Barry Smith: Irrelativity
It’s been said that humor equals tragedy plus time. This is why jokes about the Titanic have only recently become funny. I’m referring to the movie, not the ill-fated luxury liner of the same name.I’m thinking back on this little incident that happened just over 20 years ago. At the time, it seemed very, very bad, but now I feel enough time has passed that I can look back and see the enormous comic potential. Maybe you can, too, especially if you love a good poo story as much as I do. Ooops … might have given too much away already. Never mind; read on.The scene:My friends and I have just finished a three-month trip through Mexico and Central America, traveling in my VW van, and are now on our way to Canada to continue our adventure. We’ve stopped off at my parents’ house in Southern California to regroup, and my father has been kind enough to let us stay with him for what turned out to be about two weeks. This is about three weeks longer than he would have preferred.While there, we’re trying to make ourselves as low impact as possible. My dad doesn’t really like company, or my friends in general, or me specifically, so we do our best to stay out of everyone’s way. But we still have to do some laundry and cook for ourselves and drink his beer, and, well, in retrospect I don’t think we really did that good of a job staying out of the way. After a few days, my dad starts to wonder, aloud, when we might be getting the hell out of his house.And fair enough. We had overstayed our welcome right around the time we stepped out of the van. But again, my dad is being kind and not booting us out, even though no one could have blamed him.The players:Well, there’s me. I was (and, as of this writing, still am) in the middle of a sabbatical from my college studies. I’ve spent the past few years traveling, living in squalor in foreign countries, living in my van, living in public parks – all indicators to my dad that things were not going well for me. I was of the opposite opinion, but so what? And now I’ve brought my slack right to his doorstep, along with some cohorts, Andy and Bonnie.Andy’s a musician from England – already a bad combination for my dad – with crazy musician afro hair and, due to our recent travels, is now perpetually clad in newly purchased colorful Guatemalan hippie garb. He spends his days literally tiptoeing around the house, trying not to upset my dad. Bonnie, his girlfriend, is kind and polite and doesn’t really play much of a part in this tale.And there’s my father. He has a nice house, and he likes to keep it clean and tidy. Very clean. And very tidy.The incident:I’m sitting on the couch, it’s early morning, and Andy comes tearing down the hallway, an even-more-crazed-than-usual look in his eyes.”Baz, you gotta help me,” he’s truly frantic. “I just flushed the toilet, and it’s coming back up.””There’s a plunger in the bathroom,” I tell him, still half asleep.”I tried that, but it’s coming out of the sink and bathtub and everything!”Just then I hear my dad yell something that I won’t even attempt to re-create with little #%&$ symbols. He’s yelling from his bathroom, which is quite a few rooms away, so it must be exceptionally loud. Turns out Andy’s flushing has caused the septic system to completely fail, and it’s now purging its contents through every available hole in the house. For whatever reason the brunt of it is erupting up through the drain in my dad’s bathtub. The very bathtub he is … oh dear … currently standing in while taking his morning shower. You don’t have to be obsessively clean in order not to enjoy standing in a tub full of everyone’s poo, but it has to make it at least a little bit worse. Andy and I decide, without even discussing it, that it’ll be best not to mention that this sewer regurgitation was triggered by Andy’s innocent flushing. Instead, we begin quietly packing up our things, and I go outside and start the van. While we’re driving away, I remember thinking that someday I’ll be able to look back and laugh. And that day, it turns out, is today. Twenty years and change later. Ha!I’ve never spoken of this with my dad, but I have a pretty good idea what he’d say.”Too soon.”
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times.
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