Barry Smith: The dirty business of doing your business; or how to scare visitors
October 20, 2002
(WARNING: The following true story is one that probably should not be told. It contains graphic scenes of graphicfulness which should be considered extremely graphic even by people who go for that sort of thing. In all fairness, you should not read today’s column at all. That being said … read on!)
It all started several months ago when I met someone who works at the Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory in North Carolina, where they test poop.
Test poop, did I say? Indeed I did, and indeed they do. They run thorough diagnostic tests on feces for reasons which are still unclear to me. Clarity, however, was not a consideration when I said to my new friend, “Send me a test kit … I must have my poop diagnosed.”
Not only did I see the potential for writing the ultimate scatological column (yes, this one) about my experience, but it would also settle a long-standing argument … several friends having accused me of believing that my poop doesn’t stink. With this test, I saw an opportunity to put that decision in the hands of science, with the hope that they wash them afterward.
Several agonizing weeks of giddy anticipation passed before my diagnostic kit arrived. The kit contained two plastic vials filled with green and yellow liquids, a rubber glove, a paper tray that looks like the kind that french fries are served in, and a pre-paid return airbill.
The kit’s instructions showed me step-by-step, via little cartoon illustrations, what I must do in order to prepare my poop for diagnosis. It had to somehow make its way into the paper tray, then be meticulously scooped into the vials.
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It was not a pretty picture, but I forged ahead, riding on my investigative journalistic instincts. The next time nature called, I grabbed the goods, took a deep breath and headed for the “collection room.”
I’ll spare you the details of what happened next, except to tell you that during the process of transferring the “specimen” from the “paper tray” to the “little vials” there was a knock on the door, and, having no place to set the “paraphernalia” down, I answered it with my hands “full.” I mention this only because I’ve never seen Jehovah’s Witnesses run so fast.
With the specimen safely in the vials, I had a serious decision to make. On the Airborne Express form the first line asked for a “declared value” on the contents. I was faced with the age-old question: How can a man put a price on his poop? I wrote “Invaluable. But please DO NOT return to sender. Consider it my gift to you.”
The packaging worked like this: The vials went inside a plastic envelope, which went inside a larger, thicker plastic envelope, which went inside a box. Each layer bore an increasingly urgent warning. The box read: “EXTREMELY DISGUSTING MATERIALS ENCLOSED!” The large, outer envelope read: “You’re probably not being paid enough to open this.” The small envelope simply said: “Discard immediately!”
In the small print on the back of the airbill was the disclaimer: “Airborne Express shall not be liable in any special, incidental or consequential damages, including but not limited to loss of profits or income.” It didn’t go into details as to how I could stand to lose profits or income if my poop was damaged, or even what exactly “damage” would include. Better not to ask, I figured.
I got a package tracking number, so I was able to call up every half hour and find out the exact location of my poo poo. I’d hang up the phone and say to my wife, “Good news! It’s changing planes in Dallas!” As it turns out, she’s not nearly as impressed with technology as I am.
After a few weeks I received my Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis, and as I read aloud from it there was much celebrating around the house, let me assure you.
Although most of the report contained information which was over my head, like the fact that I had an overgrowth of Citrobacter freundi (+4) and that my Propionate was at 22 percent, I could only guess that the results were thorough and accurate, because under “Color” it said: “Brown.”
These guys were good.
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