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Click the links below to read one of Kelly’s essays about the randomness of life.


Christmas with Just Dad

People who think they were poor growing up are fond of saying that when they were growing up, they didn’t know they were poor. Me, I did grow up poor, and I knew that we were poor. I can even remember individual moments throughout my childhood where I entered a new level of discovery about just how poor we were. There was the day I was standing at the register at the gas station I’d ridden my bike to so I could get a gallon of milk for my dad when the cashier politely told me they didn’t take food stamps, and Julia, a popular girl in my class who was standing in line behind me loudly explained the difference between food stamps and real money. There was the day the guidance counselor approached the boy in the assigned cafeteria seat next to me about the money his mother had given him for his lunch account and I found out that not everyone I ate lunch with in the cafeteria got free lunches like I did. Still, none of these moments I remember as vividly as the very first moment I knew that my family was truly, officially poor.

My parents divorced when I was in the middle of third grade, back when the common measurement of age was not a number, but the homeroom teacher you had. Sometimes I forget whether I was seven or eight, because I had to switch from a school in a small town in one state to a school in a small town in another state, and it feels like two years instead of one. My brother and sister and I began living with just Dad in the new house in the new small town in the new state. From the start, I knew things were different when we started living with just Dad – we stopped going to mass every Sunday, we never bought fruit or yogurt, we didn’t wake up to find Dad already at work at the steel factory and Mom preparing breakfast. Instead of coming home from work and putting on a record, Dad came home from nursing school and opened his heavy books. Instead of watching Felix the Cat videos while dad went to his AA meetings every week, we grabbed Sonic brown bag specials and whiled away the meeting hour on the churchyard playground. Still, the gravity of the difference didn’t hit me until our first Christmas as a family of four instead of five.

Before then, Mom was the Christmas matriarch. She’d put up our tree and help us decorate it with the ornaments she’d kept since we were a family. To this day, her Christmas tree still brandishes the baby pink ceramic ornament my grandmother made in her old basement studio the year I was born. It still holds the ornament I made her in second grade – a plastic picture frame in the shape of a Christmas tree filled with bright green glitter and my school picture, complete with a goofy, missing-teeth grin and freckles fresh from the previous summer. Her wall still anchors the miniature stockings she embroidered our names on with gold floss. Her coffee table still hosts the nativity scene my grandmother also made, including the wise man whose head was broken off by my brother at a destructive age, glued back on with a visible-enough crack if you know to look for it. No presents were ever placed under the tree until Christmas Eve, and we’d get nauseous from the excitement of Christmas morning when we discovered the gift heap Santa had miraculously brought overnight.

That Christmas, nothing was the same. We had a different tree. It was taller and skinnier. The tree had no ornaments. Dad knew this, so he asked us to decorate the tree with whatever we wanted. As a result, our tree sported a large collection of paper snowflakes and cardboard ornaments I’d popped out of Highlights magazines. Dad had already told us that we would be celebrating Christmas at Grandma’s house with the rest of the family on Christmas morning, so my brother asked if we could open our presents on Christmas Eve, after Santa brought them. Dad agreed. My former classmates had long since destroyed the illusion of Santa Claus for me, so I knew Dad would be creating some sort of diversion the night of Christmas Eve so he could stash the presents under the tree without us knowing.

My brother was the first to notice that Santa had come, and he grabbed the shirt collars of my sister and me to come and look. When I reached the sad Christmas tree, I could not share his excitement. Sitting underneath it were three individually wrapped presents. Three. And not even three, really. Just one. One for my sister, one for my brother, and one for me. ONE. As my siblings tore into theirs, I gingerly unwrapped mine, knowing full well from the shape and bend of the package that it was a book. One. Measly. Book. That was all “Santa” had brought me on this, our first Christmas with just Dad. I wanted the Christmases with Mom back. I wanted my birth keepsake ornament, my ceramic nativity set, my gold-lettered stocking, my second grade ornament that I always hung right at my eye line where I could see it, and my armful of presents Santa used to bring me.

