Ponder, for a moment, the lowly, oft-used, at times abused, everyday fixture of metabolic necessity – the toilet. It is, of course, a receptacle for all of your cast-off humanly bile and toxic waste. The toilet, or commode as it is known in the south, or shitter, as we lovingly say in the trades, has the singular distinction of sanitarily disposing of an entire species’ collective excrements. Over the years, it has also been the unfortunate splash landing spot for some of my dearest possessions:
Phil the Hermit Crab
My misfortunate, gravitationally-challenged relationship with the toilet started at a young age. Barely past the potty training stage, I was faced with the horrifying act of having to ship my beloved first pet, a Hermit Crab named Phil, off to greener seas after he/she had made the awful decision to exercise his/her only form of self-defense against the tender skin of my brother’s scrotum.
As unenlightened children, we had for some reason engaged in a form of crustaceous Russian Roulette: taking turns sticking Phil down our pajamas in a timed contest to see who could handle the tickling of his shelly phalanges the longest without screaming. It was after bed time. The lights were out in our room, but this grand scheme had our competitive juices awash with muffled laughter.
The game went on for several “successful” turns, each of us enduring Phil’s weird traverses in our underoos…until disaster struck. In a shocking turn of events, what I had assumed would be some fun, cage-free exercise for my buddy Phil quickly turned into a nut-pinching fight for life that woke everyone in the house after the previously docile crab unexpectedly clamped his formidable left claw on Brody’s testicular region.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the sensation of having your gonads savagely scissored by an enraged sea creature, but judging from my brother’s reaction, it is scream-inducing unpleasantness. Thusly ensnared in a bony, serrated vice, Brody emitted a sustained, high-pitched primal howl that I have since only heard in Tea Party conventions and small-claims court.
At the beckoning of Brody’s shrieks, my parents came bursting into our room, expecting the worst. Bewildered, they found us gripped with fear and screaming bloody murder. After ascertaining that I was not the afflicted one but rather suffering from empathetic emotions, my father set upon Brody to save him from some unseen demon. “What is it? What in Jehovah is going on?” he demanded. Biting both lips at once, tears pouring down his cheeks, the eldest Anderson son gingerly lifted open his drawers and pointed down to his nether regions with a quaking, inconsolable finger. “Ffff..ffff…fffil got his nads, Dad!” I yelled, reporting for my shock-muted brother.
The Phil Removal Project was quickly underway, and I will spare you the details due the graphic nature of the operation. For the sake of educational purposes (should this savagery ever occur to you or your own bright-minded progeny), I can report that the operation took no less than the use of a D-Cell flashlight, a rusted pair of my grandfather’s carpenters pliers, a jar of salt (Mom’s theory, relating to slugs), a wooden stick from the backyard (for Brody to clamp down on), a splash of hydrogen peroxide, and a large, perhaps overly-gluey Band-Aid.
Phil, mangled from battle, was handed to me to dispose of by my perturbed Dad. The toilet and the mysterious waters beyond offered the only thing close to Phil’s native habitat for which to reintroduce him into the wild. So, accompanied by a river of mournful tears, and with a splash pattern that would make a Chinese diver proud, I cast my best friend into the wilds of the Contra Costa County Sanitation System.
Some time had passed since my sorrowful goodbye to Phil when I was again broken-hearted by dropping a vital possession into the toilet. I was ten then – old enough to have collected a few prized items of my own that did not also belong to my brother. One of those was my electric Superman toothbrush. I may have been a wee little feller and mostly reliant on my parents for food and shelter, but dammit I had electric Superman toothbrush, and together we could conquer the world!
It was near bedtime and I was “scrubbing my pegs,” as my Dad always called it, a strange term for dental hygiene now that I think about it, since at no other time in our youth did he utilize pirate-speak. Like all ten-year-olds, I was excited to get the actual brushing behind me so that I could go read more “Choose Your Own Adventure,” books.
It was in this Adventure-bound frenzy that I found myself rushing Superman’s main chore along. A quick lap around the gums was all that I had time for. As I wheeled to grab Dad’s Listerine off of the shelf next to the toilet, I somehow loosened my grip on ol’ Supey. Down he went, spiraling through the air like a buzzing, spitting, super heroic depth charge. I noted the unchanging, goofily grinning expression on Superman’s plastic face as he broke the water’s plane and slid down along the bowl into the muck that I had as yet neglected to flush.
It was at this time that I chose to let loose an undeveloped but aspirational string of 10-year-old swear words that would have made a drill sergeant blush with shame. Coincidentally, it was at this time that my live-in, elderly grandmother decided to check on my progress. Needless to say, Superman did not make a heroic return to the sink counter. Much to my chagrin, a well-used, tooth-marked bar of soap did, however.
The Only Expensive Pair of Sunglasses That I’ve Ever Owned
You know that predictable asshole named Murphy? The one with all of the Laws and the sick sense of humor who comes around to mock your regular inability to spot malady even when it is barreling down on you like a stroked-out trucker? I do. All too well. He nearly blinded me in 1998.
I was a lift operator at a ski area in Colorado, “living the dream” after my college years. Twenty-five-years-old, criminally handsome (so I’ve told myself), living on a half of a rotten couch for $200 a month, surrounded by impossibly beautiful mountains, adventurous women and piles of mostly illegal intoxicants.
