wife and I soon found ourselves at the previously named roadside restaurant. Said eatery was offering one of those $20-meal-deals where you get a three course meal for the price of two parking spaces in downtown Cincinnati. I didn’t go into this meal asking for trouble, but I also didn’t specifically request digestive tranquility, so I guess you could chalk that up as mistake number one. The menu didn’t even offer anything that raised serious questions in my mind, like Nuclear Bean Mystery Bowl or Anal Assault Sampler Platter. If it had, I would have ordered both just to reward the restaurant for its honesty. Instead, I settled for a mushroom cheeseburger along with nachos with some kind of cheese and beef dip for an appetizer and what can only be described as a mound of cake for desert. By the time we left the restaurant, I had at least thirty-five pounds of somewhat processed food matter in my stomach, which is made it a pretty typical restaurant visit for me.
I felt fine when we got in the car. I was still in okay when the engine started and we were on our way back toward the Interstate. In fact, I felt absolutely perfect until we had pulled just far enough onto the Interstate that we couldn’t turn around. At that exact moment, I realized I was going to die. It’s difficult for me to describe the ferocity with which my abdominal region was suddenly stricken with pain. Imagine that you’re walking along, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re attacked by a bear. Only instead of fur the bear is covered in razor blades and electric eels, and instead of growling the bear sings songs by the Jonas Brothers. My level of discomfort was exactly like that, only twice as bad and half as cool. Seriously, it would be an honor to be mauled by a singing killer super bear.
Back in reality, something big and angry was on its way out. Maybe it was food I’d consumed earlier in the day. Maybe it was one of those aliens that burst from people’s chests in Ridley Scott movies. Either way, I desperately needed some moist towelettes and possibly a flame thrower. Conveniently, I had neither. Thanks federally-mandated three-day waiting period.
Lola quickly noticed I was in a state of distress. It helped that my eyes were filled with blood and I was speaking in tongues. She asked if I was okay, and I calmly informed her that the Dark Prince decided to launch Armageddon from the comfort of my anal cavity. I looked forward to the next Interstate exit like it was Christmas, my twenty-first birthday, and the start of football season all rolled into one. But as we neared the exit, it became readily apparent that there were no lights or buildings in either direction. As far as I could tell, the next closest bathroom was on the International Space Station.
Lola squeezed my hand and offered some encouraging words, but every time she spoke her voice hit my abdomen like a sledgehammer. This was either because her efforts to help only drew more attention to the problem or because the only thing that hurts me more than life-threatening diarrhea is the compassion of another human being. I did my best to ignore Lola and focus on practical solutions, like shifting in my seat and praying for death. Nothing I did appeased the butt demons. As the pain built, my standards quickly began to drop. I didn’t need a building with a working toilet. I’d settle for a ditch or an open car window. I would have tried for the latter had it not been for Lola’s swift use of her car’s built-in child window locks.
Just when all hope appeared to be lost, the pain suddenly and inexplicably went away. It was like the singing killer super bear got bored with mauling me and decided to go race go carts instead (When you take a few months off from writing, the metaphors are the first thing to go). We were rapidly approaching a second exit, but I bravely waved it off. Don’t worry about pulling over, I assured Lola. I can make it home.
Seconds after we passed my second chance at salvation, my hubris was rewarded with a crushing pain in my midsection. It was like the super bear suddenly realized go carts are lame compared to the veritable amusement park that is my digestive system. Clearly, I was facing a cunning foe. I maintained consciousness for the next several miles solely out of fear of what would happen to me if I ruined the upholstery in Lola’s car.
Finally, after what seemed like six weeks but was probably only five and a half, we came to an Interstate exit that led to a gas station. Lola foolishly tried to park the car, but I jumped out while it was still moving and rushed for the gas station door. By “rushed,” I mean “somewhat swiftly waddled” because by this point I was literally doubled over from the pain in my abdomen. The clerk in the gas station laughed at the panic in my voice when I attempted to ascertain the location of the building’s restroom facilities. I have a feeling she would have been considerably less amused if she knew just how close she came to a very, very unpleasant cleanup in aisle three. The clerk informed me the bathroom was on the side of the building, so I made a mad, waddling dash out the front door and toward deliverance.
The finish was so close you’d need one of those touch boards they used to time Michael Phelps to figure out if I made it in time. The gas station bathroom was as disgusting as you would expect, but at that moment it was the happiest place on earth. If I had listened closely, I’m sure I could have heard choirs of angels. As it was, the fecal symphony I unleashed in that confined space left me partially deaf in both ears. Having survived what I think I can reasonably classify as a near death experience, I hobbled back to the car and quietly rode home.
In hindsight, I realize I overestimated the importance of that story be several orders of magnitude. I could have saved four minutes of your life if I had just said, “I really had to go to the bathroom on Sunday, and so we stopped at a gas station.” But more importantly, going back and writing a new, non-terrible post would take way more time and effort than I’m willing to commit. For now, you’ll just have to settle for this anticlimactic but nonetheless epic digestive narrative story. Just be happy I didn’t include pictures this time.