I knew we’d probably been broke before – but now, we were truly, officially poor. I looked up at my dad in our bare living room, hating him for taking me away from the Christmas that used to make me sick with anticipation. He was holding his pocket bandana in his hand, his face wrinkled with sorrow as he tried to choke back tears. He looked at the joy on my baby sister’s face as she gasped at her equally-bendy Berenstain Bears book and smiled a feeble smile, a smile that told me he was doing the best he could.

All the way to the top

Bringing Up Barbie

I’ve been an avid sewing enthusiast since a very young age.  I enjoy making my own clothes and dressing up something that would be otherwise plain. People often comment on my “talent”, but I’ve never really seen it as a talent. It’s a great hobby to have for two reasons. One, it’s a great way to unwind and decompress after a long day. You get to put all your focus into creating something new and completely ignore the outside world for awhile. Two, it’s a hobby I kind of had to develop otherwise my Barbies would have been naked.

When I say my Barbies, it’s really a misnomer. My friends had Barbies, my cousins had Barbies, my babysitters’ daughters had Barbies, but I had Farbies: fake Barbies. The difference between a Barbie and a Farbie is that Barbies are made by Mattel, have full heads of hair, have strong plastic bodies, are sold at most major retailers nationwide, come in boxes a shade of pink the entire world associates with Barbie, and come fully attired for a day at the beach or a night on the town.

Farbie is made by some other company, any other company besides Mattel. Companies like Dolgencorp, the company that distributes Dollar General branded products. Instead of a full head of shiny blonde fibrous Barbie hair, with or without bangs depending on the decade, Farbies have a single ring of hair around the crown of their heads that, when turned upside down, looks like a lame combover to cover up a gigantic bald spot.

Barbies have solid bodies with knee joints that bend to allow them to sit at the Barbie Dreamhouse kitchen table and then extend again to drive the Barbie corvette.  She has shoulder joints that allow the doll with bent elbows to run her fingers through her shiny blonde hair and allow the the doll with extended elbows to do the grapevine. She has a teeny tiny waist that lets her twist her upper body to look at the man who is the same remarkable height as her – Ken.  She has defined fingers and toes that you can accessorize with rings and shoes that get easily lost and are choking hazards to toddlers.  By contrast, the Farbie body is enclosed in a completely hollow shell of pale flesh-colored plastic so thin you can look right through it when you hold it up to the light.  She has no joints and is incapable of movement except to stand on her feet that have no toes or lie down in a prone, cadaverous pose with her hands that have no fingers.

Barbies are sold in America’s favorite stores – Wal-Mart, Target, Toys-R-Us; they’re hoarded by avid collectors searching for the earliest dolls created all the way back in the 50s.  People write books about Barbie, form liberation societies around her, write catchy pop songs about her.  Farbie is not a worldwide phenomenon. No one collects Farbies, sold for a whopping one dollar in finer stores such as Dollar General.  No one decides Farbie’s next career, devotes a biography to her, or tells you how to sell her on eBay.

In addition to her half-bald head, hollow body, and amorphous appendages, Farbie differed from Barbie in her packaging.  When you buy a Barbie, in its hot pink box, she comes complete with a gown or casual ensemble of some sort, the signature fluorescent pumps, a shiny pearl-toned seashell hairbrush, and some other random accessory: a radio, a sceptre, (in later years) a cell phone.  When you buy Farbie, she doesn’t come in a box.  She comes on a single sheet of paperboard enclosed by a clear plastic shell that’s halfway off by the time you get it to the register.  The makers of Farbie don’t even try to pretend that she is an adequate replacement for Barbie; there is no starburst text on the package that says “Compare to Mattel© Barbie®” or tiny-print disclaimer text on the back of the cardboard slab that reads “This product is neither manufactured nor distributed by Mattel”.  They know there is no way even the must unassuming child will confuse Farbie with Barbie.

Even if they were to look past the Farbie body, there is the Farbie apparel to contend with.  As aforementioned, Barbie comes complete with a ballgown or mall-cruising outfit, and sometimes even an extra outfit if you’re lucky.  The ballgowns Barbie comes attired in would likely consume an entire ballroom floor if Barbie were lifesize, but since we now know Barbie would be over seven feet tall and would topple over from breast size alone, we have a willing suspension of disbelief that Barbie’s gown is proportionally appropriate.  It typically has several layers, is bedazzled in some way – sequins, rhinestones, or glittery organza, and has puffy sleeves that go all the way up to Barbie’s perfectly-sized ears.  When Barbie comes packaged more casually, she wears a denim jacket that fits her right-angle arms just so and a leather skirt that would make any other woman look like the town bicycle, but makes Barbie look spunky and fashionable.

