Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Camp Poopy

Like a lot of humiliating road-trip stories, this one is poop-related. 

It's hard to say what's more humiliating: pooping one's pants, being taught pants pooping avoidance by one's 6th grade teacher, or have said pant pooping incident recalled by a school bully 20 years after the original incident. This pooping incident would sadly become a defining moment of my middle school and high school years.

When I was halfway through my fifth grade year my parents decided to move us from Littleton to Castle Rock Colorado. They hoped that there would be less of a bullying problem, but not only did the kids bully me for being a chubby, awkward kid, but since Castle rock was a more upper class community, they also bullied me for being poor.

One of the advantages of attending Rock Ridge Elementary was that the 6th grade class got to go to Camp Cheley. I knew about this because the teachers and students wouldn't fucking stop talking about it.

"You're very lucky you go here, because in 6th grade you get to go to Camp Cheley!"

"6th grade, Camp Cheley! If you can afford it...nice Payless shoes. Hey everyone, look at her Payless shoes!"

Camp Cheley, for the uninformed, is a camp in the Colorado mountains. It's in Estes Park, 8,000 feet above sea level, and positioned near the continental divide. The cabins were luxurious, the food tasty, the accommodations cozy; not at all like the YMCA camps that the poor kids would attend (which I would later attend six times through my teen years).

I wasn't terribly excited about going to Camp Cheley for two reasons: 

1) I would be trapped in the mountains with my tormentors for a week straight, with nowhere to escape except for the woods overrun with bears and mountain lions (which honestly in comparison was a step above my peers). 

2) Like the 5th grade camping trip (which is a nightmare I will save for another story), I was going to have to apply for a scholarship because my family couldn't afford the $400 fee. When I would be awarded the scholarship it would be announced to the class, and it would be following by endless bullying and teasing about how my family couldn't afford to send me to camp because I ate all of the family's money. Because I was fat, you see? What I'm trying to say is children are horrible people.

Well I was awarded a scholarship and I did have to go to Camp Cheley because it wasn't just camp; it was class. Every morning started at 6:00 am with breakfast, packing lunches and then piling on to buses for our day classes. We would drive for hours to our hiking points, hike through 5 feet of snow into the mountains in snow shoes while learning various things about wilderness, science and Colorado history.

On the very first expedition we went to a cabin that belonged to Zebulon Pike or Robert Estes, or someone important who I can't recall. We hiked and picnicked in the snow, and at one point after two juice boxes, I needed to pee. I wandered into the woods like all the other kids to pee behind a tree, but what I didn't realize is that I was being followed by a group of boys. When I squatted down to pee, they started to make farting noises. After that, I resolved to never pee in the woods for the remainder of the trip, which would be very much to my detriment.

The following day we hiked up to a frozen lake to identify different types of pine trees, because reasons? The hike went for several hours and I purposely left behind my water bottle so I wouldn't have to pee, however my teacher insisted that I drink the extra juice boxes she brought with her, so I would stay hydrated. What a horrible woman. I tried to hold it, but couldn't so I decided to hike far, far into the woods while carefully watching my back. Sadly I didn't make it and ended up peeing my pants trying to find a private place to go to the bathroom. I did, though, come up with a brilliant plan. I threw myself into the snow to get the rest of my jeans wet so when I would get back to the class I could play it off as if I fell into a snow drift and got wet struggling to get out. I was frozen numb but I was spared the humiliation of having to admit I peed my pants. Sadly the humiliation I was able to spare myself would only be paid back to me twofold the following day.

The next morning we took a longer trip to Saint Mary's Glacier. The drive was over two and a half hours there and back again. We would spend the day hiking up to the glacier, learning how to age ice layers (because reasons), This time I would fake drinking juice boxes so I could avoid peeing, but there was nothing I could do to avoid the dreaded #2.

It hit me as we hiked back down hill to the bus. I don't know about you, but when I walk or exercise, the pooping process is expedited greatly. I took tiny steps clenching as hard as I could, with my teachers  constantly haranguing me for taking up the rear (so to speak). I told him I wasn't feeling well as I carefully inched my way down the mountainside. By the time we reached the bus I couldn't hold it any longer. 

I did it. 

I pooped my pants.

I got on to the bus knowing there was a large load in my jeans. There was literally nothing that could be done. I went all the way to the very last row on the bus so I could sit alone. The teacher was talking to us, recapping what we learned, but my primary focus was positioning myself on my seat so I didn't have to sit flat on my butt. I pressed my knees into the seat in front of me so I could suspend my butt over the chair, but I couldn't hold that position for the two and a half hour bumpy road trip back to the Camp. In the last hour stretch when my thighs were burning from holding myself up we hit a massive pothole and I landed hard on my bottom. It felt like a final "fuck you" from the universe before the worst of it was to come.

