I'm not sure if there's a name for the combination cringe of sympathy and disgust, but I'm pretty sure anyone with a functioning set of bowels and the ability to feel shame will feel that reading this man's story. A story of a private plane, torrents of lava-poop, and a far-too exposed head.
Just over halfway through the flight, all the coffee in my stomach feels like it's percolating its way down into my lower intestine. I hunker down and try and focus on other things. What feels like an hour, but probably isn't more than twenty minutes, passes. We then enter what turns out to be pretty violent turbulence. With each bounce, I have to fight my body, trying not to shit my pants. "Thirty minutes to landing, maybe forty five" I try and tell myself, each jostle a gamble I can't afford to lose. I signal to [the flight attendant] and she heads toward me.
"Excuse me, where is the bathroom, because I don't see a door?" I ask while still devoting considerable energy to fighting off what starts to feel like someone shook a seltzer bottle and shoved it up my ass. She looks at me, bemused, and says, "Well, we don't really have one per se." She continues, "Technically, we have one, but it's really just for emergencies. Don't worry, we're landing shortly anyway."
"I'm pretty sure this qualifies as an emergency," I manage to mutter through my grimace. I can see the fear in her face as she points nervously to the back seat. The turbulence outside is matched only by the cyclone that is ravaging my bowels. She points to the back of the plane and says, "There. The toilet is there." For a brief instant, relief passes over my face. She continues, "If you pull away the leather cushion from that seat, it's under there. There's a small privacy screen that pulls up around it, but that's it." At this point, I was committed. She had just lit the dynamite and the mine shaft was set to blow.
I turn to look where she is pointing and I get the urge to cry. I do cry, but my face is so tightly clenched it makes no difference. The "toilet" seat is occupied by the CFO, i.e. our fucking client. Our fucking female fucking client!
Up to this point, nobody has observed my struggle or my exchange with the flight attendant. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." That's all I can say as I limp toward her like Quasimodo impersonating a penguin, and begin my explanation. Of course, as soon as my competitors see me talking to the CFO, they all perk up to find out what the hell I'm doing.
Given my jovial nature and fun-loving attitude thus far on the roadshow, almost everybody thinks I'm joking. She, however, knows right away that I am anything but and jumps up, moving quickly to where I had been sitting. I now had to remove the seat top – no easy task when you can barely stand upright, are getting tossed around like a hoodrat at a block party, and are fighting against a gastrointestinal Mt. Vesuvius.
I manage to peel back the leather seat top to find a rather luxurious looking commode, with a nice cherry or walnut frame. It had obviously never been used, ever. Why this moment of clarity came to me, I do not know. Perhaps it was the realization that I was going to take this toilet's virginity with a fury and savagery that was an abomination to its delicate craftsmanship and quality. I imagined some poor Italian carpenter weeping over the violently soiled remains of his once beautiful creation. The lament lasted only a second as I was quickly back to concentrating on the tiny muscle that stood between me and molten hot lava.
I reach down and pull up the privacy screens, with only seconds to spare before I erupt. It's an alka-seltzer bomb, nothing but air and liquid spraying out in all directions – a Jackson Pollock masterpiece. The pressure is now reversed. I feel like I'm going to have a stroke, I push so hard to end the relief, the tormented sublime relief.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." My apologies do nothing to drown out the heinous noises that seem to carry on and reverberate throughout the small cabin indefinitely. If that's not bad enough, I have one more major problem. The privacy screen stops right around shoulder level. I am sitting there, a disembodied head, in the back of the plane, on a bucking bronco for a toilet, all while looking my colleagues, competitors, and clients directly in the eyes. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" briefly comes to mind.
I literally could reach out with my left hand and rest it on the shoulder of the person adjacent to me. It was virtually impossible for him, or any of the others, and by others I mean high profile business partners and clients, to avert their eyes. They squirm and try not to look, inclined to do their best to carry on and pretend as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, that they weren't sharing a stall with some guy crapping his intestines out. Releasing smelly, sweaty, shame at 100 feet per second.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry" is all the ashamed disembodied head can say…over and over again. Not that it mattered.
My big take away from all this? The person who designed a privacy screen on a tiny airplane toilet that leaves your whole head exposed should be shot. With poop bullets. Because that's such a profoundly terrible, terrible idea.
Seriously, who's idea was that? Did they contract it out to an alien who'd only read a pamphlet about human evacuation customs? And even then, just skimmed it?