Not Farbie.  Farbie comes complete with only a swimsuit to cover her hollow body, and we’re not talking one of those cute little pink bikinis that comes extra with Malibu Barbie.  No, Farbie has a one-piece that fits poorly and resembles the American flag just as poorly.  No shoes, no boombox, no hairbrush, no earrings, no bright pink wedding ring, nothing.  Just an ill-fitting one piece.  Even if you wanted to dress her in something else, they don’t sell Farbie accessories separately. These were the dolls I had growing up.

I guess you could say I had some real Barbies, but even my real Barbies weren’t the ballgown beauties in the pink box.  They were the discarded Barbies my mother would get by the boxfull at garage sales.  They had heads the little girls’ brothers had popped off and didn’t fit on quite right.  They had a solid mass of matted hair and sounded like they were waterlogged when you shook them, an effect of one too many adventures at bathtime.  They had uneven, failed haircuts.  They had legs that had been chewed by the dog.  They had missing appendages (again, thanks undoubtedly to the bully brother).  And they were, without exception, naked.

The girls who sold their discarded Barbies for ten cents weren’t the only ones with destructive brothers.  My own brother pulled the usual shenanigans with my Barbies.  He’d pop the heads off, twist the legs off, and take all their clothes off so they could be raped by G.I. Joe, who though half Barbie’s size could have his way with her with no struggle.  But then he also did things with my dolls that I never heard of anyone else’s brother doing.  He was curious about the chemical properties of objects from a very early age, and my secondhand Barbies and Farbies were no exception.  The Barbies he would melt.  I could have marketed Burn Victim Barbie as her own subcategory of the Barbie empire, right there alongside Doctor Barbie and Amputee Barbie.  For the Farbies, he would locate the tiny holes on the backs of their knees and fill their hollow bodies with various liquids – water, milk, soda, lighter fluid, rubbing alcohol– and then put them in the freezer to see what would happen once they were completely frozen.  In case you’re curious, he’s a modern-day blacksmith now.

I suppose I should count my lucky stars that he never urinated in Farbie.  Despite my brother’s antics, I took very good care of my dolls.  I never took them in the bathtub with me, because I knew Barbie’s hair was some special substance impervious to human shampoo.  I never cut their hair, except to correct (often misguidedly) the botched attempts by the previous owners.  When I did manage to get a real-life, out-of-the-box Barbie from the grandparents I thought were rich beyond imagination every other Christmas or so, I kept close track of the shoes and the brushes.  And even though they came naked or in a swimsuit, the Catholic upbringing in me knew better than to leave secondhand Barbie and Farbie scantily clad; they would be cold, and be a bright red target for horny G.I. Joe.

Given these limitations, it was doubly important that I keep Farbie and naked Barbie properly attired.  Perhaps as a setup for an adulthood full of product incompatibilities, Barbie clothes didn’t fit Farbie.  I can still remember rummaging through my mother’s sack of fabric scraps she graciously gave me carte blanche for any project I liked with my school pals trying to find something that could make Farbie a little trendier to the undoubtedly more popular Barbie, and make naked, bad-haircut Barbie pass for her pink box counterparts, trying to get the dexterity of threading a needle down pat.  My mom even has a cassette tape of me explaining my Barbie clothes sewing adventures in a closet somewhere.  No one can say I was never a successful recording artist.

Even though my dolls never had the quality ballgowns that came in the pink boxes, they had some pretty decent substitutes, even if some of them were held on by rubber bands.  In truth, my secondhand Barbies and out-of-the-box Farbies were a lot like me, minus the hollow body and half-bald head.  I wanted Barbie’s long, California-blonde hair, but instead I had brown hair – not the something-brown or brown-something color Crayola added a little something to – the just-brown crayon in the upper left corner of the box, before they all got mixed up and out of order.  I wanted Barbie’s golden skin tone, but instead I had the translucent skin of Farbie and the freckles no pink-box Barbie had.  I wanted the brightly colored first-day-of-school dresses and rhinestone-studded denim jackets the other little girls in my class had, but instead I had the dresses my mother spent hours making.

