by Billy Bowyer
Back in my day, men’s underwear was important. In 1991 Mark Wahlberg made an overnight transition from laughable Funky Bunch pop bro to international sex symbol by posing in a pair of Calvin Klein tighty whiteys. The photo caused a major shift in undergarment fashion for people of a certain age. Before Wahlberg, we wore boxers. After that campaign my generation had no choice but to sacrifice testicular comfort for the unparallelled sexiness of overpriced, designer, nut-huggers.
When I arrived at UBC I was relieved to find a small group of likeminded individuals who shared my homoerotic obsession with overpriced underwear; I joined a fraternity. Most outsiders imagine fraternities the way they’re portrayed in cinema, which is almost exactly right. It was a drinking club full of man-babies who were pathologically obsessed with introducing sorority girls to our expensive ginch. One aspect of fraternities that the movies left out, however, was the amount of volunteer work the pledges were forced to do. Public service had two main objectives from the fraternity’s perspective. First, it helped repair reputational damage the organization would inevitably suffer when a man-baby did something socially unacceptable on campus. Second, it was an easy way to torture pledges.
To reach the unattainable quota of volunteer work, pledges were expected to do just about everything. The best job was Night Walk, a service provided by the university that ensured undergrads had safe passage back to their dorm rooms after a night of drinking at a campus bar. If nothing else, Night Walk was an excellent way to meet women. Nobody knew we were forced to volunteer so the outside world assumed we were good people who actually cared about the safety of our fellow students. A perfect cover. The only downside was we had to stay sober. The worst job was Campus Cleanup, which involved a reflective vest, tongs, a white bucket, and collector’s obsession with cigarette butts. The task was described as volunteer work but it was more like the form of humiliation punishment associated with shoplifting in the American south.
One cold morning in January the pledges were sent out to volunteer as traffic-control personnel at a half marathon taking place near UBC. I was positioned with a partner on Chancellor Boulevard about halfway between Wesbrook Mall and University Hill Elementary. Our job was to stand at the intersection and make sure passing cars didn’t hit the runners. Not exactly a challenging assignment but it was 6:30 a.m., I had a brutal hangover, and it was fucking snowing. I didn’t get hangovers much back then because 18-year-olds have indestructible livers, but this was an exception because the previous night involved all-you-can-eat wings, a half bottle of sambuca, bottomless Long Island iced teas, and passing out on the kitchen floor at the fraternity house.
Anyway, I was standing in the intersection holding my stop sign and battling a case of adult-onset fetal alcohol syndrome when my insides began sending a message. It wasn’t a subtle suggestion, my gut was making a threat. As the feeling shifted from my stomach to my bowels, the message’s meaning became clear: unless you want to shit your pants you need to find a bathroom, now. Surprisingly, the delicate mixture of hot-wings, Long Island iced tea, and sambuca wasn’t sitting right. I penguin-walked across the street to the other pledge who was working with me and said, “I’ve gotta take a dump, you mind watching the corner for a minute?”
“No problem. But, where you gonna go?”
“What do you mean?”
“Gage Towers are like a mile away and U-Hill’s just as far in the other direction. It’s nothing but houses around here.”
He was right, the neighbourhood was purely residential. On foot, I was at least 10 minutes from the nearest public toilet. I looked around for a taxi but it was 6:45 a.m. at UBC and it was snowing. A cab wasn’t coming. My need to crap seemed to compound upon itself. I looked at my friend and said, “Ah fuck, I won’t make it back. I gotta ring a doorbell.”
It wasn’t such a bad idea. I mean, asking a stranger if I could use their toilet was clearly suboptimal but at least I was carrying a stop sign. Who could say no to a volunteer? The fact that I was in a neighbourhood full of mansions might work to my benefit too. Rich people love volunteers because volunteering is so similar to slavery. Hell, I was just the kind of selfless young do-gooder who deserved a moment on a millionaire’s luxurious golden mansion toilet. They’d understand, from the lowliest peasant to the mightiest pharaoh everybody needs to shit, right?
I waddled from my place on the corner towards the nearest house, a stately Tudor with a manicured garden. I followed a stone walkway across the yard to a small staircase which led up to the front door. After a deep breath I pressed my finger against the doorbell, straightened my reflective vest, and moved the stop sign to the front of my stomach to ensure the homeowner would recognize my volunteer work bonafides when she opened the door.
But nobody came. After a glance through the window into the empty living room I rang the doorbell again, twice in rapid succession. Waiting helplessly seemed to amplify my need for a bathroom. Simple discomfort mutated into a painful twist of nausea. I winced and began to sweat as I pinched my butt cheeks together and shuffled my feet in search of a posture that would alleviate the agony. There wasn’t much time left.
I decided to try the back door. It was a very large house and it was possible that the residents couldn’t hear the doorbell because they were sitting down for breakfast. Presenting myself at their back door in the middle of a meal wasn’t the best way to gain access to a toilet but I was desperate. At the side of the house I found a path that flanked the driveway and proceeded past the garage into the back yard. I picked up the pace to a jog-shuffle, pausing momentarily to look through a window as I passed the garage. The car was gone.
A sharp pain coursed through my intestines and I buckled over. I was no longer in charge, my bowels were calling the shots. I doubled back to the garage and pulled open the door and took refuge from the falling snow. The floor was made of smooth white concrete and the room was empty save for an orderly pile of boxes in the corner. I pulled down my pants, leaned my back up against the wall and crouched into the chair position. Then it happened all at once. Last night’s bad behaviour escaped my body with the unrestrained force of a geyser. It felt like I was sandblasting a hole into the floor. A wave of relief started in my abdomen and washed out to my extremities, like a doctor had reset 10 dislocated joints all at once.
The intensity of the moment caused me to forget the act of defecation is usually accompanied by some involuntarily peeing. Only after I looked down did I realize that I had pissed all over my shoes, pants, and underwear. Since there wasn’t any toilet paper in the garage I took off the underwear and used them to wipe my ass, then I dropped them on the floor beside the pile of shit and took off.
I walked back to the corner, resumed my volunteer work, and recounted the story to my partner. For the remainder of our shift we smiled in anticipation across the road at one another, hoping the next car that drove down Chancellor Boulevard would pull into the driveway. We could only imagine the look of disgust on the homeowner’s face when he stepped out of his European sedan and discovered that a vagrant had left a massive pile of shit in his pristine garage. Better still would be the look of confusion when he realized the vagrant had wiped his ass with a sexy pair of Calvin Klein nut-huggers.