Digestion digressions

“Welcome to the place where shit happens” . That was the sign above the urinal at the restaurant washroom I stopped into one evening just prior to ordering a meal.  Digestion was on my mind as I had just had a colonoscopy a week prior.  It was my first colonoscopy in a decade and it got me thinking ….

The bathroom is the one place designated in one’s home where one goes to do one or more of three things: defecate, urinate or conduct personal hygiene at the start and/or end of day. The bathroom is not the place to eat a meal, watch The Bear on Hulu or discuss weighty political or moral issues with others. Its function dictates specific room behavior not common to other rooms of the house. Bathroom behavior also holds the distinction of generating all kinds of euphemisms, jokes and slang. Guys call the bathroom “the head”, “the can” or “the crapper”, whereas others consider it “the library”, “my office” or “washroom”. Plenty of jokes are created due to the bodily waste functions like urination and bowel movements:

Have you seen the new movie “Constipation?” Probably not, as it hasn’t come out yet.

I like toilets for two reasons. No. 1 and No. 2.

While sitting on the can reading a magazine, I realized that there’s an entire industry, or more accurately a “movement” that concerns bodily functions in the service of digestion. It’s a field of study for medical practitioners but for reasons that are not entirely understood, the words that describe it often cause embarrassment, consternation and/or shame.

The truth is a bowel movement is the last stop in the movement of food through your digestion tract. Your stool passes out of your body through the rectum and anus. (I believe this is considered the asshole, another derogatory word). Another name for stool is feces. Technically speaking, feces are the solid or semi-solid remains of the food that was not digested in the small intestine, and has been broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. It is made of what is left after your digestive system (stomach, small intestine and colon) absorbs nutrients and fluids from what you eat and drink.

Obviously, we “go to the bathroom” away from the privacy of one’s home bathroom. At the playing field there are portable toilets. But they are not simple called “public toilets”. Marketers have gotten into the act and named these portable toilets “Pee Palaces”. A big green and yellow sign bolted into the side names it “Pee Palace” at the field where I play tennis. Another digestive digression popped into my head: how did someone end up in the portable pee toilet business?

Portable pee toilet proprietors exist and make a living at it and probably have a family too, like other workers. I wonder if the proprietor’s children speak well proudly of their parents’ line of business. “My daddy sells portable toilets … what does your daddy do?”

Growing up, I knew the employment of my friends’ fathers. (It was the 50’s and most mothers didn’t work outside the home). One was a journalist for the Christian Science Monitor (newspaper), one sold insurance, one was a podiatrist and another manufactured men’s adult raincoats. My father manufactured snack foods. These were all jobs that seemed normal. But being a portable potty proprietor sounds demeaning. But I guess someone has to do it. (Larry Bird was a garbage collector before he became a Boston Celtic and one of the greatest basketball players of all time). Somebody’s got to do it.

There are other consumer products in the bowel movement industry. Consider Travel John disposable urinals. Convenient personal urinals contain a patented biodegradable polymer substance that serves as a pouch, absorbs liquid waste, and turns it into an odorless hardened gel.

A marvel of a product, Travel John came in handy during the pandemic. A driver was able to go to the bathroom without leaving the car. One is able to dispose of the waste by simply driving up close to a waste basket, throwing the gel pack into it without getting out of the vehicle. It is ideal for car travel, motion sickness, potty training and bathroom emergencies of all types.

Boaters too have purchased products associated with bodily waste. Gulfsweeps are installed to ward off gulls from messing on one’s boat. “The finest bird deterrent for boats” is the slogan. Easy to mount, the gulf sweeps have been used for roof tops, camper/RVs and billboards too. Wherever one wants to ward off excrement from birds, gulls and other flying creatures.

Besides these consumer products it’s the medical field which deals with feces in a serious way. Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) (also known as stool transplants) have proven to be an effective treatment for clostridioides difficile infection (CDI), a condition characterized by severe diarrhea and colitis or inflammation of the colon. Restoration of colonic microflora by introducing healthy bacterial flora through a stool infection via colonoscopy – or by mouth as a capsule CONTAINING FECES is proven to help. This is not a joke!

Attention to the value of stools may have started back in 2012 when MIT researchers founded OpenBiome, the first public stool bank, a frozen site for human stool used for FMT therapy. A few years later, in 2015, Personal Biome, a stool banking program was started. It was where individuals could store their stool for future use in fecal transplants. This sounds like a much more respectable profession. “My daddy or mommy manages a stool bank… what does your daddy or mommy do?”

As one ages, new medical procedures and conditions arise, causing one to rethink one’s assumptions and to learn new behaviors to stay fit and/or ward off medical ailments. At the age of seventy, medical appointments breed all kinds of thoughts. Now I’m more frequently aware of my own mortality. I watch what I eat and stay informed about new medical discoveries and treatments. While thinking and writing about bodily waste is not terribly exciting, it is a part of life, so thinking and learning about it and its effects on quality of life are all good.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

One thought on “Digestion digressions

  1. Holy shit!
    Actually, lots of interesting points here.
    And I haven’t seen Constipation (that made me laugh).
    (I also quickly read the book “Gravity.” I couldn’t put it down)

    Sent from my iPad


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: