On a Cub Scout field trip, we visited a clipper ship. It was a beautiful boat, lots of polished wood and portholes and brass fittings and all sorts of things that appeal to the nautical-minded Cub Scout pack. There were long banks of navy blue plaid cushions and a dark mottled shag carpet on the floor in the cabins below – it was the 70s, and shag carpet even followed you underwater. We’re talking half-inch pile here.
We learned that on a boat, the kitchen is the galley and the bathroom is the head. Our guide, a man older than our fathers, told us that if we needed to use the head, we should go first and then pump a handle next to the toilet. This was a white metal arm with rubber handgrips, on the floor next to the toilet bowl like an emergency brake. It’s a water conservation mechanism; on a boat, it’s an empty, waterless bowl and it flushes with a quick, powerful whoosh.
The pack followed the guide to other parts of the boat. While we were in the Captain’s Quarters, I received an urgent message from my netherworld: time to poop. It was perfect timing, since I could run back to the toilet unnoticed. I am a quick and easy pooper, not someone who needs the New York Times and a quiet half hour. All I need is a closed door.
I went back to the head and shut the door and pooped immediately. No problem. Quick wipe, quick zip of the Cub Scout uniform, and I was good to go. I pumped the handle to flush. Nothing happened. Dropping a log into a boat toilet is highly unsatisfying: there’s no water for floating, so it just sat there, marooned next to a wad of toilet paper. I pumped again, and a sad little whoosh took away the toilet paper, leaving a very stubborn Cub Scout muffin in the bowl.
I flushed again, feeling creeping panic. Nothing changed.
I made a snap decision: I closed the lid and prepared to abandon my shame. No one would know it was mine, and I would be free. I listened at the door; hearing nothing, I cracked it open and peered out into the hall. I was alone looking down a long corridor of shag carpet. Score! I closed the door behind me and went off to find the pack.
Then I was seized by an unusual tug of my conscience: you can’t just leave it lying there. The Cub Scout motto: I promise to do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the law of the pack. An abandoned turd would reflect poorly on all of Pack 452. I did my duty, and now I had to get rid of the evidence.
I went back to the head and opened the door. I lifted the lid and looked at the obstinate little turd. One more try. I left the door open, so it wouldn’t look like mine should I be discovered. Disgusting, isn’t it? What churlish Scout did this?
I gave the white metal handle a very hard, double-handed pump. To my great surprise, the turd was ejected from the bowl. It flew through the air in a high arc, out the door, into the hallway, onto the carpet. There it lodged in the deep 70’s shag.
My poor little Cub Scout heart stopped. I peered at the turd; touching it was out of the question. This was just as bad as it could be. What could I do?
I looked out the hallway: it was empty.
I bolted out of the bathroom, dodged the carpet burger, and headed as far from that toilet as I could. I dashed the length of the boat until I found my pack, and I rejoined them as if nothing happened. Oh, I was just playing with a porthole, I would tell anyone who asked. No one asked.
I was back in the pack, breathing silent relief. Someone would step in it, and I would be far from the scene of the crime when it happened. Fuck Pack 452.