Monday, July 23, 2012

Love Stinks

(Please read no further if you are offended by "strong" language. I've used a word in this post, repeatedly, that I don't normally use in my day-to-day life, I hope to comic effect. Rest assured that if you come back tomorrow you still might find something to offend you, but it won't be the language.)

Love stinks, yeah yeah. ~The J. Geils Band

Our golden retriever, named Waffle because she's the color of a waffle, was really working hard last night, selling me on the idea of going for a walk. The pacing back and forth is a regular part of her persuasive repertoire, as is the running to the door every time I move a muscle, and these techniques, when applied relentlessly can be highly effective, but last night my sales resistance was high as I'd already determined to call the whole thing off. That's right, sometimes the pooches get screwed: no long evening walk, and this was one of those nights.  I had just opened a second beer, the sunset was beautiful, the clouds were of the castles in the sky variety, and the jets leaving SeaTac International Airport were circling silently in a steady stream high overhead before heading to their exotic destinations to the south.  I was going to ease into an evening, watching the world from my balcony. The dogs would just need to fend with a pair of rawhide chew toys. On this night, however, Waffle added a moaning sound to her sales pitch, like when she's worrying a bone, which ultimately won the day, again not because it was a brilliant idea, but rather because she was relentless and I guess that works on me.

As I later handled her shit with a plastic bag, instead of the thoughts of art and beauty I'd planned for my evening, I reflected on all the shit with which I've had to deal in my life.

Naturally, I'd grown up dealing with the normal share of shit not of my own making, sometimes stepping in it, sometimes finding it in a toilet I was about to use, but my real shit handling days started with the advent of the first dog of our married life, a cream colored chow named Vincent. Oh man, how I hated dealing with his shit during those first few weeks as a dog owner.  It was like a horrible dream: I simply couldn't believe I was bending down and picking up shit with only a thin plastic bag between me and it after a lifetime of avoiding shit. Feeling it warm and pliable in my fist was almost too much for me, not to mention the odor. Holding my breath really didn't help. And sometimes our puppy would shit indoors! On our carpets! Holy shit!

Once, and I'm not shitting you, he shat in the middle of the square in front of the Prince's Palace of Monaco. We were living in Germany at the time and vacationing in southern France with the dog and some friends from the states. One afternoon Stephen and I decided we'd take Vincent on the train to be tourists in Monaco. Apparently, the local diet did not agreed with Vincent who waited until we were directly in front of the palace to let fly with some vile orange shit. Not only that but he somehow managed to get it smeared all over his haunches. As the normally crowded square suddenly opened up with people avoiding our accident, we stood alone in the bulls eye, surround by tourists and palace guards, equipped with nothing but a plastic bag which proved inadequate to the job. Naturally, Stephen began to laugh hysterically, remarking on how Prince Ranier must be cursing American tourists before disappearing into the crowd, leaving me on my own with a orange shit covered dog. Oh, the humiliation was awful as I dragged poor Vincent out of the square and down the hill, making eye contact with no one, desperate for a water supply of some sort, finally pulling him into a crowded bathroom where I spent a good 15 minutes on my knees washing shit off of him, knowing that whatever I did it was going to be one hell of a stinky train ride home.

Of course, now with two large dogs living with us in an apartment, my shit load is at least doubled.

By the time diaper changes came around I had pretty much come to accept shit handling as part of my existence. We had a nice wide counter next to a large mirror in the bathroom that perfectly accommodated a changing pad. Not once was it a chore to deal with her shit in those days -- In fact, this was for that first year our favorite play time. I'd sing TV show theme songs and dance around while she spoke to me in gurgles and coos. We watched ourselves in the mirror: she loved to stretch her legs, flexing her thighs until they quivered while gumming a smile at her own reflection. It was while I dealt with my baby's shit that she said her first word at 3-months, calling me "Poppo!" over and over again as I stepped in and out of the doorway. Yes!

Sometimes I imagine how much shit I've moved in my life, envisioning it as one large and pungent mountain, having been disposed of in toilets and trash cans one fistful at a time, but now brought together for this instructive display. It's impossible to then not carry the thought experiment forward, imagining my shit hill merging with the equally massive shit hills of all the other shit handlers around the globe, many of whom make me look like a shit handling piker. My lord, that's a lot of shit. Just thinking of it you have to know that the more advanced races of aliens populating this vast universe aren't just flushing their shit. They have to be using it for the methane if they are any kind of proper advanced race: a clean, infinitely renewable source of energy. I'll bet all those UFOs are shit powered flying saucers.

Between the ages of about 8 and 30, I avoided shit like it was shit, really only having to deal with it when forced to scrape it from my shoes, flush on behalf of a slovenly roommate, or hold my breath in a public restroom. During these prime shit avoidance years, just a whiff, just a glimpse, could activate my gag reflex. Today, I know who the shit avoiders are: those single folks, living alone in the one bedroom apartments in my building, not even a pet to force them into the reality of dealing with shit. They are the ones who now give me wide berth, like those tourists in Monaco, as I squat on the sidewalk to handle Waffle's steaming pile, averting their eyes, thinking, I assume, of sunsets and clouds and jets heading off to the sunny south. I don't begrudge them their shitless lifestyle, but I don't envy them either, if only because I know that someday they will likely join me as a shit handler. Even if they avoid marriage and babies and pets there are still mothers and fathers and siblings, loved ones who may well reach a stage in life in which they'll need bedpans emptied or diapers changed or help on the toilet.

If you gave me the choice, I suppose I too would elect to not have to deal with shit, just as I sought to avoid leashing up the dogs last night because it showed up for me as a hassle that would interrupt an evening's reverie.  But most of us don't have a choice, at least as long as there are loved ones in our lives. I may sometimes envy those who have no shit with which to deal for this day or week or month, but I pity anyone who manages to skate through life without having ever assumed responsibility for the shit of another: it's an act of necessity that comes directly out of our love.

And as much as I'd rather be enjoying a beer while reflecting on the sunset, it's that big pile of shit that lets me know that life has meaning.

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Anonymous said...

That was great. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

oh man... this story had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes! Thank you.

It was especially apropos today, because I was just in Home Depot today explaining my "solid waste" flushing needs to the plumbing aisle employee who helped me select a new toilet. s%=t is everywhere.

Anonymous said...

hee hee hee... it does not surprise me that you have succeeded to create an eloquent post about a most ineloquent topic. Nice. :)