This is not profound. There is nothing noteworthy or significant about the story that I am about to share. It is just a very human moment that is (hopefully) relatable. Internet, I present one of my most humiliating experiences for your viewing pleasure. Please, be kind.
Long story short, I once shit my pants while living in Lhasa, Tibet. If you have a little more time, then hang on to the edge of your seats ladies and gents, this one’s a nail biter.
The facts are these (10 points if you get the reference):
1. From anywhere around the main streets surrounding the Barkhor market area of Lhasa, it should only take 10 minutes at most to get to any other point.
2. The cost of a cab in this area is 10 kuai (yuan).
3. The very few public restrooms are gag-inducing cesspools.
4. There was only one restaurant bathroom that I felt secure using within walking distance of my starting point.
5. Walking across the Barkhor with its winding streets and circumambulatory circuit would take 30 minutes from the monastery.
6. Lhasa’s elevation is 11,975 feet/3,650 meters. It can be hard to breathe even when you are sitting still.
In the fall of 2011, I was living in Lhasa to help my Significant Other with his dissertation research. I was his official photographer/partial translator. On this fateful day, we had just arrived at a monastery to photograph murals when the first rumblings started. I figured that I could power through the mild discomfort and carry on with the photography. However, within a matter of minutes, the mild discomfort mutated into piercing pains and mounting pressure.
It was go time. I threw my equipment at my SO and dashed out. My plan was to hire one of the usually ubiquitous cabs in the area and be back at the hotel in a breezy 10 minutes.
Let’s start with 30 minutes on the clock.
Milling around the front of the monastery, I waited in vain for a cab. Located right on the main road, this should have been child’s play. Instead it was a battleground of shoving bodies and quicker reflexes than my cramping body could muster.
After wasting five minutes, I decided to ditch this plan and make my way to a familiar restaurant nearby. It had a decent toilet, pretty much my only requirement at that point. If a cab happened to stop, then I would take it, but otherwise I would jeopardize my standing with one of my favorite restaurants.
25 minutes remaining.
With each step of growing agony, running was out of the question. Step by waddling step, I walked a crucial eight minutes in the direction of the restaurant when a cab pulled over at the halfway point. What to do? Chance destroying the bathroom of one of my favorite restaurants or take the cab? At that point, I figured I could last the 10 minutes it would take to get back to the hotel before the impending geyser of shit. I took the cab.
17 minutes remaining.
So relieved was I with this chariot of salvation that I concentrated on surviving. Deep breaths, legs shaking, and ass cheeks clenched, I gripped the arm rest and stared determinedly out the window. So it was that I ended up missing the moment when the cab U-turned to start right back up the way he came. Senses dulled by pain, my agonized cry of, “No, you went the wrong way!” was too late. Even through my mangled Mandarin, he clearly understood and ignored my weak protestation.
12 minutes remaining.
The pain had built to such an unbearable extent that I had to release some of the pressure. Silent but deadly reached a whole new level that day. I frantically rolled down the window in the hopes that my bog of eternal stench went unnoticed by the unscrupulous cabbie. The whole of my being concentrated on the single goal of not sharting and thus unleashing the tidal wave.
2 minutes remaining.
We FINALLY arrived at the hotel and I had a clenched handful of bills ready to throw the cab driver’s way. And this is where things got ugly. He started demanding 20 kuai for the long ride, a measly $3.20 in USD, but a significant price increase when every second counted. I actually did not have the extra 10 kuai he was trying to extort from me and if I only knew how to say, “READ THE ROOM OR SMELL IT,” I would have. I finally threw the money I had at him through the open window and walked stiff-legged into the hotel and toward the elevator.
1 minute remaining.
If you are wondering why I didn’t just sprint up the two flights of stairs to my room, check back to fact #6. Piercing pains in my chest and labored breathing would not have helped the situation. Lady Luck was not with me that day and I had to wait for the elevator to descend and clear, another 45 precious seconds lost.
15 seconds remaining.
The doors closed, the elevator began its laborious ascent, and it was then that I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Forehead bowed in defeat, the unrelenting stream began. A gush of warmth and the unbearable pressure began to ease. I surrendered wholeheartedly, grateful that my $100 Guess jeans (my most and only expensive pair) were of such quality and tightness as to contain the brown tide.
Finished, the door dinged open and I carefully waddled to my room. I quadruple bagged my poor pants, the casualty of this messy affair, and stepped into the shower. When my SO came back 30 minutes later, I was still washing off.
And there it is, the whole slopping tale. I usually whip this story out when bonding with fellow backpackers since there is nothing like a good, humiliating, feces-related story to break the ice. You should try it at parties; I promise everyone will remember you.