West Loop in Chicago. Light alternative rock music plays as the camera pans down to a building you
would guess is a warehouse. Cut to inside the building, up the stairs that immediately greet the front
door, hairpin left to more stairs, and then a right through the door of a former utility room in the
process of becoming a bathroom.
Underneath the second of three stalls, we see a shadow move. The door swings open. It is still too dark
to make out more than just a shadowy figure.
“Yep. That’s me all right,” a voiceover begins.
Flash of light. Freeze frame and record scratch. A man sits on the toilet, head buried in his hands. He is
broken and defeated.
“And I bet you’re wondering why I am covered in feces.”
SMASH CUT: The night before.
I’m bored, so I eat a banana. I am not hungry so eating this is a perfunctory act. The act of a man
delaying going to sleep. Since I have to wake in five hours to go to work, I finally relent and retire to my
chambers. My lumpy twin bed awaits. As I fidget to get the lumps just the way papa likes’em, I catch a
whiff of the sheets and wonder when I last washed them.
It’s the last thought I have before Mister Sandman whisks me away.
“Nick nick nick, nick nick nick nick, Nickelodeon!” my alarm blares after too many snoozes.
I slap the alarm and throw on a hoodie and my everyday navy blue Dickies. For the past several years,
I’ve worn only one pair of pants. Dickies. I go to workout, Dickies. A hot date, Dickies. Work, dickies. Bar,
dickies. Dickies, Dickies, Dickies. And to be clear, I mean one pair. A single pair and not the brand. Sure, I
have a Break In Case Of Emergency pair, but why interrupt a hot streak?
It takes me about 45 minutes to get to work and I have to be there and signed into my computer by 8:00
AM, otherwise my supervisor acts like a passive aggressive teen girl with me (He’s a 30-something year
old man) – hard glares and terse responses to any questions I have, if he deigns to respond at all. I work
customer service for a burgeoning secondary ticket marketplace. That is to say, I work for legalized
scalpers. The owner comes from money and decided to make more money by using a network of friends
to buy tickets to popular events – sports, concerts, plays, etc. – and then resell them at an insanely
Do you know the reason popular events get sold out on Ticketmaster so fast? It isn’t because individual
people and fans are all getting their tickets right away. The vast majority of sales go to these parasitic
companies, buying as many different seats as they can under different accounts.
I’m out the door without breakfast and hit the ground running.
I run the quarter mile to the bus stop and hop on just before it departs. If we don’t hit any traffic, I can
hit my stop by 7:52, walk five minutes to work, and sign in before 8 AM. Then I can be cordial with my
boss, Derek, and not have to deal with his alter-ego Lindsey.
I even get a seat on the bus. What luck!
Oh, a slight tickle in my stomach. Well, I’m sure that’s nothing…
Even though the bus is cruising down Ashland now, this is still going to be a tight race. I check my phone
for the time and start to feel a little more stressed about getting to work on time.
Oof. That tickle in my stomach has now turned into an irritating cramp. Just stay calm, Nick. You know
how this goes. It FEEDS on stress.
I’m in the midst of my closed-eyes Lamaze breathing when I realize the bus hasn’t moved for 3 minutes.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Hode onnaw, I git it this time! Hmmph!” At the front of the bus a tragically fat woman is attempting to
embark. She holds onto the side railings and gives it her all, going red-faced in the process.
“Hnnngh!! This knee jus’ don’t wanna do it!”
Please, please, please hurry, I think, then shout in my head. After 2 more attempts on a kneeled bus, she
breathlessly steps back as the driver lowers the handicap ramp for her. As I watch her totter up the
ramp and down the aisle to a seat, my first contraction hits.
BLAM! I clutch my stomach and actually wince from the pain. Dear, lord…what hath I wrought?
Microbeads of sweat now cover my body. I have been here before too many times:
I am in public, and I am fighting off unfurling my bowels into my pants.
My whole body goes into its automated mode, shutting down unnecessary functions. My hearing goes
away, I don’t need that, as does any semblance of shame or dignity. I am invulnerable to any pain other
than my stomach and my sphincter – hold strong, little buddy.
