A Wild Spectacle

This one’s about going to the bathroom. Don’t read it if you don’t like unpure topics, or you’re about to eat. Move on to the next one.

I’ve never been constipated. I get made fun of for it. “Just like a monkey, huh?” But compare me to a monkey or a badger all you want. The less one suffers, the better. However, there have been two occasions in my life when I had to poop but couldn’t. In short, let’s just say that what had come out of me retreated right back in. Why, you ask? These bathrooms were unimaginably… wild. The first was at a monastery on the Athos peninsula in Greece. I’ve written about it somewhere before so I’ll leave it out this time.

The second occurrence happened when I was staying at a Mongolian army border patrol outpost located way in an uninhabited part of the Steppe. This bathroom (or maybe I should call it a septic tank) was far smellier and dirtier than the one in Athos. To make matters worse, it was so overused that the floor had become a pond. It was straight out of a nightmare. There was a wooden plank you could use to cross over and relieve yourself, but the waste pond below looked so deep and the thought of the plank snapping when I was half way across made me too afraid to try. A swarm of black gnocchi-sized flies zoomed around the dimly lit room like they couldn’t be happier. I’ve been to all sorts of remote places and I’m confident I can poop almost anywhere, but on these two occasions I couldn’t finish what I had set out to do.

Actually, I’ve had it pretty easy. I learned this when I read about the astronauts during the Apollo missions in Andrew Chaikin’s nonfiction book A Man On The Moon.

When an astronaut felt the urge to defecate, they pulled out an adhesive plastic bag and stuck it to their bare butt. Once it emerged, they’d grab it with their hand and pull it the rest of the way out. That which normally falls down on Earth does not in a weightless environment, so they had to pull it out manually. Once they were done they’d break open a disinfectant capsule, place it in the bag, and then proceed to mush it into their poop until it was all mixed together. The whole process took an hour. They say the smell was dreadful. Of course it was. Imagine, if you will, three people relieving themselves inside a Honda Civic with the windows stuck closed.

Even worse was when an astronaut had diarrhea without enough time to get fully prepared. The other astronauts would have to go around the spaceship tracking down and catching their colleague’s globs of poop floating through the air. It smelled so awful that they had to break out the emergency use oxygen tanks just to breathe. Reading that, I realize that I’m fine never going to the moon.