We got back to camp and I slowly waddled my way off the bus and uphill towards our cabin. I grabbed a change of pants and went directly into the communal bathroom. I won't bore you with the details of clean up, but I will tell you it was bad. I must have spent a half hour in the stall wiping and flushing, wiping and flushing. I determined that I needed to shower, which thankfully was in the same bathroom, but I was stuck with one problem: my underwear.

I don't know if you ever had to deal with cloth diapers, but my mother used them on my younger brother. Having a piece of fabric filled with poop presents a significant problem, especially when you're locked in a bathroom filled with your peers, who are wondering why you are taking so long in the bathroom. I recalled what my mother would do when she would clean out my brother's diapers: she would shake off what she could in the toilet and then flush, and as the toilet would flush she would dip the soiled part of the diaper in the flushing water to clean it off before she would put it in the washing machine. It's gross, but it's a good system.

I resolved to follow my mother's method, shaking off what I could and then I flushed the toilet. Delicately pinching  my underwear between my fingers I dipped my underwear into the rapidly flushing water and almost instantly the water swept my underwear out of my tender grasp. With horror I watched my underwear flush down the toilet. I prayed that they would make it; that by some miracle they would make it through the pipes and the toilet wouldn't clog, but the toilet did clog. Then, as if I was possessed by some kind of idiotic demon, I flushed again, hoping the water would coax the underwear through the pipes.

That is not what happened. The water immediately began overflowing all over the floor, into the other stalls. I heard other girls scream as the water touched their feet. I jerked open the door and the cabin counselor was already standing there. All I could do was mutter, "There's something wrong with the toilet..." She pushed me out of the way and heroically grabbed a plunger and started plunging away as the rest of the girls in the cabin gathered around, asking, "What happened? What did you DO??" I kept saying, I don't know, I don't know, as I backed towards the exit slowly. 

Before I could make my escape I saw the counselor lift the plunger, with my yellow underpants tragically dangling from the end of it. I'll never wipe the look on her and my peers faces, the look that very plainly read as, "What the actual fuck?"

That was my queue to leave. I turned around and walked promptly out of the cabin, down to the infirmary. I told the nurse that I was sick to my stomach and had diarrhea. I stayed with her in the infirmary until bedtime. My cabin counselor and my teacher both came by asking what happened. I couldn't lie my way out of it but I did finesse my story and tell them I had diarrhea, in order to increase their sympathy so they wouldn't think I was some kind of animal that pooped her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet.

I sat in the infirmary all night, taking Pepto Bismol and sipping tea with the nurse. We listened to NPR and talked about our families and where we were from. She was unbelievably kind to me when I needed someone to be kind. It was probably the best part of my trip. When it was bedtime she walked me up to my cabin, where thankfully everyone had already gone to sleep, and I was able to slip quietly into my bunk and cry myself to sleep.

The rest of the week went surprisingly conflict free. I practically starved and dehydrated myself for the remainder of the trip, but it was worth sparing myself the humiliation. When I returned home I didn't tell my parents what happened, and I don't believe my teacher told them either because we never talked about it. What did happen, however, was the day we returned to class after the trip my teacher kept me after school. She gave me a lesson on how to hold my poop in by clenching my butt cheeks. She sat in her chair across from me, demonstrating how she clenches, insisting I try it too. I complied, never looking her in the eye, and walked home feeling absolutely defeated. My butt clenching lessons were the Charlie Brown soundtrack to my sad walk home.

I survived the sixth grade, assuming that it was behind me (so to speak). Sadly I did not live the incident down. A middle school bully would constantly bring it up when I would pass him in the hall. 

"Hey tubbo, aren't you the kid who pooped her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet?" 

His name was Matt. He was a rat-faced skater boy. All through Middle School and High School, he was the one who would never let it die. What made it worse is that he didn't even go to Camp Cheley, which meant he heard it second hand from the boys in his class, which meant the boys heard it from the girls. Everyone knew. I would of course lie and say it didn't happen or it wasn't me, but that's not something you can live down.

Years later, after I started a Facebook account and the inevitable slew of friend requests would come from old high school acquaintances, I received a friend request from Matt. I was of course in shock, because he very clearly was not a friend of mine. I decided to accept his friend request and so I could ask him why on earth he would want to friend me. 

He asked, "Weren't we friends in high school? I remember you from the theatre department." 

I told him I remember him in a very different light, and that he bullied me all through middle school and high school. I didn't hear from him for a few weeks, and then he finally responded with: 

"Wait, I remember you now! You were the kid who shit her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet at camp!"

Before I blocked him, I responded with this: "I may be the kid who when she was 11 years old shit her pants at camp and accidentally flushed her underwear down the toilet, but I'd rather be that than a 30 year old man who won't stop talking about it."

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