Now that I’m running, and running distances that take me farther and farther away from the comfort of my own indoor plumbing, I’m not even going to lie…I think an awful lot about THE POOP: the need to do it, when to do it, and where to do it. It’s all very mathematical– the planning for these things, you know. It’s like an incredibly complex word problem:
Natalie leaves home on foot, running due north along a densely traveled suburban roadway at 5.5 miles an hour. At mile 3 she feels the initial urge to use the bathroom. This urge allows for a window of 15 minutes before crisis and cold sweats begin. There is a gas station with indoor plumbing and 1-ply toilet paper at mile 4.75 that is all uphill from her current position. She can also turn around and head back along her route to her home and all the Charmin she cares to squeeze. Solve for x (where x is the point on the route that Natalie actually poops her pants).
I know I can’t be the only runner who worries about this sort of thing, right?? I mean, why else would they have ALL THOSE PORTA POTTIES at races?!? Either way, I’m glad that I try to plan in advance for these things so I don’t end up being a “serial pooper” and find myself on the news like this guy! I’m also pretty sure that my concern is informed by my fair share of embarrassment in life around this type of situation due to either naiveté, my weak Irish constitution, or even in spite of my best laid plans.
Here are some things that I’ve had to learn the hard way:
- DROPPING TROU: Every parent should be required by law to teach their child how to properly drop trou and squat to use the bathroom in the woods. It might seem like a skill that’s unnecessary to teach, but you don’t know when it might come in handy. Plus, there really is some skill to it, particularly for girls. If you don’t squat properly, your aim is totally going to be off and there’s a really good chance you’ll find yourself at age 11 at sleep-away camp with your classmates on a guided moonlight hike. You’ll have to make the group hold-up and wait because you’ll really need to use the bathroom, and unfortunately you’ll end having to disrobe behind a tree and furiously dig a hole with your hands so you can bury your soiled panties in the ground like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter! All the while you’ll be hearing a camp counselor calling from the distance, “Are you ok over there? Do you need some help?” This will also likely be the first time in your life that you’ll wish for a large bear or wild cat to come charging out of the woods and just maul you to death because it’ll provide good rationale for why you pooped your pants. Plus, you’ll be dead and won’t have to worry about answering any questions or dealing with the embarrassment. Though I suspect you’ll probably be the subject of folklore leaving future generations wondering, “Yeah…like, I get how she got eaten by a bear and all, but how did her underpants end up half-buried in the ground?!?”
- FOREIGN TRAVEL: When traveling overseas, it is imperative to always pack a substantial supply of antacids, pepto bismol, or other medications to ward off any tummy troubles you may experience. Sometimes the water and food can unexpectedly wreak havoc on your system and you might find yourself at 17, staying with a host family in France who lives in a 200-year old house with retro-fitted indoor plumbing. The one water closet they have will be a cavernous, tiled room where the sound of a pin dropping mimics the sound of a sledgehammer on a gong! That same water closet will also likely be adjacent to the room where the family hangs out–ALL THE TIME. Adding insult to injury, it’ll just be a toilet — no sink — no way to turn on a faucet to poorly muffle the sounds of your business. So you’ll hold it…FOR DAYS!!! And then all of your classmates traveling with you, and their host students, will likely be invited to one of the other host families’ homes for a welcome reception and dinner. They’ll serve hotdogs and other American delicacies, you know…to make you feel at home. And then you’ll just have to say enough is enough and excuse yourself. You’ll spend the next 30 minutes in the bathroom freaking the fuck out because you can’t get the toilet to flush because 20 other people will have been peeing in the same toilet all night and apparently from all the flushing it’ll have used up all the water in town, and perhaps all of France. You might find yourself bargaining with God and wondering what a girl has to do to find a bathroom in a foreign land that comes equipped with an exhaust fan, a can of air freshener, or at the very least…a match! Then you’ll leave the country weeks later, certain that your legacy is “The Girl Who Clogged Up Plumbing”.
- HAMHOCKS: If you know you’re sensitive to greasy, buttery, fat-laden foods, then just don’t eat them. If you don’t possess the will-power to avoid them, then make sure you are close to home and have the appropriate resources available to deal with the aftermath. This’ll be an incredibly powerful lesson during the college years when you might find yourself at age 19 living in a house off-campus with 4 other girls. You’ll find yourselves bored and hungover on a Sunday afternoon and decide to try the “home cooking” at an all-you-can-eat buffet (and on this day, all-you-can-eat will really push its own limits). The metal trays aligned under the sneeze guard and heat lamps will look more like the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon busted open than any actual home cooking you might expect! Pools of oil everywhere!! Think pieces of baked chicken coated like a brown pelican in thick sludge! But you’ll dig in anyway and chow down with reckless abandon because… hey, you’re only a few blocks from home. What’s the worst that will happen? Well, you’ll likely find yourself 45-minutes after having this thought, sweating and pacing up and down the hallway of the house you share with your roommates howling for one of them to, “Hurry up! For the love of God!” Because there will be five of you and only two bathrooms and somehow you’ll end up being the last one out of the car and into the house, and you’ll soon give a whole new meaning to SHIT OUT OF LUCK!
- INDIAN FOOD: Need I say more?!?
So there you have it friends. Hopefully, my running buddies will now understand why this sensitive subject weighs so heavily on my mind.
Tomorrow is my first really long race — 10 Miles! I’ve checked every website associated with the event and have found that it begins at a stadium with lots of bathrooms and there are intermittent checkpoints along the race course with porta potties (I can’t help but feel like they’re doing that just for me). I’m going to employ the rule my running buddy shares with her daughters:
“Always Go When You Have The Chance!”
And while I want it to be a good race and put my best foot forward to finish strong with the best time possible, I’m willing to give that all up to come out of it not looking like this..