Even though I wanted to be like the Barbie versions of my classmates, I knew I wasn’t, and I never would be.  And somehow, I was okay with it.  I knew if I was fortunate enough to get a Barbie or Barbie knockoff, she was going to be ill attired, and I was going to have to help her out with that.  And I was okay with that, too.  I knew if my brother scarred and disfigured my dolls that I was going to have to help them look normal to all the other dolls, because that was just the way things were; you had to make do with what you had.

You’d never see me bother with Barbie clothes today; the pieces are too small, my hands are too big and I would lose them like my cousin Heather lost Barbie shoes when we were little.  But in a world where grown-up Barbie dresses are hundreds of dollars, I can make some pretty decent substitutes, sometimes even good enough to fool real-life Ken’s real-life wives.

All the way to the top


I have always thought Americans were the laziest people on Earth. This isn’t news to anyone—Americans have always been lazy. And with each new invention, we become even lazier. Microwave dinners, fax machines, automatic dishwashers, keyless entry, the list goes on forever. Initially, we scoff at these inventions, saying: What, do they think we’re so lazy we can’t even stick a key in a lock and turn it anymore? Yet lo and behold, the minute that little clicker is in hand, the part of our brain that knows how to unlock a car door shuts down.

All of these inventions have something in common, in that they intend to save time and make life more efficient, which I think is ridiculous. I mean, come on! When I am dead and people are looking back on my life, do I want them to say: Wow, her life was really efficient. She saved so much time. Granted, I have consumed my share of microwave dinners, and I don’t think I’ve scrubbed anything smaller than a dinner plate since I was a teenager, but there is one invention I have never understood and probably never will—the automatic flush toilet.

If you’ve never experienced an automatic toilet, you’ve never been to the theater or a busy restaurant. My first encounter with an automatic toilet was when I was about ten or so at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield, Missouri. At this particular tourist attraction, the restrooms are located near the front of the store right behind a giant copper fish (which, looking back now, I believe is a large mouth bass) overlooking a wishing pond. Once inside the bathroom, one marvels at the virtual forest some whacko engineer thought up, complete with stuffed turkeys and nature sounds trickling out of a big white circle with a bunch of little holes in it.

I always looked forward to the bathrooms as the highlight of my visit to Bass Pro for three reasons. One, I was a girl. What did I care about fishing lures or hunting boots? Two, I was a kid. There were gigantic stuffed bears making murder faces around every corner. By the time we got to the bathrooms, I’d already felt like I was going to piss my pants several times. Three, all my bathroom at home had was ugly pink-orange wallpaper and a mirror.

Anyway, back to my first incident with Auto Flush-o. I went through the door, holding the hands of my female cousins. My pregnant aunt always got a stall first, because she was always pregnant. After doing the scissor dance for several minutes, I finally got a stall of my own. I opened the heavy fake wood door and carefully locked it behind me. When I turned around, the toilet was looking back at me with a flashing red light that looked identical to the one on my uncle’s video camera. From across the room, I asked my aunt if there was someone video taping in the restrooms. I don’t remember what she said, but it probably something along the lines of: Hell no, now piss so we can get out of here.

I sat down on the cold seat, did my business, and leaned forward to grab a wad of the steam-rolled TP. When I leaned forward, the thing flushed on me. I screamed. I was one of those kids who believed in getting off the toilet, pulling up my pants and then flushing, for fear that the porcelain beast would suck me in. I still have this fear to this day, which may be why I hate automatic toilets so much.

In and of itself, the automatic toilet doesn’t serve the purpose of most new technologies, even though I still say: What, am I so lazy that I can’t reach across and push down on a lever? The manufacturers of this monstrosity claim the automatic toilet is efficient in public restrooms because it cuts down on germ distribution. I beg to differ. Germs thrive best in a temperature range from fifty to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. A toilet seat in a public restroom is always at best forty degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature experts instruct you to refrigerate food at. Germs can’t survive in that temperature, so there are obviously no germs on the seat.