The inevitable late nights of our ski bum existence always seemed to bleed directly into the next far-too-early morning, usually before light actually arrived, when we had to meet our snowmobile hop up to the bottom of the ski lift to start our work day. The sustained lack of appropriate sleep, combined with eye-reddening substances and the brutal glare of sunbaked snow made having a strong pair of sunglasses a vital necessity. Losing or breaking a pair was akin to jabbing yourself in the corneas with a flaming marshmallow stick. So, even though I made a total of somewhere south of seven dollars an hour at the time, I decided to throw down for the latest, most expensive pair of shades possible – a stylish pair of Bolle’s that ran me a season’s worth of oily tuna cans.
Being most of the way up a 12,000 foot mountain and far from a sewage system, the facilities at the bottom of the High Alpine lift consisted of a horrible smelling, freezing cold drop toilet. Using the head was something that was to be avoided at all costs. Everyone on the mountain ate the same disgusting processed food diet, and it proved out in decomposition stage. “Holding it,” was a way of life. Thus, the locker room facilities were often equally destroyed on a daily basis once everyone skied down at the end of the day, but at least they cleaned those. Poor fuckers…
As Murph would have it, you can’t always hold it, especially after consuming half my weight in malted barley and free Crab Rangoon (Phil’s revenge, I called it) the night before. So, off I went, bracing myself with a makeshift turtleneck gas mask to enter the lair of an assy beast.
Now, the thing about a homemade outhouse on the side of a mountain is, there isn’t much light to see your way around with. They were built with as little ventilation as possible, so as to contain the olfactory demon within. After all, nobody wants to pay $80 bucks to ski Aspen only to have their sense of smell permanently deadened by the gaseous emissions of lift-operators. Most days I considered the lack of light a blessing, given the god-awful creature that lived down below the wooden rim. But on this day, proud of my brand new sunglasses as I was, I decided to keep them on rather than stow them away on the bill of my hat. I figured they might work in tandem with the turtleneck mask and form an impenetrable shield against the evil that lurked in the High Alpine shithouse. Also, I was lazy.
Somehow I managed to find myself in proper unloading position without the benefit of illumination. It was on the hasty dismount that I ran into trouble. The elastic suspenders that normally held up my ski pants formed a sproingy lasso when unleashed, and when I stood to quickly evacuate the premises, they wrapped themselves around the iron toilet paper holder, yanking me violently around with enough force to lose my footing on the snowy pine floor.
I landed in a twisted heap on the shithouse floor, face-first on the brink of the death hole. My Bolle’s went hurtling down into the pit, forever sealing them in the mud of a thousand poo’s.
Dazed and dejected, I extricated myself by kicking out the shitter door, crawling to a blinding freedom. I was greeted with a chorus of bellowing laughter from my fellow crew members and cheers from the skiers who were craned around from a half dozen chairs, rising into the skies from the base of the lift.
Later, at the end of the ski season party, I was presented with a pair of sunglasses that were made out of duct tape and cardboard toilet paper rolls, upon which someone had written “Bolle” in fine black marker along the sides.
Generally, the “five second rule” only applies to non-sticky food stuffs that have been dropped on a relatively clean floor. In some dire cases, this rule has to be applied to items that are both irreplaceably expensive and vital to your working life, such as my first iPhone.
Like many people, I enjoy good reading material when nature calls. It is an unscientific fact that the act of reading ushers along the biological process. In the past, I would go to great lengths to procure reading materials of any kind prior to heading for The Loo. But that was before Steve Jobs made all of our lives better by giving us unlimited options for restroom infotainment, all in a smart little box that fits in the palm of our hands.
And while the iPhone is a brilliant package of mystifying technological magic, I found out the hard way the one thing that it is not, is waterproof. So, when my entire working and social world made that inevitable, ironic plunge into the Bakersfield, California In N’ Out toilet after slipping out of my breast pocket during an unfocused attempt at flushing, I was faced with an unpleasant, split-second decision. Perhaps you’ve been there yourselves, and can empathize with my plight.
Despite what most of my former employers, girlfriends, and teachers would say about me, I consider myself a Man Of Action, an unflappable beacon of pragmatic agency. It is only due to this inner-Chuck-Norris that I was able to utilize my cat-like reflexes and follow its course immediately down into the water and fish my phone out of the fast food restaurant commode before the shock waves that its splashdown had created in the bowl allowed the traditional contents there within to recede back to their former resting places.
Just as quickly as it had entered the toilet, it exited, along with my hand, which did not escape as unscathed as the fetchee. Into the sink everything went for a wash. Fortunately, the In N’ Out had both paper towels AND a power blower, which I promptly forced into sustained usage.
I was just about satisfied with my efforts at drying out my afflicted tele, contemplating where I might find a bag of dry rice at midnight when the bathroom door swung open. It was a pimply kid in a paper hat, peering in on me with one crooked eyebrow, his foot holding the door wide open to the full dining room.
“Dude, are you number 130?” he asked hesitantly. I stared back at him from underneath the blower. “Your order is up and we thought you disappe…,” he added, pausing when he saw my phone in my hand below the air dryer. His oily head tilted to the south momentarily, and then his eyes lit up with delayed recognition. “OH SNAP!” he shouted, snapping the fingers on both hands at once for effect. He was laughing now, his voice rising and squeaking in a crescendo of pre-adolescent dynamic range. “Did you drop your PHONE IN THE CRAPPER!? Dude, that SUUUCCCKS! That happened to my toothbrush once!”