Wednesday, June 27, 2007

crisis at 40,000 feet

I normally avoid airplane lavatories because I'm now too big to fit in them properly. While inside the cabine, I might be able to achieve the docking maneuver that plants my ass firmly on the toilet (extra fat helps me achieve a good vacuum seal), but wiping my ass in such a confined space is a frightening logistical problem, usually solved by kicking off my shoes and pants, standing up, and propping one leg up somewhere (the sink, maybe, or the raised area beside the toilet) to allow enough cheek spreadage for me to access and clean ol' Harry Enos. This whole procedure involves a lot of grunting and shuffling, and heaven help me if I'm drippy with diarrhea. The operation also takes time, because I'm basically dressing and undressing inside that cramped space. Skinny people, count your many blessings.

I can usually get through an entire trans-Pacific flight without having to see the inside of an airplane lavatory, but today, a combination of circumstances conspired to prime me for a high-altitude download.

If there's anything in my colon, heat and cold don't mix for me. When I got on board the flight from Narita to Seoul, I was hot and sweaty from sitting inside Narita's Terminal 1. Then the plane's blowers started up, and as we began taxiing toward the runway, I felt the first seismic rumblings that indicated an impending cataclysm. Cold has that effect on me for some reason: if I have to go, cold air accelerates the whole process; it magnifies the urge to purge.

I spent the first half-hour of the flight trying to quell those shit pangs. I did breathing exercises, counted to 200, tried analyzing the poop urge in an effort to make it go away-- nothing worked. When the meal service rolled around, I seized my chance: while everyone else was chowing down, I heaved myself out of my seat and lumbered over to the lavatory, which was mercifully close to row 10, where I was.

I locked myself inside, undid the shorts, sat upon the cramped throne, and let fly with several mighty bursts of brown. After the initial quakes, I rode the two or three aftershocks that followed, then began the complicated wiping procedure, which involved almost all the steps described above.

That was when disaster struck. After wiping my bum thoroughly, I flushed, but not everything was sucked out by the toilet's powerful whoosh. Stubborn clumps remained. So I took a paper cup from a dispenser, filled it with warm water from the sink, leaned over the toilet bowl, and began pouring the water onto the remaining bits of brown in an effort to make the second flush a suck-it-all winner. But I leaned too far over the toilet bowl...

...and the contents of my shirt's breast pocket spilled out.

By "contents," I mean the following:

a pen
boarding passes and stubs for this and the previous flights
my Korean Customs declaration form
my disembarkation cards, and--

my passport.

Thank God the passport fell on the floor. But the pen, the Customs form, one boarding pass, and the disembarkation form all fell into the bowl.

Imagine, if you will, what this looked like: a fully wiped Kevin, with his shorts around his ankles, gasping in horror at the tableau within the toilet.

I decided the boarding pass was a lost cause; after all, I wouldn't need it at Passport Control. I dragged it out of the bowl, rinsed it, then chucked it in the tiny waste paper bin. The pen and landing forms, though, were a different matter. As it turned out, the slips of paper didn't hit any of the remaining clumps of shit, but the pen... oh, the pen took it full-on. Grimacing, I pulled the fallen items out one by one, saving the wretched pen for last. The slips of paper were sniffed to make sure they weren't transmitting shit odor, but the pen needed a complete washing, which I accomplished as carefully as I could in my distraught state.

Then, the evil deed done, I pulled up my pants and rejoined the rest of the plane in shame, unable to look anyone in the eye.

Our cruising altitude was 40,000 feet. The computer screen was relaying all sorts of flight data: altitude, headwind speed, ground speed, outside temps, time to destination, etc. I couldn't help comparing my experience to that of William Shatner in that Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." I think I had it worse than Shatner.

Heh. Shatner.

I pretended to sleep for the rest of the flight.



Daehee said...

Oh damn, that is hilarious.

R said...

Sweet mother of God! I feel tramatised and alone! I'll never get this imagery out of my head.

Did you feel a kind of furtive glee handing over your declaration to the customs people?

I would have. :D

Kevin Kim said...

Daehee, thank you for laughing at my misery. Heh.


Yeah, I did actually have an inner chuckle about those documents.


Anonymous said...

Well, that tale certainly made my day and let me say, better you than me. Was the pen worth it, Kevin? I take it it wasn't an ordinary 25-cent Bic?

Welcome back.

Kevin Kim said...


A true sage shows compassion even to the lowliest of pens. In this case, the pen in question was one of those cheapie, sold-in-10-packs Mon Ami ballpoints.


Jeff in Korea said...

Preach on Brother Kevin.
I feel your pain. I know whereof you speak.

Many a time have I wondered, after struggling through the exact process you described, what people who are cursed with being even larger than myself do when it comes time to grow a tail...or heaven forbid... blow mud on a plane.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. It was truly satisfying to read. Kinda reminded me of my last scatalogical episode wherein I accidentally shat in my shoe.

PS: The position you described by which to wipe your hindend, that's also the position plenty of women assume in order to insert tampons.


Kevin Kim said...

Kinda makes the whole "let's make love in the lavatory" concept a joke for us biggies, eh?

Jeff-- I never knew the expressions "growing a tail" and "blowing mud," but they are now part of my repertoire.

Maven-- yeah, I can see how that position would make sense for tamponic insertion.


Anonymous said...

Regarding those of us "large and in charge" becoming a card carrying member of the "Mile High Club," it IS do-able, provided that ONE of you is slender, and the woman is wearing a skirt...

So I've been told...

Elisson said...

Narrow escape, not getting a shitstain on your passport.

Immigration official: Where the hell are you coming back from? Turdistan? Penn-stool-vania?

Kevin: Erm...

Anonymous said...

Nothing I can say is worthy of the truthfulness of this post. The imagery had me lying on the kitchen table in convulsive laughter...not at you, but at the horror of the shituat--sorry--situation. Having just flown internationally myself, I can only wonder at what was going on just down the aisle in the toilets around me.

And the sniff test...well, all I can say is that the Passport officer that greeted us must have just had someone with a similar predicament pass ahead of us as he seemed just about as pleasant as one who had handled a near-miss passport. I wondered what those suspicious looks were all about.

And, I will never take someone else's pen to use...especially not your's, Kevin. And book signings? Well, don't use brown ink.

This tale brings to mind when I was pregnant, oh so many years ago. I vividly recall the problem faced when I could not get out of the bathroom stalls because my belly just would not get out of the way. I always seemed to get in, but getting out had me stepping up onto the seat sometimes just to get the door to swing open.

Thanks for sharing...

Meilleurs voeux!!

Jon Allen said...

Thanks for sharing that. It had me laughing out loud.