Monday, December 18, 2006

Is This What I Have to Look Forward To?

I've always wondered what it means to get older. Like, when will I realize that I can't climb stairs three at a time, or go on a 2K run anytime the mood strikes me, or stay up until 4:00 am watching movies? My grandfather once told me that you never really feel old. You just sort of wake up one day and find out your body can't do stuff that your brain still takes for granted.

One thing: I am scared to death of colostomies. Back when I was a medical translator, I had to translate a file belonging to a patient who had had a colostomy. A colostomy, in case you don't know, is a re-routing of your internal plumbing. If something goes wrong with your colon or lower intestine, like cancer or chronic inflammation or polyps or whatever, the doctor goes in, snips your intestine, uses his scalpel to give you a new asshole just south of your ribcage on the side of your body, and attaches your intestine to it, giving whatever injured part of your digestive tract the opportunity to heal without all kinds of shit (literally) passing through it. Because medicine isn't advanced enough to give you a sphincter for that secondary asshole, they just stick a plastic ring around the hole (to ward off infection), and you can attach a plastic bag, known as a colostomy bag, to the ring. So your shit just happens to fall into the bag whenever it's ready. Then, once you heal up, you get opened up again and the plumbing is reattached. But now, all your rectal muscles are weak from lack of use, and you get to spend months wearing diapers because you never know when you're going to shit yourself.

This, to me, is a fate worse than death. I've already told my wife, if I ever need to get a colostomy, to drive down to the US, get a 12 gauge shotgun, and shoot me in the face.

So, where does all this lead? Straight to the bathroom on the floor where I work. I eat a pretty balanced diet, drink a lot of water, and take care of myself. So my morning shits aren't much of an ordeal. Just go in, get comfortable, drop a decent to considerable-sized log, couple of wipes, flush, wash hands and walk out. If I've got a touch of the flu, it gets a little more interesting, but still nothing to write home about.

Now, I don't know if I'm the exception to the rule here, but a lot of the older gentlemen I work with treat taking a morning shit like it's a combination between powerlifting, defusing a bomb, and doing atomic physics. I'm sitting there minding my own business, and you hear guys throw the door open to the bathroom and are obviously in a hurry to get into the crunch position, fiddling with their belt, breathing hard, the sense of fear is palpable. Then, a nasty, wet, chunky explosion, followed by moans of relief and pain. Then audible grunting. Then a second explosion, twice as vulgar and wrong as the first. So me and my semi-soft stools are sitting there like wtf? It would be normal if this happened once in a while, everyone goes overboard on the hot wings now and again, but with some of these guys, it's EVERY DAY. Sometimes I just feel like yelling out "Hey! Lay off the curry!", but I find myself quickly clasping my hands over my mouth and nose because of the smells of death and decay emanating from the neighbouring stalls.

Now, I'm the last one to claim that my shit smells like roses. It smells, well, like shit. Vaguely reminiscent of what I ate the day previous, but mostly just your basic shit smell. Bad, but not overly offensive. But man, some of the smells I've smelled in that bathroom border on the absurd. I ask myself, do these fools eat nothing but raw chicken, cumin and dog feces? What's the deal here? Then I start to wonder, is this what I have to expect? Does the digestive system start to fail as it ages? Have 50 years of steak, pizza and hot wings rotted these guys from the inside out?

Needless to say, with that in my mind, I never need any encouragement when it comes to heaping on that second serving of veggies. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, so I'm keeping my colon as clean as a whistle.


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