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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Scandal in Bathroomia

I can be bewildered by the simplest of everyday objects. Today, it’s a toilet.

Not all toilets, mind you. I’d like to make that perfectly clear. When it comes to your average bathroom facility, I know my way around the equipment. I didn’t just fall off the porcelain turnip truck yesterday, is all I’m saying.

But one toilet in particular, the one in the back stall in the office bathroom, I find especially vexing. Though technically, I suppose it’s not the toilet itself confounding me. Rather, it’s what’s inside.

First, a bit of background concerning this commode. It’s sensitive. Not in the sense that it starts crying or breaks out in hives when you use it — although really, could you blame it? Instead, it’s got an overly-sensitive sensor. It’s an autoflush model, with heavy emphasis on ‘AUTO’. Personally, I’ve never encountered a john with an itchier flusher finger. Step into the stall, and:


Turn around to have a seat — or to set down your magazine, turkey hoagie or margarita blender:


Lean over to reach for toilet paper, to fish out your cell phone, or to read a new piece of graffiti telling you what sort of time you should call ‘Jenny’ for:


Sensitive, is what I’m saying. I’m a little afraid of the thing, frankly. I got over my childhood fear of being sucked ass-first backwards down the toilet a long time ago — but if I ever disappear, I want someone to examine the inside of this commode’s bowl for fingernail scratches. If I ever accidentally dropped my keys or cell phone into the beast’s maw, they’d be floating in the Charles River before I’d have time to blink.

This is, however, not the bewildering thing. I wish it was. But no. It gets worse.

Today, I sauntered into the stall for a hearty late-morning nap-‘n’-cry, looked into the bowl and saw… material. Solid material. The sort of solid material that you might expect to find in a toilet — and I’m trying to be discreet about this, I really am, so just meet me halfway and let’s say that we both know what people usually deposit into toilets, given our combined decades of experience on this planet with such things.

“If I find a stall that’s less horrifying than the elevator from the Untouchables, I consider it a ‘win’.”

(We good to move forward here? Because I’ll draw diagrams if I have to. Don’t make me draw diagrams. I’ll do it.

Good to go? Good.)

Now, in my younger days, I might have questioned the why of such a thing. I’ve used bathrooms where other people left… ‘materials’ inappropriately behind, and I used to wonder why. It’s so easy to flush. Half a second, and two fingers or a foot or some sort of flushing stick, if your paranoid germophobia runs that deep. But still — almost zero effort. And it’s common courtesy.

That was a long time ago. In the intervening years, I’ve been in a lot of disgusting bathrooms. A lot. That should probably tell me something about my life and the highly questionable choices I’ve probably made to get here, but for the moment it tells me only this: people are generally unreliable. Whether they’re simply not putting out the near-zero effort or getting distracted too easily or being overly drunk or being born with poor aim or idly wondering whether they can hit the ceiling, door, sink or towel dispenser with various bodily excretions, the upshot is that the state of any public bathroom is highly unpredictable. I’ve given up asking ‘why’; it just is. If I find a stall that’s less horrifying than the elevator from the Untouchables, I consider it a ‘win’.

That does not, however, settle my mind about the situation today. The ‘why’ does not concern me. But given the toilet, and its super-sucking propensity, I’m left to puzzle:how?

The… uh, ‘material’ wasn’t so large, at first glance, as to not fit down the drain. I’m no fluidics engineer — or whatever sort of ‘-ics engineer’ would be appropriate here — so I can’t say for certain. And as I approached the bowl, the beast flushed itself, sending said material to the depths of Davy Jones’…er, ‘material locker’. So it was definitely ‘flushable’.

But the toilet drops water at the drop of a hat. Or the wave of a hat, or probably when hats wander by outside the door. So how in the world did this ‘material’ get left in the bowl without being whisked away immediately post-deposit? The possible answers are disturbing; I could think of three:

1. Someone threw the offending material into the bowl from a distance, somewhere outside the auto-flushing radius. Say over the closed stall door, or from over by the sinks. If this is the case, it simply raises more questions.

Like, what did they launch it with? Are there slingshots or trebuchets out there for this sort of thing? Or did they just wear a rubber glove — or not — and pitch it over and in? Also, how did they hit the bowl on the first shot? Did they set up a practice area at home, some sort of unsavory target range I don’t want to think too hard about? This answer, I don’t like at all.

2. The material spontaneously appeared in the bowl, as a random event. At first blush, I’m more in favor of this one. It removes any sort of premeditation or human intervention, which is reassuring. No diabolical conspiracy to commit ‘material’ happened; it just materialized as-is from thin air. Or toilet water, whichever you prefer.

It’s improbable, certainly. But I like to believe that anything is technically possible, so I leaned toward this explanation. Until, that is, I realized that if this is true, then it could conceivably happen again. Anywhere. My toilet. Your toilet. The local swimming pool. In that plate of spaghetti you just ordered at the fancy Italian restaurant.

So, no. Spontaneous generation is out. Which leaves only the third, and only satisfying, explanation:

3. One word:


So there you go. Obviously, one of the people on our office floor has been bitten by a radioactive spider, can now climb walls and tall buildings, and — for reasons unknown to we who’ve never felt the bittersweet sting of a green-glowing arachnid — has now chosen to poop from a spot on the ceiling overlooking the toilet. Simple, really, when you think about it.

So that’s that. And from now on, when I feel Nature’s call, I’m getting in the car and driving home to answer it. The last thing I want is share a crapper with a web-slinging superhero. I’ll take my Sports Illustrated and a roll of Charmin and flush my own material, thank you very much.

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