Then there is the problem of germs on the flushing lever, where the producer of this equipment thinks he (it had to have been a he—no woman would invent such a thing) is a genius. It’s a simple idea, really. You get rid of the handle, you get rid of germs on the handle. Again, I disagree. By removing the possibility of spreading germs via flushing lever, you give sickos all the more reason not to wash their hands after doing their business. After all, Americans are lazy and the washing of hands takes twenty seconds out of their day. In their minds, they didn’t actually touch anything with their hands that could be contaminated. After all, there was a layer of two-ply tissue between the hand and the target, and they didn’t have to touch the handle to flush the thing.

The edifice of an automatic toilet is a scary thing. As aforementioned, one recognizes an automatic toilet by the flashing red light. Sometimes I think I am the only one who identifies the similarity between this light and the flashing red record light on a video camera. This is why I hesitate when faced with an automatic toilet. Would I normally pull my pants down directly in front of a flashing red light? And who knows, it may be some government conspiracy so they can see if Americans are getting their regular colonoscopies or wiping their asses well enough.

My grandfather always said: If it has tits or wheels, you’re gonna have problems with it. I further extend that idea to electricity. Electrical appliances do not work all the time. This is why I prefer to drive a car with a manual transmission. Because automatic is not always better. You can’t roll start an automatic. The same is true with an automatic toilet. With a regular toilet there is really only one problem you can run into—clogging. If a regular toilet clogs, you have two options. You either lug the heavy porcelain lid off and fuck with the chain for awhile, or you grab a plunger and muscle out the clog. Now with an automatic toilet, you can have two problems, neither of which can be fixed with a little muscle work. One, the electrical system may break down, short out, or just quit after 200,000 miles. Two, it too can clog. But unlike a regular toilet, there is no heavy porcelain lid you can lug off. And how the hell do you plunge an automatic toilet? Like most people, I have worked a crappy minimum wage job in which the toilet unclogging duties fell to me. However, when an automatic toilet breaks down in a public restroom, you can’t call some minimum wage punk like me to come and plunge the bastard.

In all likelihood (and I’m just speculating here), the process for fixing a clogged automatic toilet is a twelve-step program—much like AA—that goes something like this. One, a customer complains to some minimum wage punk that the toilet is clogged.

Two, like any other minimum wage punk, he or she goes to investigate the problem, only to find that you can’t lift off the porcelain lid and fuck with it and he or she has no idea how to plunge an automatic toilet.

Three, the joy of being a minimum wage punk is the fantastic ability to bring the problems you don’t get paid to deal with to the manager.

Four, the manager mutters an obscenity under his breath about minimum wage punks and drags his or her feet to the bathroom and grabs a plunger, casting an evil look at the sign on the back of the bathroom door that says: We care about our customers, so we keep our bathrooms clean and germ-free.

Five, he or she realizes that in fine print, just below the flashing red light, it says: For technical assistance, please call our 24-hour support line at 1-800-HAHA-ASS.

Six, he or she locks him or herself in the hole in the wall they have the nerve to call an office and dials the 800 number.

Seven, after ringing about 5 times, an automated female voice—they’re always female—says: Thank you for calling HAHA ASS. Your call is very important to us. For your convenience, calls may be monitored for quality assurance purposes. Calls are answered in the order they are received. Please hold for the next available representative. I’m not sure I understand what them monitoring calls has to do with my convenience, but okay, whatever.

Eight, a badly remixed elevator music version of some Celine Dion song plays softly from the phone and about every thirty seconds or so the automated female voice comes back on, saying: Thank you for your patience. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available representative.

Nine, after about an hour or so, a real female voice—they’re always female, too—comes on, saying: Thank you for holding, my name is Shaniqua. How may I direct your call?

Ten, the manager describes the problem of the clogged automatic toilet to Shaniqua. After hearing a few keyboard clicks, he or she is told by Shaniqua that the call is being forwarded to the service department. After all, she is a minimum wage punk too and she does not get paid to deal with the actual problems. At this point, steps seven and eight repeat themselves.

Eleven, by this time, a male voice comes on and says: Thank you for calling HAHA ASS’s service department. Our office hours are from 9-5 Monday through Friday. If you’d like to make an appointment for service, please press one now. If you’d like to leave a message, please stay on the line. If you’d like to leave a text message, please press five now. If you’d like to leave a numeric page, please press star star. For more options, please press nine.

