I’ve seen a lot of things. At least I like to think I’ve seen a lot a things. I’ve seen things that weigh on the unpleasant side of the scale: I’ve seen people pee. I’ve seen people vomit. I’ve seen people pass out. I’ve seen a person pass away.
I never thought I’d end up seeing a person, a fully mobile adult person, poo. But I did.
I’ve got a really nice mechanic. It’s a hole-in-the-wall joint, a friend of my mother’s, so I’m willing to trek to Oakland to get our car issues taken care of. (Our car, as in, we share one car between two people! I am so happy about this. Makes me feel less guilty about driving solo between Berkeley and Palo Alto five times a week last year. But I digress.)
There’s a really simple arrangement between the mechanic and me, one that isn’t unusual for the industry. I drive the car in, they drive me to BART. I BART in to pick up the car, they pick me up in my car. I sign paperwork (if there is any) and drive home. It’s not the most convenient spot, especially given that I live close by a number of auto body repair centers, but it’s a local business that’s been there for twenty-five years, and you know me – I shop indie when I can.
I was standing on the sidewalk at Lake Merritt BART, waiting for my mechanic to round the corner before Laney College so I could pick up my car and head home. Lake Merritt isn’t the worst BART station, but it isn’t the best, either. It’s not a place where you should let your looks linger. I strategically place myself at the side of – but not touching – a tree as my regular lookout point for a quick getaway.
I had my earphones in, though if you know me I don’t listen to my music very loud, so I could still hear general conversation going on around me. Two girls were reading magazines on top of a planter, but otherwise no people of interest had caught my attention. I rigidly stared down the road waiting for my mechanic when I heard a grown man walk behind me and say, “Ooh…”
If you’re female in an urban setting, you know not to wheel around when someone makes anything remotely close to a cat call, and that includes short, monosyllabic utterances of moans and groans. Any sort of reaction provokes strangers who we are taught not to trust, so it’s best to leave your blinders on until something more blatantly declares, “FLEE!”
The “Ooh…” that the man let out was one of those possibly sexual, possibly geriatric moans, but I didn’t turn around to confirm. Instead, I just turned up my music a little bit, checked the views in my sunglasses, and kept starin’ down the road.
It’s probably the hybrid of a nervous tick from living and working in an urban city plus a good habit from driving for eleven-plus years, but every once in a while I make super slight shifts of my head to get an assessment of what’s going on around me. It’s not to make eye contact with anyone or look especially lost/tourist-y, it’s just a general surveillance move. The Discrete Check Back and Forth.
Inevitably, when I’m listening to music, I subconsciously time my Discrete Checks Back and Forth to the changes in the rhythm of a song, which caused me to quickly jerk my head left on this particular afternoon.
And then I saw a grown man with his pants pulled down, ass shooting poo into the bushes. He didn’t crouch down. He didn’t try to hide his business. He just hunched over slightly so that the poo was seriously projectile shooting from his butt into the BART bushes. I quickly jerked right back to stare vacantly at the shady “Lane-e” cafe before me.
I stopped doing my Discrete Checks Back and Forth right then and there. I heard a couple more moans, which at least gave some closure to what sort of tone categorized the “Ooh…” from before, when a young woman headed to class pulled in to the parking spot in front of me. This was awkward. I could still hear The Shitter in the background but now I was uncomfortably close to this girl’s car and she probably thought I had no sense of boundaries and if I were a girl headed to class I wouldn’t want some random stranger standing hella close to my car like that either and WHOA my nerves were on end. I stepped back from her car a little bit, but this put me in view of The Shitter whereas before my sight was protected by the skinny little tree next to me.
The girl getting out of the car looked up in the direction of You Know What for a view of Laney College beyond, and got a weird look on her face. I don’t know why I had to follow her gaze but I reflexively turned my head ever so slightly, just long enough to process that The Shitter had transitioned into The Wiper as he clumsily handled some crumpled up newspaper. I turned back to the girl who had just parked and gave her a curt, tight-lipped “Yeah I don’t know what the fuck either” kind of smile – Though it probably didn’t resemble much of a smile since it was really just a forced act of recognition in our solidarity for what we had just witnessed.
College Girl walked off, though not on the sidewalk.
The magazine teens were still reading behind me.
My mechanic rolled up. I talked clumsily about where to get good pho in the area.
I shit you not.
So here’s the thing: Once you see a person poo, you never unsee a person poo.
For about a week after you see a person poo, your entire view of the world is scathed. A couple days after, I had to walk through the seedy part of downtown San Francisco, and all I could think was, “Oh my gosh, someone pooed here. Someone pooed right here where I’m stepping and where that runaway teen’s dog is sniffing and these guys who smell like marijuana are posting and those people with the barefoot feet are walking AND WHAT IF THEY SUDDENLY DECIDE TO POO, TOO?” Everything, every moment that could be injected with an element of surprise, becomes possible grounds for a spontaneous public pooing.
People are no longer to be trusted because people poo in public. How can I be clean, earnest, ambitious, in a world where people poo in public??
You can’t get it out of your head. It makes you paranoid.
Thankfully, more time has passed since this public “viewing,” and I decided to write it out as a form of self-prescribed therapy. So there it is. I saw a grown man poo.
If your face is all screwed up and feeling wretched, like, “Eww! How can you talk about that!?” and you’ve made it here to the end, well, that’s your own damn fault. The entire punchline of this entire story is in its title, and I don’t know why you didn’t just go ahead and finish that spreadsheet you were supposed to do.
No, it was not healthy poo.