A grilled tofu sub sandwich with honey mustard, tomatoes and green peppers; a bag of Cape Cod potato chips; a San Pellegrino orange soda; about six Hershey's kisses. And that was it.
I was driving through Whitehall, N.Y., about 20 miles from Interstate 87 and four hours from our destination — the Bronx. It was about nine at night, the temperature outside was straddling zero, and the roads, thankfully, were clear of ice and snow.
As a child growing up in the Big Apple, I recall contemplating the odd political configuration of my hometown into the five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx. This "borough" business struck me as old-fashioned (the word I wanted, but didn't know, was "archaic"), very Merry Olde England. And why does the Bronx get to be "the" Bronx? I would ponder. Why not "the" Brooklyn or "the" Staten Island?
With my customers — Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell — chatting quietly in the back, I had a distressful reason for mentally reviewing the contents of the bag dinner I had consumed about an hour earlier, somewhere between Vergennes and Bridport. Over the past 20 minutes, I had begun to experience severe abdominal cramping. I rarely have digestive problems, so I was considering the possibility of food poisoning.
For certain, I didn't want to share this news with the O'Donnells. This was a last-minute fare — their flight from Burlington to JFK had been canceled — and they were paying me a pretty penny for the transport.
OK, it was a gorgeous penny — newly minted and shiny. If the pain became extreme enough to jeopardize my ability to drive safely, I would inform them and pull off the road. But, short of that, I would maintain my professional persona. Fortunately, I am adept at grinning and bearing it. (Little did I know that I would also be "baring" it in the hours to come.)
For the entire ride to New York City, the gripping pain cycle continued unabated — about five minutes on and 15 minutes off. It was four harrowing hours of intermittent agony as I contended with the big trucks making time in the relatively light late-night traffic.
At my nonchalant suggestion of a coffee break (or maybe it was "leg stretch"), we stopped at two rest areas. The bathroom, however, provided no relief. My intestines felt like they were seized up, yet nothing was coming out.
Hours later, as we approached our destination — a fancy hotel on the Grand Concourse, a major avenue that runs the length of the Bronx — I felt like I was ready to explode. My plan was to drop off these folks, park and run in to use the hotel's bathroom. Oh, what an innocent country boy I'd become. This was jam-packed New York City. Not only was there no parking lot, but cars were double-parked in front of the lobby entrance.
Fuck me, I thought, my situation growing increasingly dire. Well, screw it — a man gots to do what a man gots to do.
I pulled farther up the block, away from the streetlights, double-parked and exited the taxi. Thankfully, given the hour, there was scarcely a pedestrian in sight, because my plan B was to relieve myself between two parked cars.
Alas, I made it onto the street but never got my pants down. As I reached for my belt buckle, my embattled digestive tract chose that moment to give it up. Mount Vesuvius erupted, and my lower body was the city of Pompeii.
In the space of three seconds, what I would estimate as a half gallon of brown lava exited my colon, filled up and overran my undies, and gushed down my flannel-lined jeans. I looked down at my socks and sneakers, both entirely coated in shit.
My immediate reaction? Pure, unadulterated relief, so sublime that my eyes teared up. The excruciating pain was gone! Unfortunately, that lovely feeling lasted but 10 seconds, replaced by awareness of the stark, surreal situation in which I found myself.
I stood on the windy Bronx thoroughfare, about six hours from my Green Mountain home (sigh) and shivering, quaking in the 10-degree air. Every article of clothing below my waist was saturated. I had to make a decision, and fast.
I stripped from the waist down. Abandoning my underwear and socks curbside, I cleaned myself off as well as I could with paper towels. I placed my jeans and sneakers on a rag in the minivan's rear storage space. I positioned a dirty towel on the driver's seat and climbed in, cranking up the heat. Barefoot and bare-assed, I shifted into drive and pointed the taxi north.
As I got under way I began to chuckle, which quickly developed into a full-body, somewhat hysterical laugh. The incident I had just undergone — and it wasn't over yet — was as disturbing as they come. But it was also undeniably funny.
I made it back to the thruway, singing along to classic rock radio. Taking everything into account, I felt like I had dodged a bullet. I got my customers to their destination safely, the volcano erupting only after they had departed. Lucky me, right? Then I glanced down at my gas gauge.
Oh, fuck! I thought. No way was I making it back to B-town without gassing up. And no way was I putting back on those pants. Fortunately, it was close to 2 a.m. as I pulled into the next rest area and approached the long line of gas pumps, sidling up to the one at the very end. With no one in sight, I jumped out and gassed up.
This is gonna make one helluva story, I thought, as a thin layer of ice began crystallizing on my naked nether region. It almost makes the whole thing worth it — but not quite.
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.