Other functions get enhanced. My eyes and brain switch into Terminator scanning, working together in
seamless harmony to piece all information and structures around me into usable data; The man by the
back exit is leaning on his left foot, which means I will have to charge at his right side to have easiest
access out the door; I’ve been to that Dunkin Donuts the block ahead, I know they don’t have a public
bathroom; that alley could suffice, that one no; bridge coming in 1000 feet, you need to get off now or
risk full exposure on the side of the road.
I begin to panic.
“Oh Jesus, I can’t fight this off!”
I mentally slap myself in the face.
“Hey! Don’t go soft on me now! You’ve been in tighter jams than this, soldier. Remember that alleyway
behind the FedEx?”
“Heh, we sure gave’m hell that night. We were lucky to only lose two socks.”
“And what about that time in the creek before the soccer game? When all you had was a headband and
a Scout’s Honor grip?”
“Made myself one awful mobius strip that day.”
“Damn right. Now DO NOT give in, do you hear me?”
“I said do you HEAR ME??”
And suddenly…nirvana. The pangs disappear, and I am in the clear. I foolishly convince myself I can make
it, that the worst is over, that I will make it to work on time and ignorant to the fact that I am merely in
the eye of the hurricane.
Still reveling in my ignorance, I am not prepared for a second wave assault, let alone one infinitely more
powerful than the first. Again, as if a prime Mike Tyson gut-punch me, I clench my stomach in pain and
grimace as I hunch forward with closed eyes. For a moment, I am no longer truly me but a man in a
“They have taken the bridge, and the second hall,” I whisper to myself in Gandalf’s voice. “We have
barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes. Drums… Drums, in the deep. We
cannot get out. The shadow moves through the dark. We cannot get out…”
I looked up, unaware of the man sitting across from me.
“They are coming.”
The man across from me leans forward and whispers, “Fly, you fool!”
And as he says that it is as if a battering ram dents my inner sphincter. The goblins are racing down my
I shoot straight up as though electrocuted. This is no time to play things cute. It is no longer “if” but
“when.” I am two stops away and standing at the back exit, buttocks clenched and right palm playing
I get off at my stop and begin a dead sprint to work. I can make this, I tell myself.
And that’s when the orcs launch their second volley. Another battering ram to the sphincter.
Without the least bit exaggeration, it feels like a donkey has kicked me square in the abdomen. Right on
the sidewalk of Ashland and Grand, passersby can one day note how they saw a man in a dead sprint
drop to one knee in the blink of an eye. As though all my forward progress had been rejected by an
invisible wall. What they couldn’t know, however, is that the flood gate has been pierced. That slam of
the battering ram pierced my defenses. I feel a trickle down my leg. My butt is crying.
But courage is not measured when times are easy. Oh no. If everything were easy in the world, courage
would not exist.
“No,” I say. “Not like this.” Not here, not now, no way.
I wipe my mouth, spit on the ground and clench my teeth.
“You shall not pass!!!”
Running as fast as I can while clenching my buttcheeks and playing backboard with my right hand, I look
like a man who never learned to run and who also has no articulating knees.
As I feel the crowbars prying the gates open, I fumble through the electronic door code and begin racing
up the stairs and into the bathroom on the right. There is another bathroom inside the actual work
offices but that is a pipe dream. Though the bathroom is empty, the first stall is locked so I enter the
The stall itself is actually a fully enclosed room, roughly the size of a typical standup shower. The only
issue here is that the light switch doesn’t work so I am in the complete dark when I shut the door. But
docking is imminent so grabbing another stall is not an option.
As though happening in slow motion, I fumble for my button and zipper. At this point, my mind and
body have separated and work independently from one another. I would like to say I time it all correctly,
my dear reader. I really do. But you already know that’s not true.
As I squat over the toilet, with a sliver of light creeping through a slightly ajar door, I pull my pants down
and give up my relax my butthole at the same time. While the hand is quicker than the eye, the
sphincter is quicker than the hand. I feel a snapping motion at the waistband of my underwear where
the amorphous projectile strikes first. Feeling that and not hearing any plopping sound in the water, I
panic and turned 180 degrees to see if I am off the mark (I am) and in doing so, send a spirograph of
feces across the wall, floor and door, as well as my pants and underwear.
“Oh, shit!” I mutter as I quickly sat down on the toilet and finish the matter at hand. In the dark stall of
the unfinished bathroom, I know two things: 1) I have made a hell of a mess and 2) I will give myself
several minutes to at least enjoy this moment before worrying about cleanup.