What is the point of all those message options? Whatever happened to “after the beep?” Anyway, twelve, after pressing one, the male voice comes back saying: You are in the appointments menu. Duh. For the first available appointment, please press one now. Of course, the manager presses one. After all, they’ve got a clogged automatic toilet with God only knows what floating in the water. A female voice comes back saying: Please wait while we search for the first available service appointment. Celine Dion again. After a few minutes, the male voice comes back saying: Thank you for holding. Your appointment date is Monday, February 29 at 9:30 a.m. At this point, the manager takes a click pen out of a once-white shirt’s breast pocket and turns over his or her shoulder and looks at the calendar with chicken scrawls all over it, including phrases such as B-dog’s birthday and I lost my virginity today, realizing that this is not a leap year. This is the point where American laziness meets it match. It may take twenty seconds out of your day to wash your hands, but the guy (or girl) who gets paid to deal with the big problems because he or she just had to have germ-free automatic toilets in the bathrooms just lost two hours of his or her life on hold with tech support.

To me, the biggest problem with automatic toilets is simply the lack of ability to concentrate. Automatic toilets are just plain creepy. I mentioned earlier that automatic toilets have an electrical system that makes them work. Unfortunately, the electrical system is the scariest component of an automatic toilet. The last time I encountered an automatic toilet was in one of those all-you-can-eat joints that dots the South and Midwest; you know, the kind that can’t afford the letter “L” to put on their reader board so instead they use upside-down sevens, and it usually says “all you cane at”. My dad always said that there are two kinds of people in this world—those who do all-you-can-eat and those who do not. I am the latter kind. Unfortunately, the rest of my family is the former, the kind of people who can actually get their money’s worth at an all-you can-eat buffet, so when they all showed up asking for a place to get lunch, I was overruled. Whenever I look at frequent patrons of a buffet (you can always tell the regulars, especially after you’ve worked at buffet joint as a minimum wage punk), I sometimes think that getting up from the table and walking around the buffet tables carrying a heavy plate is the only exercise these people get. After all, this is the laziest country in the world.

Anyway, after consuming my two plates of food—the first of which was a salad, the second a vegetable plate—and about six glasses of iced tea, give or take, since about the only thing a server at a buffet joint can do is go around refilling tea and coffee, I had to pee. There was no one else in the bathroom at this point, so I opted for the handicapped stall. The little ones make me too claustrophobic. As soon as I turned the lock on the door, I saw that there was an automatic toilet staring back at me. My first impulse was to hold it and wait until I got home, but knew it would be impossible since I lived on the other side of town. So I sat down, my ass quickly turning into a block of ice. Then I heard the electrical system of the toilet activate. Obviously the little red flashing light detected that there was someone in front of it. Then the thing started beeping. I could not believe it. Here I was, trying to focus on urinating and all I could do was listen to this high-pitched beeping noise very similar to my alarm clock.

When I am trying to pee in a public bathroom, I find it best to think about baseball. Some people think it’s best to run the faucet or envision a waterfall. I think about baseball. I don’t even like baseball, but something about visualizing myself standing in the box with a bat over my shoulder and swinging it into a home run gets my urine flowing. So in this case, I pretended the beeping was simply a thousand screaming fans and tried to focus. Strike one. A dribble. Strike two. Finally, probably out of sheer frustration, I hit a ground ball, meaning the piss ran down the side of my left leg and then dropped into the water below. But the thing was still beeping.

Irritated, I leaned forward to grab a wad of steam-rolled, half-ply toilet paper. Suddenly I heard a sound like a child vomiting behind me and the toilet flushed. It scared the shit out of me—literally. I tried to repeat the sound later but it never did come out right.

