Despite 21 days of traveling and eating Caribbean food from kitchens of dubious cleanliness, my stomach had held up remarkably well. That hasn't always been the case. Back in 1996, while traveling in Japan, the sushi I consumed for lunch one day suddenly felt like it was still alive and swimming through my intestines and making a mad dash for my colon. I was in full blown panic mode. Kellie kept telling me to calm down but I just yelled at her. "I can't calm down, it's quivering."
We had a Japanese student with us who we hired as translator and tour guide. He could sense my distress but the language barrier prevented us from conveying the pressing nature of the problem I was struggling to contain. Eventually he came to comprehend my predicament and found a restroom just in time to prevent me from fertilizing the bonsai trees. The men's room was much different than anything I'd encountered previously, it was little more than a porcelain hole in the floor. Without alternatives, I was forced to make do.
Which brings me back to my latest gastrointestinal incident. We had just said goodbye to my brothers Tony and Russell and their significant others after lovely dinner at Metropol Restaurante & Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were walking back to our rental car when the first stomach bubbles started to roil. I considered returning to the restaurant to use el baño but it was only a 20 minute ride back to our condo in Old San Juan so I figured I could hold out. I was wrong.
"Kellie, I don't think I'm going to make it." It was gut wrenchingly obvious that my last meal was not going to complete the normal digestive process. The only question was which bodily orifice would provide the exit.
"Do you want me to pull over," she asked?
"I don't care, anyplace there's a bathroom, and hurry. Just please go faster."
"I don't see a bathroom. Do you want me to pull onto the shoulder?"
"No. There's still too much light. And slow down, the bumps are killing me."
I was beginning to fear that I wouldn't be granted the luxury of a restroom. We were less than halfway home and my situation was desperate. I begged Kellie to find a restroom. Failing that, I was satisfied that my current condition qualified as an emergency permitting us to stop on the shoulder. Kellie spotted a small, rundown gas station, and as soon as the car came to stop I bolted and ran into the station’s little convenience store.
There was no restroom. Now this is where things started to get a little fuzzy. Suddenly I got very warm, and by warm I mean hot, and by hot I mean Joan Of Arc hot. The room made one revolution and then a bag of potato chips hit me in the face. I can't recall the brand. Or maybe my face hit the bag of potato chips. Or maybe the bag of potato chips kept my head from whacking the floor. It's hard to recollect. As I said, things were fuzzy. The next thing I remember was a voice telling me I was on the floor and an out stretched hand trying to help me stand. I wonder if the medical literature has any other record of someone having to chuck a turd so badly that they passed out in a Puerto Rican gas station minimart. Lucky, the demon that felled me decided to remain still during my brief unconsciousness.
I wobbled back to the car and told Kellie to drive around the corner. I was barely coherent. Ignoring the advice on our rental car contract to avoid stopping in unlit areas, I directed Kellie to the pull over in the darkest spot available. Jumping from the car, I stripped off my pants and shoes faster than if Kellie had just said let’s have sex. With both hands braced against the car door, I squatted and did my best impression of a bear in the woods. Unfortunately for Kellie, the car door was open and the wind was at my back. She kept complaining about the putrid odor and the languid pace of the operation, demanding that I get back in the car and lock the doors.
"Find something I can use for toilet paper," I demanded.
"I can't find anything except your gray sweatshirt."
I had absolutely no intention of using my favorite sweatshirt for damage control.
Things got worse. "Do you have any water," I shouted. "I think I got it on my fingers."
After releasing my tormentor, the crisis soon abated, and I donned what remained of my clothing that had not been sacrificed in aftermath cleanup. I'm sure the heavy tropical rain that evening eradicated most of the biohazard, leaving behind only an empty water bottle and one pair of heavily soiled size 34 Haines tighty-whities. I wish I had worn boxers that day.
It was an achievement just get my business done outside of the motor vehicle. I'm not proud of myself, but it could have been worse. Had my pants not survived the ordeal, this saga would have continued as I exited the car at the El Convento Hotel valet stand, naked from the waist down. Thankfully, I still had my dignity.