For some reason I have a lot of funny travel poop stories. I don’t know if this is normal, but I guess it comes with the territory of spending the better part of a decade on the road. Surely everybody that travels inevitably ends up shitting their pants in a Tibetan monastery, or evacuating their bowels on an active volcano, right? Of course they do.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
These stories usually come out with new friends in hostels or bars, when enough liquor has been consumed that we all feel like sharing our most embarrassing moments with each other.
This one is probably my favourite.
Alesha and I were on a bus somewhere in rural China. I can’t remember where we were going, but I do remember that it was a pretty rundown public bus, and the trip seemed to go on forever.
We were half-dozing on a hard seat, idly staring out the window as the Chinese landscape passed us by, wishing we would get to our destination sooner rather than later. It was hot, no air conditioning, and the road was bumpy as hell.
Locals constantly stared at us, pointing and trying to get stealthy selfies with us, which is pretty common when you’re probably the first white people they have seen in weeks.
The landscape outside the window changed, and we found ourselves driving through a small village, with one main street and a string of shops, mostly closed, lining the passage.
Suddenly my stomach cramped up, my face distorted, and my sphincter shut tighter than a nuclear safety valve.
Alesha immediately noticed my change in demeanour, and asked if I was ok, already knowing the answer.
“Babe I’m about to shit my pants!”
Not missing a beat my beautiful fiancé acknowledged my unfortunate, frightening predicament with a caring, “What the fuck, again?”, and semi-violently nudged me away from her into the aisle.
I stood up and shuffled towards the front of the bus, pains shooting through my stomach with every precarious movement.
“Ni hao,” I said to the driver, exhausting my entire Mandarin vocabulary in one fell swoop. “Umm, toilet?” I muttered, while trying to show the urgency of the situation with jolted body language.
He ignored me, too busy focusing on driving through the sleepy village.
“Ni hao,” I repeated, then said “Stop”, while putting my hand up in a gesture that I thought everyone would understand. He ignored me again, and I asked once more, in a much firmer tone, and pointed to the closed door.
He paid little attention to the foreigner yapping away in completely jibberish, and instead just waved his hand in the air as if shooing away an annoying fly.
At this point I hit situation critical, and lost all self-control in politeness.
“IF YOU DON’T STOP RIGHT NOW I’M GOING TO SHIT MYSELF ALL OVER YOUR FUCKING BUS!!!”
I don’t know if he understood me, or suddenly realised that he was facing a problem much bigger than a tourist bugging him as he went about his job, but he made eye contact with me, looked at my hand squeezing my ass, and stopped the bus.
The door opened and I stumbled out, frantically looking left and right at the endless row of padlocked doors. Nothing was open, and I didn’t have time or space in my intestines to run around in search of a restaurant.
I crept along, back arched and muscles engaged, looking for something, anything, that looked like it would have a bathroom in it.
Up ahead, like a gift from God, I saw an open door. I stepped into the darkness and was confronted with a flight of steep, timber stairs. I did my best to levitate to the top, knowing that any sudden movements would result in ruined underwear, and arrived at the end of a small hallway.
I heard laughter ahead and saw the faint glow of a television. With literal moments to spare I stepped into the unknown.
In front of me, sitting around on plastic chairs, was an entire Chinese family eating noodles. Their attention left the small TV and all eyes were now firmly on me, the strange white man standing in their living room.
“Ni hao,” I squeaked out, and their mouths gaped open in disbelief. “Toilet?”, I asked pointing at my stomach, and then pointing at my rear end.
Without taking their eyes off me, the eldest man in the house, a stately-looking fellow with a wispy white beard, said something I couldn’t comprehend, and a young boy, perhaps only 5, stood up and walked over. He took my hand gently, and led me back down the darkened hallway.
He grabbed a door handle, twisted, and pushed it open to reveal a small cubicle with a squat toilet in the centre and a bucket of water next to it. Never before have I been so relieved to see a filthy hole in the floor.
I slammed the door, dropped my pants, squatted as low as possible, and loudly defecated the entire contents of my bowels into the porcelain.
Amongst the noisy and painful squirts, I could hear horns going off, and I remembered that the bus driver was still waiting on the street for me.
It took a few minutes, but soon the pain in my stomach subsided, and I felt like I was in a position to move without fear of having last night’s dinner make a reappearance. With no toilet paper around I used the bucket of water to clean myself and the toilet up, and prayed to any deity that would listen that the horrid smell would eventually disappear.
Feeling almost human again I opened the door and came face to face with the entire family standing outside the bathroom, eagerly awaiting to meet their new, uninvited guest that had made use of their private facilities.
“Xie-xie,” I mumbled sheepishly, “thank you,” and ran down the stairs faster than an antelope under chase.
The bus driver was still on the horn, and Alesha was standing in the door, one foot on the road, screaming for me to hurry up. As I sprinted towards the bus he started taking off, and I ninja-leapt into the moving vehicle.
“He was trying to leave without you, I was yelling at him to wait,” Alesha said to me. “Where the hell did you go?”
I told her what happened, and she sat there silently, before bursting out into laughter. Clearly my embarrassment was her entertainment. Such a lovely and supportive partner. We then settled back into our seats, avoiding the rest of the bus passengers glaring stares.
The time I shat in a Chinese family’s house is something that makes me laugh every time I think about it. When I tell this story to friends the image of the family staring at me as I burst into their house is burned into my memory. I think it’s funny, and am glad I have this story to share with the world.
But a part of me hopes that a member of that family also has a blog, and somewhere on it is a story titled, “The Time A Random White Man Burst Into Our House And Destroyed Our Bathroom”.