A guest blog post by Ocean Hayward
It’s summer road trip season, and I’ve been partaking all summer long so far. My husband and I have been driving back and forth around the Maritimes visiting friends and family. Yes, summer road trips- those long trips in the car filled with highways lined with nothing but trees for miles and miles, rest-stops, gas stations, fast food and sitting in the same position for hours on end, squirming around in the seat trying to find that sweet spot where your legs, neck and back don’t ache. And, of course, holding in your business until the next rest-stop or exit.
Growing up, I went on a lot of family road trips in the summer. My father generally drove and one thing about my father is he is always in a hurry. He hates traveling, so whenever we went on our trips, he wanted to get there and back home as quickly as possible. It’s because my father is not a public pooper. The only place he will drop anchor is at home. We’ve been out at stores, restaurants or family get-togethers and my dad will rush us all out to take us home because he has to shit. I, too, suffered from the same shame about public pooping, (either a learned behaviour or inherited one, I’m not sure which) for years until the “Best Buy” incident.
My husband and I were on a road trip of our own to visit his brother in Ontario and we drove through the U.S. because the gasoline is much cheaper there. On the way, my husband wanted to look at laptops at Best Buy because electronics are also much cheaper, even with the exchange rate. When traveling, I would always hold in my bowel movements because the shame, oh, the shame of shitting in a public restroom. But when you’re on a road trip, you don’t have the luxury of driving home to use the toilet. So there we were, my husband and I, in Best Buy, and that’s when the poop pangs hit me- my bowels weren’t going to allow me to wait to use the bathroom until our next stay in a hotel. So I didn’t walk, I literally RAN to the Best Buy bathroom, without even saying a word to my husband who was examining each electronic item, the prices and doing the math for exchange rates in his head. He didn’t even realize that I had disappeared.
The nice thing about the Best Buy bathrooms is that usually they are empty. I was so relieved (Pun intended) when I got into the bathroom and there wasn’t a single other person in there. I think that people don’t generally need to use the bathroom when shopping for electronics like they do at gas stations or rest stops off of the highway. Probably because most people shopping for electronics are not that far from home, and they probably don’t stay in the store long enough to feel the urge. So I had the WHOLE bathroom to myself. I checked under each stall to ensure I was indeed truly alone, and I was. It was quiet and clean, and I let it all out! Afterwards, I felt empty in a beautiful way that only people who have held in their shit for more than a day can understand. I was in there for a very long time. When I came out, my husband immediately looked up to see me come out of the bathroom. “Was that you?” Apparently the smell of my “brand” had emanated out into the TV department where my husband had moved to do more price comparisons just outside of the bathroom. He was actually puzzling about the smell and wondering if the Best Buy had an issue with their sewage system. It didn’t. It was ME! But you know even though I stunk up the entire Best Buy bathroom and surrounding TV department, I didn’t care. No one in that Best Buy in New Hampshire knew me and I felt so good to have it all out.
But back to my dad, where I learned to become a dysfunctional pooper in the first place, (Hey, Dad, EVERYBODY POOPS!) and his mad rush to get the family road trips over as quickly as possible. Our most memorable road trip as a family was when I was 17 and had just finished the eleventh grade. My brother was 12 at the time. We lived in Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada. My mother wanted us to visit her sister who lives in British Columbia (BC) on the west coast of Canada and instead of flying, my parents decided to drive to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC because supposedly they wanted us to have a learning experience out of it by seeing all of Canada. (FUN FACTOID: Canada is the second largest country in the world!) As the trip progressed, I began to see that the learning experience part was more my mother’s idea. My dad, on the other hand, saw driving as a way to save money instead buying plane tickets for the four of us (which would have been very expensive and may have caused my father anxiety about the possibility of having to have a shit in the tiny airplane bathroom.)
The funny thing is we didn’t actually see much of Canada at all. I mean, we saw it. Some of it. On the way up, we drove by the “Big Nickel” at the Canadian Mint in Sudbury, Ontario. Then, in my dad’s rush, we skipped Manitoba and Saskatchewan altogether and drove through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana instead. We even passed by the site of Custer’s Last Stand. We drove through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Thing is, although we saw all of these things, we didn’t really SEE them. We saw them through the car window, yes. Whenever we asked to stop to actually SEE any of these things, you know, as in get out of the actual car and walk around, my dad said, “You can see it from here just fine.” So our photo album of our trip to BC consists of blurred photos of mountains, plains and the Big Nickel with the edge of the car window bordering each scenic panavista and landmark. An important lesson I learned from driving across Canada is that it’s very difficult to get good photos from a car window.
Another thing I learned is that families should not take road trips across an entire continent together. My brother and I fought with each other the entire trip. My parents had to separate us by having one of us sitting up front with Dad while the other sat in the back with our mom. We still managed to annoy each other diagonally from time to time. And we constantly fought over who would drive “shot-gun.” Remember shot-gun? Running and trying to call out shot-gun at the first sight of the car so you would be the passenger in the front seat? This was back in 1991 too, so we didn’t have any smart-phones or even hand-held video games like a Game-boy to distract us from the long drive. There may have been Game-boys available but my parents wouldn’t have bought us both one, so we would have just fought over that too. Smart-phones would have been a blessing for us. It’s not like we could really see much of the country anyway, since my dad was speeding across Canada in a mad rush to get back to his beloved porcelain throne in the sanctity of his own home. So a smart-phone would have really made things a lot easier for all of us. Today, families can go on road-trips and not even talk to each other for the entire trip. In fact, maybe another part of my father’s rush was to just get some peace and quiet from the constant bickering between my brother and I… in the bathroom, of course.
We also had to use maps. There was not GPS or Google Maps to direct us. So we had all these road maps- they folded up into the size of a pamphlet but when you unfolded them, they took up the entire front seat. Then one of us, usually my mother or I, would read out the directions to my father. We didn’t have computerized voices, but it didn’t matter because we were quite capable of mispronouncing place names. Then there would be arguments over which way we were supposed to be going, and points where we would get lost. My father was surprisingly willing to stop for directions when we would get lost, unlike the usual stereotypical man. I think it was because of how he was always in a hurry to get the trip over with. He was happy to get directions so he could get to his “home bowl” a little bit quicker.
I feel truly sad for my father, who at 70 still hasn’t learned the wonderful lesson I learned at the Best Buy that day with my husband in New Hampshire: if you have to go number two in public, you should just go do it, because it feels a lot better after and it doesn’t create as much of a stink as it does after holding it in for 2 days. And no matter how fast you try to drive across Canada and back, you’re still going to have to poop at some point before you make it home. So to anyone else who’s ever had anxiety about being a public pooper, I say take the advice of the Nike ads, find yourself a Best Buy bathroom and “Just Do It!”
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net “Cars Traveling With A Blurred Image” by RK008