The Cast: Myself (letting it all out).
As the bile and stomach acid blasted the chunks of food debris through my sinus cavity, all I could think of was, “Well, at least I can’t smell the feces anymore.”
Last year, at this time, I told of an unpleasant experience when I was younger and had my Thanksgiving meal again—unplanned—in the wee hours of the morning. As a result of that choice—which was holiday-appropriate—I have decided to continue with that tradition. It’s only fitting, and you’ve been warned.
When you’re an adult you learn all sorts of things. You pick up little bits of information here and there. Snippets of knowledge are added to your collection of facts and fictions. You learn. If you are fortunate, you learn early, and from other’s mistakes. If not… Well, if not you learn the hard way. Yourself.
At twelve-years-old my family moved me from Montana to Utah. I felt it unfair, but at twelve, you don’t always have a say in the matter. I was not even there for two days before my new Scout Master showed up and sold my parents on the idea of me going to Scout Camp for the next week. WHAT!!! NO WAY!!! Was what I exploded in my mind. Not only did I just move to another state, but I didn’t know anyone. How was I supposed to go on a week-long campout with a bunch of strangers in the freaking woods and have a good time?!?
“I don’t want to.”
“You’ll love it.” “You’ll have lots of fun.” Were the replies of my parents.
“This way you’ll meet all the boys in the troop.” Added support from the Scout Master (who was still there, in my front room, a front room still full of boxes because we had just moved!!!)
“I would rather not.” Think quickly. Think quickly. “I still have to unpack my stuff.”
“That can wait.” My mother. Always with the make-sense-reasons.
Over the next few days, I had to dig through boxes and find enough camping stuff to take with me. The Scout Master—who happened to live two houses away—was very helpful about bringing over lists of things I might want to pack. As well as ensuring me that it would all be just fine and I would enjoy myself. Gre-e-eat…
Monday came and I loaded up my camping gear with all the other boys in my new Scout Troop (all of whom I didn’t know). A few were brothers and had their own set of family issues. But lucky for me, they brought them along so I could focus on their problems and feel even worse about my being there. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, so much. (I can still vividly recall the extra-loud fight over why one brother had to sleep at the bottom of the tent because last campout he was at the top, peed in his sleep, and the resulting stream got the three boys downhill from him wet)
Author’s Note: For those who are not familiar with a Boy Scouts of America summer camp, let me give you a little intel/background on the situation. I have worked for the B.S.A. for over a decade at one of their summer camps. I enjoyed the experience of teaching and helping others. My wife and family joined me for most of those years, and they too had a good time. The idea of the week-long summer camp was to provide opportunities for the Scouts to earn merit badges. The Merit Badge is a symbol of knowledge gained about a particular topic. The idea being, that the Scouts get to learn about all sorts of new, or different, things. All done in one week while spending time outdoors and enjoying nature. And it can be expensive. Depending on how it’s done the Troop could either pay the camp to provide food resources for them (more money), then there are the supplies for the badges (kits for basket making and such), miscellaneous snacks and treats, and whatever else is needed.
As a former employee—and adult—I now know what goes into running one of those camps. It’s a lot of work. It is not easy. As a child, I had no idea what it entailed, or what it was, or what I was supposed to be doing. I thought we were going camping. People really should communicate more.
Eventually, I awoke in the truck to find my head bouncing off the window because we had hit a pretty big bump in the road. Yay. We’re here. Gre-e-eat…
As the truck wound its way into a lovely campsite, I was amazed at how many of the boys knew just what to do—as well as how many other people were in nearby campsites. My fellow Boy Scouts assisted me in learning to be self-sufficient—they let me get my own gear and set it up. The woodland neighbors didn’t make me think twice because when I was younger, my church would regularly have a campout for a few days in the summertime. I was used to going out in groups and having campsites all about. What I was unprepared for was the schedule that quickly followed.
Suddenly, my Troop was running here and there. Instructions were being given. Meetings were taking place. Instructions were given. We were sent places. Instructions were given. Gatherings were happening. Instructions were given. I was lost. Not in the literal sense—although I guess technically I was, as I had no idea where I was (and have still not figured that out to this day)—but in the figurative sense. Lots of things were being said (at different times). People were over-talking for clarification. Answers were being given. Corrections made. I was becoming overly frustrated, but just went along. I figured someone would explain it to me, eventually.
The next morning there was the flag ceremony, where the American flag, a Utah flag, and a Scout flag were raised. We pledged allegiance to the flag and the United States (still one of my favorite things to do—hand over heart, facing my flag), announcements for the day were given, then bodies scattered like cockroaches exposed. I didn’t know where to go, so I went back to camp. Nobody was in uniform, so I sort of forgot I was at a Scout Camp, or that I was supposed to do anything structured. I thought my Troop was going to do things together. Nope. They were all off earning merit badges. I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand that. I just thought they were off hiking and exploring without me. Even the leaders were gone. (I now know that the leaders were at trainings—I didn’t then)
So I sat. At camp. At the picnic table. Alone. In the sun. Almost all day long.
