Is That Poop?: On Proper Identification

“Is that poop?” I say.

“Hmmmm.  That’s a tough one,” my Someone responds.

“Better consult Ryan?” I ask, pulling out my phone.

“Yeah.  This seems like a good case for him,” my Someone says thoughtfully.

This is one of our favorite games.  Aside from Walk Around the Table, which consists of walking around a table and having our 88 pound dog plod behind us wagging her tail til we are all dizzy, or My Hand’s a Spider, which is just what it sounds like– complete with the ticklish terror of the creature when it finds its way into the unsuspecting armpit– Is That Poop? is a family favorite.

The rules are pretty straight forward.

  1.  Take a walk.  Or just happen to be walking.  Cities, forest– it doesn’t matter.  The game can be all the time.
  2. Accidentally happen upon an unidentified glob in the sidewalk/in the grass/on the side of a building.
  3. Ask the question, “Is that poop?” to your walking partner.
  4. If you are not certain, text a picture to your consenting friends.  If you are incredibly certain, and the audacity of the situation is too much not to share, text a picture to your consenting friends.

Truthfully, once you know about the game, it’s difficult not to see it.  Impossible not to ask the question.

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It was a couple months ago when we heard the news of El Caganer.  Our jaws dropped in disbelief.  Translated literally as “the shitter,” El Caganer is a figurine placed in nativity scenes throughout Europe.  Our disbelief was not that it existed, but that somehow, as active shit seekers, we had missed this.  The podcast continued, complete with a long historical rundown of Dutch realist painters including Phantom Poopers (surfacing as dogs or people or even squirrels) in works that hang everywhere from the common household to Buckingham Palace.  Somewhere, propriety ordered that these crass creatures be painted over.  And now, they are scraping back those faux bushes and trees to again reveal the Poopers.  Silence filled the truck.  And then, I turned to my Someone–

“Was that poop?”

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Last night we rented a movie that my mom hated as we ate a gluten free version of my favorite childhood pizza.  It dealt with Maggie Smith as a homeless van lady who encroached on a single, not-even-well-meaning writer, wrapped untidily with existential crisis and social responsibility.  And at the pinnacle of the movie, we watched the man scrape Maggie Smith’s shit from his shoe and the side of his trash can.  He concluded that caring means shit.  A lot of it.

I considered how many diapers my mother alone compacted after four children.  I considered how many bags my Someone and I have filled in our responsibility to clean up after our dog.  I considered the two step process we engage in at least once a week as we empty our black water tank into the belly of the earth.  I considered what our futures might look like when we lose control of what other people consider their dignity.  I considered that maybe the presence of shit doesn’t indicate lack of dignity so much as it indicates a fullness of life.  Out and smelly and unavoidably there for us to consider the unpleasant questions: Where did it come from?  Where is it going next?

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Those early artists in Europe didn’t just include the unsightly El Caganer as a gag.  Although Poop Jokes are clearly still the funniest.  They were trying to communicate how nothing was off limits.  That Baby Jesus was not above sleeping next to a giant wad of shit along with the rest of us.  Fear not.  And also that everything has an end, that every cycle will run its course, often simultaneously with the beginning of the course.  It’s why we brought our bathrooms indoors as quickly as we figured out running water.  Because for all of our put togetherness, we are always happily among the Pooper.  And, a couple times a day if we eat enough greens, are the Pooper.

Old banana peel, Ryan texted back.

“Dang,” said my Someone.

“Maybe next time,” I said.  Only a minute passed–

“Wait, is that poop?”

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