This is NOT a hat.
“This is your hat,” says the nurse wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt.
“Bullshit,” I think as she hands it to me. This is a plastic bowl that you want me to shit in. Don’t call it a hat. A hat is something you put on your head to block the sun, keep your ears warm, or cover your bald spot.
I’ve never had to give a stool sample before so today was going to be an adventure of sorts. I’d been having stomach cramps for the past week so I figured I would schedule an appointment with UNC’s Student Health Services. The consultation was without incident but afterwards the doctor suggested I give a sample, “just to be on the safe side.” I’m generally a pretty hygienic person. If the so called “safe side” involves fecal matter, I’d much prefer the other side of whatever type of medical boat metaphor we’re riding. But the doctor insisted. Which led me the nurse in the Harley-tee; the Hospital Haberdasher if you will.
This IS a hat.
“So I’m just supposed to…”
“Put it in the hat.”
“Right, I put it in the hat. But I don’t really have to go,” I say. “Is there something I can do to make this easier?”
“Just think about it,” replies Harley. “It’ll happen.”
She leads me down the hallway to the bathroom, the room which, over the course of the next three hours, I would come to think of as my bathroom. I acquaint myself with the room, adjust my hat, flip through a Reader’s Digest (the hospital bathroom magazine of choice), and I wait. About fifteen pages later, I get something. It’s not much, but its something. I’m proud of myself. I feel like a kitten who’s just learned to use the litter box. I smile at the woman in the Harley-tee as I walk towards the exit.
“You put it in the hat?”
“I put it in the hat.”
“Alright, we’ll do a few checks and you’ll be good to go.”
She vanishes into the backroom for a minute and then returns with a disappointed look on her face. I can tell before she opens her mouth that I should put my kittenish tail between my legs.
“Its not enough,” she says.
“Oh,” I say. “I’m sorry…I guess.” Is this something you’re supposed to apologize for? She just told me where to put “it.” She didn’t say there was a minimum amount of “it” necessary.
“We need you to try again.”
Her mind-over-fecal-matter strategy simply isn’t working for me. So I ask her if it’s okay if I go get some help. “Are there any places near here where I can get something to eat?”
“There’s a southern fast food restaurant upstairs.” This sounds good to me, but I’m thinking I might need a little more… “and there’s a Starbucks on the first floor.” Bingo.
Tony probably has people to shit for him. One of the benefits of being a Made man.
One barbeque sandwich and a double espresso shot later I’m back in the my checkerboard tiled cell. I’d figured to get straight to the point by ordering the double espresso. Plus, I always feel like Tony Soprano when I drink one.
I’ve now officially been trying to shit for two hours. Outside I hear the nurses start to pack up, wishing each other a fun evening, one that I imagine involves untamed motorcycle races around the greater Chapel Hill/Carrboro area with men named Skud, Mutt, or Hoggish Greedly. My heart beats faster as 144 mg of caffeine pump through my bloodstream and I begin to worry about the very real possibility that I may soon become “the night shift’s problem.” But what if that wasn’t enough time? What if I’m still in here tomorrow morning? What if I become the Rip Van Winkle of stool samples, emerging just in time to see Maddie Briann Spears’ sad downfall from pop-stardom?
This has gotten totally out of hand. I close my eyes and try to calm myself. I try not to focus on the task at hand and to just inhabit the bathroom. I take a few deep breaths, pick up my Reader’s Digest, and sit down contentedly above my hat. A minute or so passes…and then its over. Mission accomplished.
It’s in this moment that I have an epiphany: Shitting is like your first improv rehearsal. If you try to force it out, it’s just not gonna happen. You can try as hard as you want to be funny (and you may even get a little something) but it won’t be enough. The funny doesn’t happen until you can relax and just enjoy the space you’re in. Nurse Harley was wrong. Don’t think about it; just go.
Now that’s something to tip your hat at.
- Mister John Reitz