Loneliness-repreive came at meal time. The Scouts returned, we cooked. We ate. They left again. It wasn’t until a couple days in that one of the leaders discovered I hadn’t been doing anything and ‘encouraged’ me to find something to do (he sent me from camp). I found the Trading Post and bought a rabbit skin for my mom (to decorate with) and a basket kit. One of the other boys in my troop had been working on one and it looked like fun. So then I sat at camp. At the picnic table. Alone. In the sun. Basket weaving. Almost all day long.
As it turns out, it takes about a full week for a body to acclimatize to a new environment (this is one of those adult-knowledge-learned things). In addition to that, different elevations require more or less hydration levels due to proximity to the Earth’s core, thinner atmosphere, and the persons size/metabolism. Mix into those facts the part where I had just moved from another state, and sprinkle with my not drinking much water (because all I was doing was sitting and didn’t think I needed to) and you have a perfect recipe for The Worst.
I awoke not wanting to move. I didn’t want to move because if I did, I was going to hurl. My leaders kept me moving—probably because they didn’t believe me and I don’t blame them, as I have delt with tons of fakers in my parenting/teaching/Scouting careers—and I went to flag ceremony.
On the way I politely expressed my extreme desire to unload my stomach contents into the bushes, but my leader made me keep going. “Just make it to flags, you can throw up in the outhouse if you still need to.” Oh, boy! (there’s a lot of sarcasm put into that ‘Oh, boy!’, in case you missed it)
As I stood there in the chill of the early morning dawn, my stomach did its best to warn me that it was going to get very bad, very quickly. I tried to tell my leader that. Nope. I had to stay for flags.
Small burps began. They threatened to become burps in 3D, and in full technicolor. Nope. I had to stay for flags.
The longer I stayed the more precarious the situation became. Finally, when flags ended, I was able to head to the head to ‘Release the Kraken’ that swam about inside my gut and threatened to destroy me.
My kind leader tried to get me to run to the port-a-johns. Yeah… That wasn’t happening. I was like old, sweaty dynamite. If not handled with the utmost of delicate natures, I was going to explode right then and there. In fact, I almost didn’t make it to the line forming at the kybo’s (Keep Your Bowels Open) without losing it all. Every step was a precise balance of speed and gentleness that I was learning along the way. Just get to the john. Just get to the john. Just get there. Just get to the john. Just get to the john…
There was a line. A long line. A really long line. I stood there trying not to pour my bowel-chili all over the backside of the guy in front of me. He probably wouldn’t have liked that. Finally, I was there. The Port-a-John. My turn! The only good thing so far, this morning. Then I stepped into it… Gre-e-eat…
If you have ever been in an outhouse of any caliber, you probably have been in one—at some point—where the the air inside was so terrible that it seemed as if someone just thrust spoonfuls of feces & feted urine up your nose. That was all it took. The following torrent of spew that fired forth from my throat would’ve made a fire-hose (at full blast) look like a leaky faucet. The shear volume, speed, and pressure was impressive.
“You done?” Came a knock and query from my Scout Leader.
More violent vomiting. That should answer his question. Port-a-Potties have thin walls.
On round three, my poor throat and mouth could not keep up with the proportions that my stomach decided needed to be pumped out. My cheeks were sore. If felt like my mouth was going to rip apart. Something had to give. Something did.
Up until that moment I had been able to direct everything directly into the tank that held the blue-water, urine, and fecal-matter stew. Now, at forces unregistrable by modern science, strong streams of bile and food bits shot from both nostrils. Their terminus points happen to hit on both sides of the sitting ring. The downpour of puke was now everywhere. It burned. It burned the inside of my nose so bad. But at least I couldn’t smell all the crap in that outhouse anymore.
Everything hurt. Everything. My gut, from the forcing of the fluids. My mouth from all the crud pushed out of it (so achy). My nose, burned. Ya’ know, it’s not easy to rise out your nose with a canteen—just sayin’. And there were bits of food still stuck in the left nostril.
When I opened the door to the outhouse, and my leader saw the mess, I could tell that he finally understood that I wasn’t faking it. Any of it. I was taken to the medical tent, given a giant cup of what looked like fruit punch and a cot—in the corner (for privacy)—to lay upon. I was nervous. While I love Hawaiian Punch, I couldn’t see how it was gonna make things better.
“It’s Gatorade. Drink it.”
I sipped at the Gatorade. My stomach was recharged (in a good way). It instantly began to settle. I layed down and went to sleep.
That afternoon I was woken up to see how I was doing. I wanted to go home. Many people tried to explain that I should just stay (and they provided many valid reasons). Nothin’ doin’. I wanted to go home.
In the dark I helped my dad pack my stuff into the car. He had driven several hours to come and get me. He never once complained about how much the situation may have put him out.
Again, as an adult and having worked at a Scout Camp for many years, I know now what that toll was—having been part of it many times. I now know what my dad had to have done for me on that day. He never said anything about it. Ever.
I slept the whole way home.