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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Jaffa Desperation
True story. It wasn't in Gaza, but it in Jaffa (Yafo), which is basically Southside Tel Aviv (Arab section) where I was dropped off by an Israeli soldier after hitch-hiking from Beer Sheva. It was a Friday, and most (actually, pretty much all) businesses in this section of town were closed for the Muslim Sabbath. A few minutes after being dropped off, and beginning the 3 mile trek north to downtown Tel Aviv (backpack and all), I realized I had a problem.

Apparently, something I ate in Beer Sheva hadn't agreed with me. In fact, at present, it was arguing vociferously with me, and accepting none of my counterpoints, like: "but, I'm 3 miles from the nearest bathroom and in semi-hostile territory." I decided to proceed on power of will.

20 minutes later, the contractions were increasing in frequency. I imagine it to be similar to labor, only with the opposite intentions. We're all familiar with the crisis point. This is the point where the pressure reaches a crescendo, and you must summon all of your energy to maintain dam integrity. I'd survived 3 of these in the previous 8 minutes, and I was still 2.5 miles from a throne.

At last, a ray of hope. Movement inside a restaurant. A knock at the glass door and a pleading look to the man inside. The "no room at the inn" look I received was disheartening, but this was not the time for cowardly retreat. I plead with the man in earnest, doing my best to sign my dilemma. He closed the blinds, and that was that.

Another hundred yards. 2 more close calls. Time to survey my options, as it became clear that the feasibility of a 2.5 mile hike had evaporated in the late spring heat. My remaining options were 2:

1) The Mediterranean. A cool swim into the surf, followed by some untreated waste disposal. In retrospect, this might have been the better decision, but at the time, the logistics seemed insurmountable. Where would I leave my backpack. How would I explain myself as the only person in the water, to the people on the shore. What if I lost my boxers...

2) A large white bucket next to an abandoned structure. The structure was boarded up, and clearly in no condition for inhabitants. The bucket appeared to be a construction bucket of the sort used to carry paint or sealant. The location was about 10 feet below the road I was on, and somewhat obscured from the view of the casual onlooker.

Using the remaining 20 seconds of decision time allocated to me, I opted for 2. Less than 30 seconds later, I was standing next to my backpack, taking a few nervous glances around to be sure I was as private as possible when trying to crap in the open, in the middle of the afternoon, in a city with a high population density. It was time.

I desperately unbuttoned my 501s, and crashed onto the bucket, straining to expedite the process. 15 seconds passed. Enough to consider calling it even and getting back on the road, but another 15 would be better....

Of the many images I've catalogued to memory over the course of my life, few stand out as vividly as what I saw next. Covering the large doorway I faced from my perch on the white bucket was a large, warped board. Tracing the grain of the wood to about knee height, I gazed upon a knot hole. In the center of the knot hole was the unmistakable shape of an eye. An eye which, had I been able to see the remainder of the human head attached to it, would have surely revealed a mixture of confusion and horror normally only seen in combat and trauma wards.

But, there was no time to evaluate the full meaning of the eye just then. Fight/flight instincts took over, and before I had time to take measure of what had just happened I was a hundred and fifty yards down the road and traveling at an impressive pace. 2 and a half miles and an epic rash later, I reached Tel Aviv and a very nice beachside restroom at which to take care of a little unfinished business. Afterwards, as I stood watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, I reflected on the moral of the story. No matter how bad your day's been... no matter what's got you down, or how tough it gets, you can look yourself in the mirror, be grateful and say:

At least nobody crapped in my water bucket today.
Very, very funny. I'm at work giggling like a moron. Thank you for sharing that touching and personal tid-bit.
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