Monday, September 1, 2014

The Poo Flood

In honor of my high school reunion this past Friday, I'd like to share a lurid tale about the time that my entire high school dormitory flooded with poop. I recognize that this isn't specifically hiking related, though I will say that this experience definitely prepared me for the privies along the trail. No, mostly I thought you guys would find this story pretty amusing, and I won't have a better excuse than it being my 10-year-reunion to be able to share this with you.

So, without further ado:

The Poo Flood.

It was the night of September 10th, and it was pouring rain outside. I was 15 years old, and little did I know that on this particular night I would get to learn what it felt like to stand bare-foot and ankle-deep in a raging river of pipe-regurgitated fecal matter.

I was attending the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, a magnet high school nestled firmly in the middle of absolutely nowhere in northern Maine. We were in a town called Limestone, which boasted one tiny grocery store, one pizza place and a diner which remained in existence solely out of bitter spite. 

The school itself was technically a public school, but it had a specific focus, and prerequisites for getting in (i.e., pervasive NERD disorder... they let in some non-nerds at some point and it was just a disaster). It was also a boarding school, and we all lived there. There were no freshmen, only sophomores, juniors and seniors. My graduating class was 44. Winter began in October and ended in May. Now you know all you need to know about my school. Back to the important part: gallons of poop.

Here is a (very simplified) diagram of our dorm hallway:

It was about 10:30pm, and there was a torrential rainstorm outside. Everyone would get locked into their dormitory wings by 10pm (so that there wouldn't be any late-night shenanigans between the girl's wings and the boy's wings... not that separating boys and girls ever prevented shenanigans from occurring), so all the girls were either in their rooms, getting ready for bed, or flitting about in whatever way you would like to imagine a group of teenage girls might flit about (there weren't as many pillow fights as you might want there to be). I was in B-wing, a wing that was one floor at ground-level. I was sitting in my room, eating dried papaya and mod-podging magazine cut-outs onto my computer, when I heard screaming coming from the hallway. I leaped up and ran out into the hall, just in time to see Margot standing in the middle of the hall, covered in soap, clutching her towel to her body and declaring, in a genuinely impressive display of self-control,


There was a moment of silence, as all of us pajama-clad females exchanged glances with one another... glances that were daring each other to go into the bathroom and check, glances that were full of desperation, of hope that maybe Margot had just finally snapped, glances that reminded everyone that no, Margot definitely had her head screwed on straight and we just had to accept that something terrible was about to happen to all of us. Margot broke the silence by firmly reminding us that there was poop in the shower, and displayed corroborating evidence by pointing into the bathroom.

We all stood there in horror, watching dark, foul-smelling chunky water gurgle up out of the toilet, out of the sink faucet, out of the shower drain. It moved slowly, but with a constant determination. Like the serial killer in slasher movies - they just walk while you sprint away in vain: they always catch up to you and end your miserable life.

Just then there was the sound of splashing, and we shuffled down the hallway en masse to see that the next bathroom was starting the same pattern. The brown monster was oozing out of the first bathroom, spreading out onto the floor, joining the flow from the 2nd bathroom, cutting us off from the only escape route. We stumbled backwards like a group of bemused sheep, huddling together and hoping, praying that it would stop.

I can't remember what people were saying as I was too busy being distracted by my vision kaleidoscoping in disbelief, but I imagine there was a lot of screaming. There must have been screaming, because I distinctly remember Didi coming out of her room in fury, hair mussy and pillow-lines on her face, saying.

"I don't care what the EFF is going on, but y'all need to SHUT UP because-"

"Didi! Didi, go put your glasses on."


"DO IT."


A few moments later, Didi reemerged from her room, ready for murder, focused her eyes on the poo flood and said,

"Oh. Well that's alright then."

We were only a few inches away from the flood as it crept towards us like a menacing beast. The third bathroom and the fourth bathroom had exploded at this point, and the poo-pressure from all four bathrooms combined was creating a true river that took up the entire hallway, wall-to-wall. It was at least an inch deep at this point and picking up speed. Someone stumbled as we shuffled backwards, and fell. We all screamed, picked her up and carried her backwards as she said, "SAVE YOURSELVES!! LEAVE ME BEHIND!"

We were about 15 feet away from the entrance to the dorm, an un-fordable river of crap separating us from freedom. There were a few survivors on the opposite side of the flood, watching us get farther and farther away. My sister was on the other side, and I remember crying out to her, begging for help. She reached her hand towards me desperately and said in defeat, "There's nothing we can do!!"

