Monday, April 23, 2007

Down the vent

February, 2004 was a tough month. In the span of a few short weeks, everyone in my group at work was informed they would soon be out of a job, I had been dumped the day before Valentine's Day, and I got infected with the the worst stomach bug of my life. Late that month, Eagan and other parts of the Twin Cities area were hit hard with Norovirus, which is also known for quickly spreading among passengers in the close confines of cruise ships. The symptoms sound like standard fare for a stomach bug, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and low-grade fever. But this was no ordinary poo poo pukey virus.

By mid-afternoon that workday, my stomach was starting to feel slightly unsettled. At first, I didn't give the moderate gurgling and churning much thought. Perhaps my simple bowl of soup at lunchtime wasn't sitting well for whatever reason. However, as the remainder of the afternoon wore on, it became clear that this was something more than a mildly upset stomach. By 4:30 pm, it was bad enough that I knew I had to leave for home as soon as possible, or I surely would be too ill to drive myself. I informed my boss of what was going on, and shortly after 5, I was huddled under a blanket on my couch watching The Simpsons. I soon fell into a dead, dreamless sleep.

When I awoke, my gut was twisting with gentle but persistent waves of nausea. I moaned. I looked the clock. Barely an hour had passed. As I slowly sat up, I also became aware that my head was baking with fever. And I had to shit. Right. Fucking. Now! I jumped to my feet. The sudden movement caused the room to spin, and I had to pause for a moment to let the feeling pass. Ok, steady, Jeremy. Gotta shit. I hightailed it to the bathroom, parked my ass on the cold porcelain and unclenched. Hot bubbling brown horror shot forth from my gaping sphincter. It sounded like someone was trying to shoot pancake batter through a gravel-filled garden hose. That would be the most viscous bowel movement I would have for the next 24 hours.

Even though I didn't really have to do much work to fill the bowl, the physical exertion of rushing to the bathroom in my lightheaded state had taken its toll. Reeling with dizziness, I stumbled back to the couch, wrapped myself in the blanket, and once again fell asleep, only to awake again 45 minutes later. This time the nausea was overpowering. I couldn't lift my head without coming close to passing out. Not surprisingly, once again I had an urgent need to use the bathroom. I rolled from the couch to the floor and crawled on my hands and knees to the bathroom, navigating by memory since my sight was clouded with shimmering stars and tunnel vision. My hands and knees finally felt the cold tile of the bathroom floor, and I hoisted myself onto the toilet. I didn't need to be there much more than about 60 seconds before the gastrointestinal transaction had taken place. With a great deal of effort, I wiped, pulled up my underwear, went down on my hands and knees, and passed out in front of the toilet.

When I awoke, I had no idea how much time had passed. A few minutes? A couple of hours? I really didn't care at that point. The nausea was now so powerful that I couldn't even crawl on my hands and knees. I slid on my belly like a snake to the living room, pulled the pillow from the couch, and fell asleep on the floor before I could get the blanket down. Perhaps another half hour later, I awoke again with a forceful trembling vibrating my innards. I whimpered and slid to the bathroom, summoned every ounce of physical and mental strength I had, and pulled myself up onto the toilet to give back the bounty which God had bestowed upon me earlier that day. I finished, slumped to the floor, and passed out with my underwear around my ankles. I didn't even get a chance to wipe first this time. Once again, I had no idea how much time had passed. Laying on my side, I dabbed pathetically at my seared butthole, and pulled up my underwear.

By now, I knew that I was not dealing with a simple case of the flu. This was some sort of virus sent from the depths of hell to rob me of every ounce of fluid in my body. Inch by inch, I slid to the bedroom and grabbed the phone. This wasn't an emergency (or so my shit-addled brain insisted), but I wanted someone to know enough to check on me in case things got progressively worse and I was unable to get to the phone later. I called my friend Mary, who lived and worked about 10 minutes from my house, and left a message on her work voice mail. It was 1 in the morning, and even barely short of delirium, I didn't want to wake her at home. My eyes half-closed, I mumbled into the phone. "Mary, it's Jeremy. I'm really sick. Some sort of stomach bug. I keep crapping and passing out. Can you check on me in the morning?" I hung up the phone and promptly passed out on the bedroom floor.

My eyes fluttered behind my eyelids. I had woken up, but couldn't bring myself to open my eyes. I didn't even wait for the signal from my brain. I knew I was going to have to shit and rolled over onto my stomach. Sure enough, about mid-roll, the familiar feeling hit my core, and I clenched tightly. I slid with determination and purpose, but it was still a slow process. I attempted to lift my head from the floor and was greeted with more tunnel vision and stars. My lips were stuck to my teeth, and my tongue felt like a dried out slice of ham. I hadn't consumed any liquids in nearly 12 hours. Finally cold tile. After a couple of false starts, I managed to perch myself on the toilet and let gravity do its work. I slid to the floor and let unconsciousness wrap me in its dark embrace.

Again I awoke. I was laying on my side, underwear around my ankles. A pool of drool had accumulated on the tile beneath my mouth. I could tell that again I apparently didn't have time to wipe. I rolled over to grab at the dwindling roll of toilet paper and could just as well have walked in on a family of four being brutally hacked to pieces with a dull hatchet. This time in my bare-assed slumber, the rumbling urge to use the bathroom failed to rouse me. Since the shit itself offered no physical resistance in its rush to my cakehole, I did not need to be awake to release it. So in my sleep, I had spattered turbocharged, gas-powered ass mud all over the tile floor and wall behind me. Yes, I had shit on the god damned wall.

At first, I was in denial and muttered, "What? No! I couldn't have!" I slapped myself and looked again. The wall was just as mottled brown as ever. This was not a nightmare. It was quite real, and it was about to get worse. You see, embedded in this wall was a furnace vent, and when my bleary, dried out eyes adjusted to the light, I realized that I had not only shit all over the wall, I had splattered shit into the vent. And not just any vent. This vent was directly above the blower fan and provided the most powerful blast of air of any vent in the house. It was February. It was below zero outside. The math was horrifying. The furnace was running full tilt, as the blower fan forced billowing plumes filled with the stench of hot diarrhea directly into my face, past my head, out the bathroom door, and into the rest of the house, which up until this point, had been unsullied by the stench of diarrhea, hot or otherwise.

"What the fuck?!? No way! No fucking way! Oh my God!" I was just about to go into hysterics when a sharp tug of nausea reminded me that I was still sick. I couldn't deal with this at fucking all right then. I tentatively wiped, pulled up my underwear, and crawled yet again to the living room floor, leaving the steaming ass explosion behind me. I fell asleep, repeated the crawl, shit, pass out, wipe, crawl, sleep cycle a couple of more times, then awoke again around 5 am. I still was running warm and felt slightly sick to my stomach, but I could lift my head without immediately fading to black. And amazingly, I didn't have to shit! I surmised that I had shit and sweat the last liquids out of my system a couple of hours beforehand. For the first time in nearly a half day, I rose to my feet. Unfortunately I immediately remembered the horrific episode from earlier that morning. I shuffled to the bathroom to survey the damage. "Fuuuuck..." I whispered. My throat was too dry to shout. Perhaps it had been burned by the nonstop vile smell of drying liquishit being pumped into my house like noxious poison.

I opened the cabinet under the bathroom sick and fumbled around looking for my bottle of cleaning solution with bleach. Got it! But shit, what about the furnace vent? I found a screwdriver, removed the vent cover from the wall, and started with the duct first. I probably emptied half the bottle of cleaning solution into the vent then scrubbed vigorously with hot water and a brush. Gagging and fighting back literal tears of disgust every step of the way, I moved to the wall and floor, giving them the same bleach and scrub treatment and noticed that the floor around the toilet was splattered in high velocity crap, as well. Some of my shit had come out with such force, that they splashed off of the bowl, up onto the underside of the toilet seat, and back out onto the floor. A double shit bounce -- now that was just plain impressive. I bleached and scrubbed the toilet, threw the brush away, then emptied the remainder of the cleaning solution over everything again, wiped it all down with a rag soaked in hot water, and threw the rag away. After securing the furnace vent cover, which I had cleaned with equal vigor, the nightmare was over. I crawled into my bed and fell asleep.

A little before 8, my phone rang. It was Mary. After hearing of my ordeal (I had spared her the shit-splattered wall and vent for the time being), she said, "Why on earth didn't you call me at home?" I explained that I still didn't realize then how bad it was. I just knew that I didn't need medical attention, but wanted to hedge my bets in case I needed to be taken to the hospital in the morning. She kindly offered to bring me some saltine crackers and Sprite so I could get something into my still unsettled stomach and had them in hand on my doorstep by 9. I was grateful to have such a good friend. Oh how I couldn't wait to share with her my tale of feces and furnaces. When I recovered she would get the full story in all of its animated, graphic glory, describing every millimeter of the carnage because friends share things like that. True tears come from crapping down your furnace vent. And true friends are there to share it with you.


buhcat said...

sorry and i'm glad that you're feeling better.

Aliecat said...

Dear god, you should have gone to the hospital...

Jeremy said...

Buhcat. I'm glad that I'm feeling better too, particularly since it's now over three years later. I probably would have killed myself after the third day of it if I didn't die of dehydration first.

Alie, by the time I realized how bad it was, I figured I could make it until morning before going to the hospital. Luckily the worst of it had run its course by the time the sun came up.

Kristen said...

So which sucked worse? Getting dumped on Feb. 13 or shitting down your furnace vent? At least the vent makes for a funny story... from a distance of several years.

Jeremy said...

Getting dumped sucked. She was a particularly cool girl, but pooping in the vent was worse. Much worse. I healed from the dumping within a few days. The scars from the vent pooping live on.

lesley said...

Ah yes, the Norovirus. I have a similar story. No furnace vents involved, but a loved one did clean up after me as I was laying in the fetal position on the tile floor half-conscious. I am eternally grateful they were there and that they did...that.

Jeremy said...

Lesley, iRobot needs to make a poop cleaning robot for us single folk who live alone and have no one to take care of us. They can call it the Pooba.

lesley said...


Hedy De Vine said...

I noticed that vent in your bathroom while I squatted to take a pee. I didn't notice any poo spray marks, so you must've cleaned it well.

Jeremy said...

Hedy, I scrubbed that mufken vent cover, the inside, the wall, and floor with a hot water and bleach solution until I could see time stand still. Poo goes in the toilet, not in my vent. Or maybe on the neighbors' doorstep in a baggie on fire. But nowhere else!!