musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Monday, January 08, 2007

speaking of long drops...

For the past few weeks, I've been avidly reading Pammie On The Go's account of her 2003 climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. What an amazing adventure. For an armchair traveler like me, it was probably the closest I'll ever come to experiencing not only the sights and sounds but also the emotions, the physical and mental pain, and the ultimate joy of making such a challenging trip.

That said, one particular line from the saga stands out in my mind: "Terrible long drop toilets with many short drop accidents."

Believe me, I'd much rather have a line about the incredible journey or the awesome vistas or the even the altitude sickness stuck in my mind, but when I read those words in Episode 6, I flashed back to a long ago and mercifully forgotten (until now) moment. And then ... I blushed.

Let me explain...

A goodly number of years ago, back in the days when I still thought sleeping on the ground was fun, I embarked on a cross-country camping trip with my husband and our one-year-old son. We had a big old Chevy van that we'd outfitted with a homemade version of camper chic — flower-printed curtains, bench seats with built-in storage bins underneath, and a fold-out double bed for cozy nights in the wild. We had our trusty two-burner Coleman stove for cooking, a comfy travel cot for baby boy and, luxury of luxuries, a folding portable toilet. the time, hubby was working as a parks planner. Our first overnight stop was to be at one of the campgrounds he'd designed in northern Ontario. But before we reached the park, hubby decided it would be fun to stop in and say hello to his co-workers at the MNR district office. We parked in a shady spot in the lot behind the building, I pulled out my book and a bottle of juice and put my feet up to enjoy a little quiet time while hubby visited and baby boy slept in his cot.

Minutes ticked by. Make that an hour or more. Baby boy was still fast asleep, I'd finished my book, and I probably shouldn't have finished the juice because... well, let's just say nature was calling my name. I knew there'd be a nice, civilized washroom inside the building but I didn't want to wake baby and wouldn't leave him alone in the van. Still no sign of hubby and my situation was fast becoming critical. The solution was obvious.

the wretched toilet

Moments later, I had the little folding toilet all set up, complete with a blue plastic 'baggie' to catch the, er...payload. I pulled the van's sliding door closed for privacy, dropped my shorts and sat. About two seconds later I knew I was in trouble. The seat seemed to be listing sideways. I tried to adjust but felt the whole thing start to collapse. It was dumping me off toward the door. I jumped up. A five-foot-three woman should never jump up in the four-foot-three interior of a van. My head hit the roof. Hard. I flung out a hand to steady myself and managed to grab the door latch.

You know how sometimes when things are happening too fast you almost feel as if you're moving in slow motion?

The van door rolled slooowwly open. The wretched little toilet tipped and rolled, sailing in a gentle arc out onto the gravel parking lot. It skidded to a stop a few feet away. And I was right behind it. One sandal strap gave way and my bare foot shot out into thin air. My grasping fingers couldn't keep hold of the doorframe. The ground rose up to meet me.

Dust billowed. Gravel scraped my hands and knees but I felt no pain, focussed as I was on the building where hubby was still visiting. It had two rows of windows overlooking the parking area and, I imagined, dozens of workers behind those windows, enjoying the afternoon show. "Hey, get a load of the woman with her shorts around her ankles!"

That's when the slow motion shifted to fast-forward. Next thing I knew, I was back inside the van with the door shut, peering out through a crack in the curtains, searching for faces in the windows and desperately hoping I hadn't been seen. Too embarrassed to retrieve the toilet, I sat sniffling in the dark until hubby returned and drove me — quickly — to the closest campground washroom.

And that, Pammie, is my great adventure with a toilet and an accidental "long drop". Not quite Kilimanjaro but thanks for the memories!


At 12:50 am, Blogger Pammie said...

Hello Ostara,

Blimey, what a story! I was waiting for you to say something like, "...and I dusted off my knees to look up and find hubby and his mates standing there to inspect the new van set up and found wife sprawled out in her undies and baby wailing". The van set up did sound fantastic though...

Amazing the memory triggers huh! Thanks for the link to my adventure too, hope others also enjoy!

At 7:04 am, Blogger Ostara said...

LOL on your alternate ending, Pammie - that's how it'll play in the movie version, I'm sure. ;-)


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