I thought I was never going to see her again. That I would drown in level 5 poop rapids, and I would never live to see my 18th birthday. I would never know what it was like to be drunk. I would never make out with anyone. All my dreams of rampant sinning were on the verge of being washed away in a brown fury. I was going to die an innocent, pig-tailed 15-year-old nerd. And that pissed me off more than anything else.

The bathroom I shared with three other girls was the 5th bathroom, and I tore open the door, hoping to save my toiletries and toothbrush that I kept in a shower caddy on the floor. In my haste to open the door and in my blind fury about dying a prude, I didn't think about the consequences. Before I could react, cold diarrhea water was flowing mercilessly over my feet, little chunks nestling happily between my toes. I screamed so high that no sound came out (but dogs 50 miles away started chewing off their own legs).

I bolted out of my bathroom, and at this point all the girls had scattered, barricading themselves into their rooms. I tore down the hallway, the poop monster hot on my heels (it was moving pretty fast at this point, as more and more bathrooms joined the fight, one by one exploding with poop), following the voice of my roommate Rae, who was frantically calling my name. As I reached the door, Rae, beautiful, determined woman that she was, grabbed me by the shoulders, pulled me into the room and locked the door behind me. My other roommate, Lis, on the other hand, was perched on top of her free-standing closet, screaming like a banshee. I was about to start screaming too but Rae shook me by the shoulders.

"Get it together. Lis has gone bananas. We have to do something about that," and she pointed at the flood waters pouring in under the door.

We grabbed all the towels we owned, and piled them up in front of the door, stemming the flow. But the pressure must have built up, because, physics be damned, the flood waters started pouring in from UNDER THE WALLS. My desk was against the wall where the flood was creeping in, and I yanked it out of the way. My printer/scanner tumbled off my desk and went crashing into the fast-expanding brown puddle. We had run out of towels, so we sacrificed whatever we could, throwing socks and sweatshirts and extra blankets against the walls. Meanwhile Lis continued with her high-pitched keening from atop her perch, the perfect soundtrack to our sandbag montage of misery.

And we waited.

Rae and I sat close together in silence, staring at our soaking brown possessions, while Lis curled into a little ball on top of her closet and sobbed quietly. The rain was pouring outside, and the occasional peel of thunder would make Rae and I jump a little, pressing next to each other. Our towels and blankets had successfully stemmed the flow, but now we were quietly suffering the intoxicating stench that was slowly infiltrating the room. There were no sounds from the hallway, no phones ringing. We were utterly alone, perched on the edge of a fecal oblivion.

I don't know how long we waited, but I had started nodding off, my head on Rae's shoulder, when a knock at the door made us jolt up to our feet. Lis started screaming again. Rae said a few pointed words to Lis, which made her calm down a little bit, and then we went to the door. We pulled open the door a half-inch, looking through the crack three-stooges-style.

There, in the flooded hallway, stood Didi. The poo flood was stationary, and was now a 2-3 inch deep swamp covering quite literally every single bit of the hallway, the occasional poo log floating lazily by. Didi was wearing a pair of sparkling, 4-inch-tall platform heels, a pair of running shorts, a wife beater, and a look of utterly calm determination. She was the absolute picture of badass magnificence. I think it was at that moment I decided I wanted to be her when I grew up.

"The RAs say to jump out your windows. Good luck."

And she closed the door.

We managed to tear the screens out of our windows, and the three of us collected a few prized possessions, and then leapt out into the pouring rain, soaking grass and mud. We sprinted for the building entrance, and got in through the main lounge. There was a hubbub of activity in the main area of the dormitory. The other girls' wing (C-wing) was taking in survivors where there was space, while the rest of us were being herded down into the lower lounge where there was a multitude of couches for us to sleep on. We pushed a lot of the couches together to create little couch-boats, and piled in 5 or 6 girls into each boat. They said the poo flood had taken over the absolute entirety of the hallway, as well as the rooms of those who didn't have enough towels to stop the flood from coming under their walls. They told us that we'd probably have to live in the abandoned military barracks on the closed-down air force base nearby while they quarantined our dorm wing. They told us not to worry.

And, eventually, we slept.


Rae, my roommate and rock during the epic poo flood of 2001 and my sophomore year of high school, passed away in a car accident in the summer of 2009. She was a beautiful, fantastic and caring person, who I will always remember fondly. If you never knew her, rest assured that if she wasn't there, I would have been enveloped in a whirlwind of poo (also a whirlwind of other potentially negative situations that happened to me sophomore year that she saved me from), and would likely be a very different person now. In that way, by knowing me or knowing others who knew her, you know her a little bit, too.

1 comment:

  1. Another wonderful story! So sad about Rae. When a person can keep their head about them in the worst of conditions they are worthy of respect and remembrance. Here's to a good, kind, and strong woman! Love, Mom and Dad