I was like, what the hell? I’m not even done yet! I still have to put the toilet paper in the water and the thing will have to flush again. Two flushes per piss is completely unnecessary, and bad for the environment I might add. The 2000 Flushes people must be living it up with these automatic toilets—twice the flush, twice the buying power. Anyway, I leaned back to wipe and the beeping started again. I wanted to jump through the little black box with the flashing red light in it and sever the electrical cords that hid there. But instead, I just stood up, my ass instantly thawing, and heard the puking noise followed by another flush. This time it did not scare the shit out of me; it just made me want to jump back into my baseball fantasy and beat the crap out of the toilet with an aluminum bat.
The electrical system that makes the automatic toilet work never flushes when you are ready. I am a firm believer in not flushing until I am good and ready. With a normal toilet, I do my business, pull up my pants, wash my hands, and then flush. It’s the only logical sequence. But with an automatic toilet, the sequence is all out of whack. Before you can even wipe, the thing flushes right underneath you, often spraying your ass with the stuff your body just told you to get rid of.

Obviously the manufacturers of automatic toilets have never seen the film Look Who’s Talking, in which the child is afraid of the toilet eating his pee pee. I have seen this film, and do not flush until I am off the toilet for fear it will eat my pee pee. Medical professionals inform that people should pay attention to the color and consistency of their urine, as abnormalities therein can indicate health problems. I do not condone frivolous lawsuits; however, I am just waiting for the day one of these frequent buffet goers dies and the family sues the automatic toilet company because their product flushed the cloudy, orange urine away before the deceased could see the warning signs. Hell, they can afford it. They’re obviously not spending any money on tech support.

I learned a long time ago that the bathroom habits of men and women are different. When faced with the urge to go away from home, they react differently. When they have to pee, neither sex really cringes at the idea of doing it in a public restroom. Having to go number two, however, is a whole nother ballgame (no pun intended). Men vehemently refuse to do so in a public restroom. They have the uncanny ability to hold their excrement in for hours or even days at a time. Women do not have this ability. When they need to shit, they need to shit, and can only hold it for ten minutes max. So sometimes, women need to defecate in a public restroom, which isn’t a delightful prospect, but it doesn’t take a woman half an hour to shit.

Men and women alike have faced the reality of having to poop where they would rather not. The primary reason for this is noise. I know everyone has to shit every now and then, but when it is you who has to do it, you still don’t want others around you to hear it. I find that a simple fake cough is enough to mask the sound of a pre-pooping fart. But when the shit hits the water (and it always does), hoping for silence is futile. In a multi-unit public restroom, I usually reach around for the flush handle and pull it right as it hits the water, thus covering up any splashing sound. In an automatic toilet, you can’t hide anything, because it decides when you’re ready to flush. Anyone else in a twenty-foot radius is going to know that you just took a shit in a public restroom, ewww.

The second problem with shitting in a public restroom is post-flush residue, which is my fancy way of saying floaters. Even if we manage to camouflage associated sounds, it sometimes takes more than one flush to get everything to go down. This always sucks in a public restroom, because you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. If you flush again so that the next waiting victim doesn’t have to look at what you’ve left behind, they’re still going to know you just took a shit because you took two, maybe even three flushes. If you opt not to reflush, your shit is going to be sitting in that toilet for the rest of time, because no one is going to choose a toilet complete with its own shit. Dealing with floaters in an automatic toilet is an even bigger problem than normal. By the time you pull up your pants, turn around, and spot the floating log, you have to sit back down and get back up, that’s if the puking sound and under-butt flush doesn’t scare the shit out of you again and you have to repeat the whole process.
Where’s the time saving element in that?

They teach you from a young age not to poop in public restrooms. I can remember the first time I was introduced to the ambivalence of doing so. I was in fifth grade or so, and when you’re locked in a building that should have been condemned a long time ago for eight hours and fed reheated mystery meat and cardboard pizza, sometimes you just have to go. I remember walking single file with the rest of my female classmates to the big kids’ bathroom—the one where the toilets are more than an inch from the ground—and doing my business. When I got back to the classroom I remember my teacher saying, “You were in there for six minutes. What, did you fall in or something?” Of course, immediately following her statement the class burst out in uncontrollable laughter at my expense. It’s kind of like those Sprint commercials: Uh, yeah you’ve used all your bathroom minutes this month. How would you like to pay for that?

I move to ban automatic toilets. If we continue to perpetuate the cycle of laziness that litters our country, we’re only looking at a future filled with wasted time, water rate increases, eaten pee pees, and frivolous lawsuits, not to mention the biggest government conspiracy exposé ever. And then we, my friends, will be no different than the bodily waste we expel—flushed.

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