On a warm Saturday morning a few years ago, before I knew the rule about never leaving the house for a long ride or run without going to the bathroom first, a friend and I mounted our bikes for an expedition into the Santa Cruz mountains. He had been wanting me to take him on a longer ride over the scenic passes that snake all throughout the forest and to the inland valley. After cresting the summit we were descending to the far side of the mountains when he hit a patch of gravel and crashed his bike out. He was not too banged up but one of his tires was bent so we had to call for a ride. Our roommate came to the rescue but only had enough room in her car for one bike so I said I would just ride back.
As I began the ascent back to the summit I started having stomach pains which at first just felt like indigestion or something. As time passed however it became way worse and shifted to my lower abdomen and I started getting cramps. You know that kind of stitch you get in your side when you have been holding a huge fart in for too long? Yeah that was the one. It took a while for me to feel like I had to fart though so when the feeling came I was relieved and I though 'Cool I can just fart and my stomach will feel way better.' That is when things really started getting bad.
I was having one of those uncertain moments where I wasn't sure if the discomfort I was feeling was just gas and if I let it out I would feel better, or if it was diarrhea. Who wouldn't be worried about trying to ride a bike home twenty miles sitting in spandex shorts full of diarrhea? But the pain in my abdomen had gotten so bad that I was having trouble riding and it was worth a shot. I leaned to the side to relieve some pressure on my underside and tried to let it out as gentle as possible.
You know how sometimes when you try to fart and right before it is about to breach the surface you realize, in a horrifying wave of dread, that it is actually an avalanche of watery stool and you are about to shit your pants? This was that moment. I freaked and it took every fiber of my being to put the breaks on my bowel movement and prevent a catastrophe in my shorts. I was riding up hill and it was really difficult to keep pedaling and clench at the same time so I began to struggle pretty hard to continue my forward progress.
My bowels and I reached somewhat of a stalemate after a few moments and I was able to continue on for a while, struggling with the discomfort. Pedaling and holding it was becoming increasingly difficult though, but I figured if I could make it to the summit I would be in the clear because it would be all down hill from there.
Eventually the discomfort gave way to frustration punctuated by moments of panic when I would almost involuntarily ... um go. Eventually one of these moments lead to my demise. I had a lapse of judgment and stood up to get over a particularly steep part of the climb which took to much energy away from my 'holding it' muscles and that brought the deluge that I was trying to hold back rushing to the threshold, and came so close I literally could not tell if I had slipped a little or not. Worse than that however was that pedaling was now out of the question and the steep climb brought my forward progress to a halt and I had to maneuver my bike around the other way so as not to fall over.
I did not like the idea of going in the wrong direction so I rolled to a stop at the side of the road. Realistically I was going to defecate soon whether I liked it or not, so my three options were to shit my pants(not ok), go in someones yard(marginally better), or knock on someone's door. Seeing as how people disappear in the Santa Cruz mountains for less severe forms of trespassing than taking a dump in someones yard, I went with option three.
There was a house across the street with the front door open and a curl of smoke from the chimney that look as friendly as one could hope to find in a situation like this. I knocked at the entryway and a woman poked her head from the kitchen down the hall. I said hello and that I felt horrible about bothering her but that it was an emergency and that I would appreciate it if I could use her restroom. To my surprise she was very kind and welcomed me in. She said that she was a cyclist and that she knew these kinds of things happened.
That was the only good moment of this entire experience.
She led me down the hall and into the living room where the kids were setting the table for breakfast and pointed me to the bathroom right off the living room. As I headed to the door I began to realize that the bathroom was uncomfortably close to the dining room table and that the entire family was sitting down for breakfast. I closed the door and things went from bad to worse. The toilet was right next to the door and from the bathroom I could hear the smallest sounds from the table, including silverware cutting bacon and feet shuffling on the floor. I realized that this was mostly because the door, in true faux-log-cabin style, was little more than a couple of planks nailed together and even had the moon cutout for authenticity. For my purposes it may as well have been a screen door.
I also knew that the dining room table could not have been more than ten feet away...but in my mind I might as well have been sitting at the table with them.
What I am getting at is the horrible awareness that was welling up inside of me...if I could hear everything they were doing, if I could smell the bacon they were eating, they would most certainly hear and probably even smell anything that was going on in my dungeon of shame. This was a serious concern because based on the experiences that I had already gone through with this particular bowel movement, my expectation was that the inevitable rectal event was going to be audible to say the least and probably not the desired soundtrack for their Saturday morning family breakfast. At this point however I was committed because if I tried to leave there was a good chance that I would crap myself in the living room.
Unfortunately I was locked in and the longer I worried the more awkward it became that I was just in their bathroom for an extended period of time. I sat down and tried to get comfortable but the war that was going on in my body would not allow me to relax. My bowels were wrenching to expel their contents and at the same time my body was uncomfortably tense in anticipation of the unforgiving anvil of shame that fate was about to crush me with. My last bastion of hope was that in these kinds of situations I know you have some control over how assertive and therefore how loud of an event it is going to be.
You know how you can relax your cheeks and your clench/hold-it-in muscles in situations like this and just let it out rather than pushing it out, and usually that keeps it from being accompanied by gross flatulence that sounds like a whoopie cushion being stomped on in a bowl of jello letting everyone else within ear shot know that you just anally spray-painted the toilet bowl? This is the trick you use when you have violent diarrhea and have to use a busy public restroom, or if you are at your girlfriends parents house, or if you are in my situation.
With every ounce of self control I could muster this is what I tried to do, I swear, but I had held it to long and my body retaliated by evacuating the entirety of my excrement violently, loudly, and messily in one huge eruption. The sound it made was deafeningly disgusting and was amplified by the toilet bowl then echoed in the small enclosed bathroom.
The other room went dead silent.
At the moment of the event (which I would classify as somewhere between an 1.6 and an 2.1 on the Darkon Defecation Spectrum*) I died inside. It felt like the shame of what I had just done to these poor people had snuffed out my soul and it took everything I had not to break down in tears or die of heartbreak right there on their bathroom floor.
I took my time washing up because I couldn't believe that I had to face them when I left. When I opened the door the entire table was staring at me. The mother looked like she was about to throw up and cry at the same time. The two younger kids had looks of shock fixated on their faces. The oldest boy had food on his fork that obviously had made it three quarters of the way to his mouth when he heard me strafe his bathroom and out of bewilderment forgot that it was there, so he was just holding it a few inches in front of him with his mouth open but with his eyes wide and fixated on me. The father was so furious that I almost cried when I saw his face.
Standing there in their living room with my bike helmet hugged tight to my chest and the whole family starring at me all I could think to say was, "You have a lovely home." before I scampered out the front door.
*The Darkon-Ill Defecation Spectrum is a comprehensive spectral chart of the vast range of possible rectal expulsions. It was researched for and designed by renown Scatologist Dr. Darkon and Cropolgy Post Doc Kim Ill during their time together at the Surfside Institute for Inappropriate Sociological Research.