With my head in my hands and my dopamine receptors now fried, I have to reap what I have sown. First
things first, I learn that the toilet, while stably installed into the ground, has not yet been hooked up to
the plumbing. I wipe myself, the wall, door, and floor as best I can. In reality, I am just spreading more
I curse at myself. “You had to eat that goddamn banana. This would’ve never happened if you didn’t eat
Step two: clothing assessment. The underwear are done, looking like an overzealous Rorschach test. And
the socks, though survivors of the incident, were part of the cleanup crew and have to be tossed as well.
Actually, I should just list the one thing that didn’t get hit: my shirt.
Pants, boots, coat. All of them hit directly or by ricochet. All of them SHOULD be tossed. But I also have
no extra clothes on me. While my stall door has a lock on it, the main entrance to the bathroom does
not. I poke my head out my stall door and snag a plastic bag that is on the floor. I stuff my socks and
I wipe down my coat, pants and boots as clean as possible and now prep for my Mission Impossible
moment. I need to take my pants and coat to the sink to wash them as best I can. Just as I begin to open
my door I hear laughing and the main entrance door open. I deftly hold my breath and close the door to
a sliver. If ever I needed proof that I could lie silently in wait for an ambush, this was it. Whoever it was
that enters, just washes his or her hands and exits. Without any logic, I tell myself that statistically, now
is the least likely time that someone else will enter.
I exit the stall with my pants in hand and my coat and shirt still on. I begin furiously applying hand soap
to the multiple crime spots on my Dickies, then wash them in cold water. This process takes what feels
like five minutes.
If someone were to walk into the bathroom right now, they would see the backside of a man standing at
the sink in winter coat and boots only, hairy butt on display, violently scrubbing away at his pants in the
sink. And while I am relieved that no one actually does enter the bathroom during this time, future me
already wishes someone did.
I quickly blot the pants dry in the ravaged areas, spot clean the few flecks on my coat, and put my pants
back on. I go back to the stall to grab the plastic bag with my underwear and socks, and laugh the
minute I open the door. It looks as if someone put stuck a firecracker in a chocolate mousse cake, shut
the door and let it explode.
I head back down the stairs and around the building where I toss the plastic bag into a dumpster, hiding
it somewhere in the middle. I stand next to a snow mound in the alley and kick my boots in until I feel
they have been sufficiently washed. Then I take a little grass and mud and rub them into my pants to try
and combat the smell I know will be there. I pause for a moment and reflect on just calling this a loss
today and heading straight back home. But I need the job and the money.
I dial my entry code, step inside, and instantly smell the feces embedded in my Dickies. I need a to be
quick and to have a little luck, I tell myself. I know there is a big can of Febreze in the office bathroom. If
I walk briskly from door to bathroom door and it is unoccupied, I can spray myself down and hopefully
mask the scent.
I get into the office and make a beeline for the bathroom. The entrance of the bathroom is right next to
Derek’s desk. Luckily, he only gives me a small passing glare as I blow by him because he is on the phone
talking to a customer. I get in, Febreze myself until my lungs hurt, and then head over to my desk. I start
my computer, log in and punch in at 8:34 AM.
I’ve felt Derek staring daggers into the side of my head for the last 30 minutes. I sit about 20 feet in front
of his desk and when I’m on a phone call with a customer, I finally turn and acknowledge his odious
stare with a point to my computer and a “I know, right?” gesture.
He’s got every right to be mad, I’m half an hour late to work with no explanation. But I cannot care less. I
just clean a pile of my own excrement, Derek. There’s not a thing you could do to make my day worse.
I decide to forgo my lunch today so as not to draw any extra glances or whiffs from any coworker.
A coworker finally approaches my desk and asks about some order notes I left in our computer system.
We square that up and she asks if I am wearing a new cologne. No, I tell her. I spilled a bunch of Febreze
on me pants this morning before work. She leaves and is none the wiser that I had in fact, just 6 hours
ago, shit in, on and around my pants.
And that’s quitting time! I punch out, dust off my coat with quiet dignity, and take an uneventful bus ride back home.
I am home and throw my pants in the washer immediately and by independently. My coat I just wipe down with Clorox wipes.
I decide to go to bed a little earlier than usually tonight after such a trying day. Before I go to bed, I eat a banana.