Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Pooping Cyclist and My Stained Shirt

I spill food on my clean shirt and I feel stupid. I might try a Tide pen or 7-Up to remove the stain, but it doesn’t occur to me to take off my shirt and light it on fire.

Which brings us to the cyclist riding in the dry foothills near Boise who took a dump, wiped himself and burned the toilet paper. As it turned out, he also burned 73 acres of dry-as-a-bone grassland.

I sort of understand. I don’t want to prance around with a big stain on my shirt. This guy probably didn’t want to ride around with previously used toilet paper in his backpack. Plus, he was environmentally conscious. He didn’t want to litter. And he didn’t combust the poop.

Biker off the roadSo you can excuse incinerating the toilet paper, but still wonder why the cyclist didn’t contain his little blaze and make sure to stamp out or bury his embers. Instead, some of his embers wafted into a nearby ravine and ignited a grass fire large enough to be visible from Boise.

To the cyclist’s credit, when he heard about the fire and put two match sticks together, he came forward to the Bureau of Land Management and more or less confessed. No charges have been filed, but it’s possible the guy will be handed a bill for the cost of putting out the blaze.

toiletpaperChalk it up as an act of nature, a well-intentioned gesture and a responsible mea culpa. Or as a BLM spokesman said, “I guess when you gotta to, you gotta go.”

True enough.

Back to stains on my shirt. The last time I attended Zoolala, the major concert fundraiser at the Oregon Zoo, I plopped a messy mound of my dinner in the middle of a white Hawaiian shirt. It really ticked me off. This was no act of nature; it was pure, unadulterated clumsiness on my part. And, to add insult to injury, it landed on the “bulge.”

My first instinct was to leave. Who wants to be seen – or be stared out – with an embarrassing stain on your white Hawaiian shirt? I hid out for a while in the restroom, initially trying to dab out the stain, then trying to think of someway to transport myself, like Peter Pan, into Never-never Land.

Somewhere in my swirl of self-pity and self-loathing, it occurred to me that the concert would begin soon and no one would pay any attention to me or my stained shirt. As darkness fell, you could hardly see the stain, especially when I dangled a clean napkin inconspicuously and obsessively in front of me, just in case anyone snuck a glance my way.

Bradley Cooper with stained shirt

If Bradley Cooper can endure a sloppy stain on his shirt, I should, too, even though I couldn’t hide it behind my Oscar if I wanted.

That was a good decision. My wife and I had a great time grooving to fantastic music. For a couple of hours, I managed to forget the smorgasbord on my shirt.

Inevitably, the concert ended, the music stopped and the bright lights returned. Once again, I was exposed as pariah, a klutz who couldn’t handle my fork.

Of course, this has nothing to do with burning toilet paper in a tinderbox. But it is kind of the same thing. The cyclist pooped in grassland; I fouled my own shirt. He lit up toilet paper and created a wild fire. I ruined a shirt and was scorned on social media as the “guy who can’t handle his meatballs.”

Maybe you can’t see the connection, but I can. Toilet paper for me will never be the same.



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