On Pooping. And Snakes.

The following information may be considered… oversharing. Should I ever run for political office, I’m sure this will be used as part of a vicious smear campaign. That being said, I find it interesting that something we’ve managed to do for thousands of years has become so complicated. That something is pooping. Specifically, pooping in the woods. The modern outhouse and toilet paper (or “bathroom tissue” as it’s known so as not to offend anyone) is a relatively modern invention. In a short span of time, modern society has become horrified at the idea of dropping trou in the outdoors and letting ‘er rip. I know people that when confronted this situation will become instant poop camels and hold it in for the better part of a week to avoid exposing one’s buttocks to the breeze.

This is not me. My intestines run like the German train system. Orderly, on-time, and on a precise schedule. It’s all good unless that schedule is interrupted. If the trains get backed up, anarchy and chaos soon follow. The unhappy commuters rapidly begin to send more and more urgent messages that the trains need to get back on schedule ASAP. Trust me, we like to keep the trains running on time.

Which brings me to the woods. I’m not one of those folks opposed to pooping in the kiltwoods. It can be downright peaceful at times. There are of course the positional challenges. Leaning against a tree, lean back holding on to a tree, sitting over a log, or the traditional squat and hope your aim avoids the trousers bunched up around the ankles. There are times the Scottish kilt in the backcountry has its advantages. As fascinating as all this may be, it is not my point. My point is snakes.

If you know me, you’d know that I have an unnatural fear and adversarial relationship with snakes. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was a librarian, but unfortunately I like the outdoors. Snakes have a tendency to live in the outdoors. This is an issue. Which brings me to my latest encounter. I recently got back from a long river trip to a remote area that, coincidently, is infested with rattlesnakes. Even though snake fears kept me from getting out of the boat unless absolutely necessary, I was having a great time until midway through the trip. After unloading all the gear and getting camp ready, I sat down in my chair to enjoy an adult beverage when I heard something in the grass. A large snake slithered by, not six inches from my foot. My river mates commented that I have an impressive vertical leap for someone my age. A little girl scream may or may not have been uttered, but that detail will stay on the river.

Which brings me back to my original point. As I sat in my tent that night, refusing to come out for dinner, it dawned on me that if I wanted to keep the trains on schedule I was going to have to wander through the snake infested grass and rocks first thing in the morning. absFaced with two undesirable choices, keeping the trains on schedule or being chased by snakes, there was little sleep that night. I made the only choice a rational person would make – I went into camel mode. No coffee, no breakfast, little water. Thank god I’ve been diligent with the ab machine. The cramping became bearable after a while. Major fist-bump to the ladies if this is what the monthly visitor is like.

The fatal mistake came on the second evening of operation anhalten der Deutsche Bahn. Succumbing to hunger pangs, I ate one of those freeze-dried backpacker meals. While they may be tasty going down, they impart a certain… urgency to the train schedule. Early that next morning, with a pounding heart and clenched cheeks, I made my way into the woods to perform a ritual our ancestors have done for thousands of years. Who knew my heart rate could sustain 200 bpm for so long? Fortunately for me this story has a happy ending. Like a Christmas morning miracle there were no snakes and the trains were back on schedule. It’s rumored I may have had a skip to my step when exiting the woods.

My point? As usual, I’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s that snake chaps are a real thing. And that I own a pair. Now to figure out how to wear them with the outdoor kilt. Under or over?

[Upon opening the Well of the Souls and peering down]
Sallah: Indy, why does the floor move?
Indiana: Give me your torch.
[Indy takes the torch and drops it in]
Indiana: Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps… very dangerous. You go first.

Neville Flynn: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
[the terrified passengers on the plane turn to Neville]


Out For A Run

He felt like he always did when starting a run. Ankles a bit tight. A slight twinge in a calf muscle. It took a bit to get the rhythm working again. Breathing a little hard to start with, and then settling down as he got in the groove. Felt the first drops of sweat dripping down his back as he started to feel warmed up and lighter on his feet. Running through the neighborhood in the morning light there was little activity. Fresh newspapers sat on driveways waiting to be read. A few lawns still had sprinklers running, creating small pools on the sidewalk to be avoided. Streetlights were flickering and shutting off.

He crossed the street and turned on the dirt path that looped out into the marsh area. Obnoxiously loud tunes from the music player blasting in his ears, feet pounding on the rough trail, he marked familiar landmarks. The distance ticked by and he occasionally glanced down at his heart rate, adjusting the pace. The trail passed through groves of eucalyptus trees still damp with the overnight dew. Interspersed among the trees were open marsh areas. Waist high reeds and underbrush marked the edge of the trail. Out in the shallow water birds drifted and eyed him running past. The sun was rising higher and the perspiration was starting to soak his shirt. The gnats and mosquitos that would make this area unbearable later in the day were just starting to rise.

He almost didn’t see it. A small rut in the trail broke his rhythm. He looked down and did a small shuffle step to jump over. The glint in the sun caught his eye as he looked back up the trail. Glossy, black, a shape he didn’t immediately recognize. It was a few steps past before his brain registered what it was. Like the kids puzzles – guess what shape doesn’t belong in this picture? A stiletto heel, with a stark white foot bed and shiny black finish was laying on the edge of the trail. A few more inches and it would have been obscured by the reeds. Why would a woman’s dress shoe be way out here?

He continued running, puzzling over the image. He’d been running hard for quite a while so it was clearly too far for anyone to casually walk, especially wearing those heels. The trail was too narrow for a vehicle. Odd. He increased his pace, mind puzzling over the image. The miles flew by.

Breathing hard now, he had to start deciding how hard he could push. The three-quarter point was coming up. Push too hard now and the legs would start slowing down before he finished. Bass thumping in the earphones, sweat dripping in his eyes, a snow-white egret slowly took flight out ahead of him. At a trail junction he turned and headed towards the small parking lot at the opposite end of the preserve. At that point he’d head back to the street and finish the run on pavement. The narrow dirt trail slowly turned to gravel, and then it was a smooth paved surface that most runners never ventured off.

Feeling good, he followed the trail as it turned slightly up towards the parking lot. As he crested the small hill his stomach did a slow turn. Flashing blue lights. The howl of a bloodhound heard over his music.

He knew.