I’ve done plenty of embarrassing and/or stupid things in my life, especially when I was younger.
OK, mostly when I was younger.
(Who am I kidding?)
Anyway, here is one such story; a story that, twenty-one years later, my brother David will not let me forget. He loves telling people this story. I might as well share it, because chances are good you’ll eventually hear about it from him anyway. Did I mention that he loves reminding me of this story? Everything you are about to read is, of course, true.
The year was 1987, and I was living in Baltimore, Maryland with my siblings and my dad. It had been a warm spring, and it just so happened to be the year of the locusts (everyone called them locusts, when in actuality, they were cicadas). The locusts swarmed in and covered everything from trees to telephone poles. If you were outside, you could hear the constant hum of their buzzing. Luckily, they weren’t dangerous; they didn’t bite or sting. The locusts only lived a few days, maybe a week. I remember them being nothing more than a nuisance. Their shells remained attached to everything long after they were dead. When I say that these shells were everywhere, I mean e v e r y w h e r e. The constant buzzing of the locusts had been replaced by the constant crunch-crunch-crunching of their shells under my feet, as I ran through the park that I had spent many an afternoon in, eagerly trying to catch up to the Nerf football that had been thrown ahead of me. There was nothing like a good game of crunch football.
Locust season passed; spring turned to summer. When school let out, I traveled to Evansville, Indiana to spend the time off with my grandparents and one of my uncles. When I returned to Maryland, the fall season was quickly approaching with cooling temperatures and color-changing leaves. It was a perfect time of year to be thirteen, to have a bicycle, and access to that nearby park containing trails through it’s vast surrounding woods. I wasted no time in contacting my friend Stevie who lived down the block, anxious to get outdoors.
Stevie lived on the same side of the street as me, just down the block. His parents were very nice – they had me over for dinner on more than one occasion. His family always had more than we had (they had both VHS and Beta), but they were not-at-all snobby or selfish. They had told my father how impressed they were with me a few different times, mainly because I always addressed them as “sir” and “ma’am,” which surely filled my father with pride.
Stevie was a fun friend to have. He was the guy who was willing to do anything to win your approval and be your friend, and I was the guy willing to make him do stuff just to see if he would do it. Like the time we started a club, and we held our “meetings’ in the basement of his house (which was a playroom). These meetings consisted of video games, wrestling, or most commonly, a starting place for our outdoor adventures throughout the day. When the coast was clear, I confiscated a large empty canning jar from his mother’s kitchen. We then invited the neighborhood boys to join our club, under one condition – they had to pee in the jar and keep it a secret. Stevie’s responsibility as vice president was to keep the pee jar hidden there, in his basement. For two weeks, in the bottom drawer of a dresser at our club’s headquarters sat a big, warm, mason jar containing the urine of five or six little boys. His parents weren’t as impressed with me when his mom found it one morning.
We rode down to the park, and it is exactly what one would imagine upon hearing the word “park”: trees, a playground (monkey bars, merry-go-round, swings – all of the necessities), a sidewalk path throughout, benches for grown-ups so they could watch their little ones play, and pooper-scooper stations for owners whose dogs had decided that the park looked like a giant dog toilet. It was a big park; it could easily accommodate several large groups of people at once. If you ventured towards the middle of the park, there was a downward hill leading to a rather large grass field that saw many a crunch-football game take place. Continuing past this field was the forest, which is what you call any wooded area when you’re thirteen years old. This was my favorite part of the park.
The forest contained several man-made paths for walking and biking. If you wanted to, you could wander off of the beaten path, as this area was not overly dense. I was rather skilled with my Huffy and not-at-all afraid, so of course, Stevie and I had gone exploring several times already. On one of our very first trips, we discovered a creek. On weekends we would build a fort in a secluded area, but I guess our hideaway was never very structurally sound – upon our return, we’d only find a pile of branches, sticks, and twigs, as if some other kids actually discovered our land and knocked it over. Nah… it must have been the wind.
One Saturday morning, Stevie and I decided that we were going to try to venture further into the forest than we ever had before. I loaded up on necessities from the corner store (12 oz. can of Coke and a pack of Rain-Blo bubble gum stuffed into, and sticking out of, my crumpled up tube sock), and headed into the unknown.
We rode for almost two hours, stopping whenever we saw anything interesting. We always stopped at anything that could be a used as a bike ramp. We built another fort, our biggest to date, and it felt like we were so deep into the forest that it would never be found. It had been a very good day so far. Well, up until I was consumed by the overwhelming need to relieve myself.
There are a couple things you need to understand at this point. Number one, I had to go number two. Number two, I wished I only had to go number one. If I only had to go number one, all I would have had to do is stand behind a tree and do what all men have done at some point in their lives. But this was far more complex. I could have made the return trip home to a bathroom, but I knew that such a decision would end our expedition. I wasn’t ready to go home – we were having too much fun. However, I really didn’t want Stevie (or anyone, ever) to see me crapping, and I had nothing with which to wipe.
As quickly as these thoughts came and went, the urge to “drop the kids off at the pool” had rapidly increased. I realized that there was no way I would have been able to make it back home. I wouldn’t last that long, and holding it in was becoming a bit painful. It was “go” time. I jumped off my bike, and made Stevie promise not to look while I simultaneously scanned the area for the spot that would supply the most privacy. There’s no need to go into detail about what happened next. Once relieved, I briefly considered cleaning up with my shirt or my underwear and then just leaving them out there in the forest. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to sacrifice any article of clothing – I didn’t have a lot of clothes to begin with. If Dad were to find out what I had done, he’d surely beat the shit out of me (pun intended).
Instead, I grabbed the biggest leaf I could find, and did the best I could. Three leaves seemed to do the trick. As I gathered myself, I was suddenly filled with pride. I had conquered nature. I was a man.
I pooped in the forest.
Back at home later that night, I couldn’t help but notice how itchy my backside was becoming. I needed to shower – it’s probably not possible to properly clean yourself in the previous conditions. I went to bed after I showered, but I wasn’t going to get much sleep that night. I tossed and turned, scratched my butt, scratched my hands (why were they itching?), scratched my butt some more… I finally slept.
I woke up still itching and scared to death – I had a rash on both hands, and on two of the fingers on my left hand there were pus-filled bubbles hanging off that were each the size of a dime. To my horror, my backside was also wet for some reason, a reason that was quickly becoming quite obvious. I ran to the bathroom. Now, have you ever had to bend over slightly and look behind yourself into a mirror at yourself? I don’t ever, ever recommend it, even under normal conditions. I discourage it even more if you had just previously used poison oak leaves as toilet paper.
I showed, and told, my father what happened to me. He was trying to yell at me to stop scratching through his laughter. I’m pretty sure this was not one of those moments that my behavior filled him with pride, and I’m still not sure which was the most embarrassing: being dumb enough to wipe my behind with poison oak leaves? Or, to be bent over the edge of the bed, pants pulled down, having calamine lotion applied to the affected area by my father? You decide.
A couple of interesting notes:
•Super Target sells travel-sized Charmin
•If you want to miss a week of school, try poison oak. It worked for me.
•I didn’t use my underwear to “clean up” because I didn’t want to destroy an article of clothing. In the following week of my recovery, I ruined eight pair.
•My brother David, to this day, routinely refers to me as “poison oak boy.” A couple of years ago, for my birthday, he drew me this cartoon. It’s hanging on my fridge.