Warning: Content and photos may be offensive to some readers. So feel free to skip this one. Or acknowledge that everybody poops, and enjoy!
Let me begin by saying how sorry I am for all of those who have been displaced from their homes, for those who have lost their homes, their pets, their belongings. I have been watching the footage on tv like so many across the country, absolutely dumbfounded by the widespread damage.
Being so far removed from the actual “action” of the flooding, I guess I wasn’t taking seriously the urgency of the situation here in Calgary on Friday afternoon. I was sitting on my floor, watching the CBC’s footage on tv, eating toast, drinking coffee, tickling the baby, pretty chilled out overall (although sad about what I was seeing). There was a knock on the door. It was my friend, Ernesto (name has been changed to protect the identity of my friend, Jermaine). I was shocked to see him, as Ernesto recently had a lobotomy (actual medical procedure changed to protect patient confidentiality, which is important after a cholecystectomy) and has been strongly advised not to exert himself in any way – no lifting, minimal walking, that kinda thing. Hence my surprise in seeing him at my door, drenched in rain water, carrying a full tank of propane.
“Ernesto, whatever are you doing here?” I asked (apparently this conversation took place in a 1960’s black and white film).
“I didn’t have my car so I walked to get propane in case we lose power and to fill my gas tank in case the city’s gas supply runs dry and they aren’t able to get any more into the city. Luckily we’ve already stocked up on bottled water. How about you?”
[It is important to note that Ernesto is way cooler than me and I am big time ad-libbing. Anything dorky in his dialogue is pure HOAR reenactment error.]
So here’s Ernesto, not even supposed to be on his feet, taking the initiative to stock up for his family. And here’s me, with jam on my face, wearing my dont-judge-me-there’s-been-a-flood flood (sweat) pants, watching TV. Like an asshole.
He strongly suggested I get to the store to at least get water and, if possible, propane and gasoline. I felt compelled to act, but by no means desperate or frantic. My gait pattern as I walked to the car would still likely be described as casual and/or slothful.
Then I made the mistake of going to Walmart. If you ever want to feel a sense of chaos and imminent doom, go to a suburban (probably a redundant descriptor) Walmart during the early stages of a natural disaster. It was mayhem. I had to park in an adjacent parking lot a good half kilometer away. As I made my way towards the entrance, bending into the wind and rain and struggling to keep the blanket over the baby’s seat, I literally had to hip thrust out of the way of several speeding vehicles. The shopping carts were all gone (I was told later that, at a nearby Sobeys, a fight actually broke out over the last shopping cart. No joke). So I struggled my way through the store towards the water aisle with my giant infant in his dripping wet bucket seat. The number of bodies in the one store was gross. And they were moving as if they were being chased. The water aisle was bare. Well the shelves were. The aisle itself was like a mosh pit of people. Disappointed, wet, frantic people wearing expressions of despair and saying things like, “get home now and fill your bathtub with water while you still can!”
Dear Lord. I was trying to not give into panic but, I thought, I have clearly underestimated the severity of what’s happening. I was suddenly feeling a little more than ill-prepared for a crisis. I attempted to call J to see if he was ok but my calls weren’t going through. Great.
The walk home would have taken me four minutes. The drive took close to twenty. The roads were chinched with cars moving at a crawl.
[Newfie Word of the Day: chinched.]
I got home – with no water or propane or candles or gas or cell phone reception – and tried my best not to worry. To push this along, J made it home safe and sound, water stayed safe to drink, power stayed on, and I realized my phone’s supposed to drop calls because it’s an iPhone. Like I said, we got lucky and I’m grateful. Our community was far-removed from the disaster zones. It made me question the frantic people in my local Walmart but, I guess, how could they have known how bad it would get, right?
And their distraught department store behaviour would soon look justified, low-key even. Some people react to news of disaster with panic, worry, devastation. After seeing the footage from the hard hit areas, such reactions are justified. Other people react to such times in different, perhaps less efficient ways…
Saturday morning I woke up grateful to see the sun shining – albeit through a haze of mosquitos. As I knew the kinder weather would be short-lived, I hurriedly got lil’ M in his car seat and headed down to the the underground parkade to grab his stroller from the trunk. My car is a good fifty yards from the elevator. As I started the walk, I had to step around a giant puddle.
What is that? Milk?
As I approached my stall, I could see glistening behind my car. Is that glass?
Sure enough, smashed shards of beer bottle covered the floor behind my car.
And wait, what’s that coming out from underneath the car?
It was a towel. A towel covered in…something. Shit? Is that shit?
It was shit. And how do I know this? Because on the floor in front of my car sat a tightly coiled pile of it. Of the human variety.
I was dumbfounded. So let me get this straight, I thought, someone went out – maybe just as far as this parkade – got wasted (I could only hope they weren’t of sound mind), smashed some beer bottles, took a dump in a random car stall, wiped (!!!) with a mystery towel that came from God knows where, threw said towel under the car, then proceeded to the elevator. Likely vomiting a milkshake en route. I know we all handle tragedy differently but come on!
I stood there and cried. I cried because of what was happening in the city around me. I cried imagining the sadness of those displaced from their homes, their memories underwater. And I cried because someone pooped in my parking space. It was a culmination of things. The poop was just the topper.
Looking back I see it as comic relief. Considering the grief of the world around me in the moment, I believe it was the universe saying to me, You’re alive. You’re safe. Don’t sweat the bullshit! Don’t sweat the human shit, either!
The flood relief efforts in the city have been astounding; a heartwarming display of overwhelming solidarity. The water levels continue to decline,
[Sidenote: why does the word “sandbagging” make me snicker like a teenage boy?]
people have begun to return to their homes, and the shit – which still remains in my indoor parking stall – has turned from yellowy-green to a less threatening brown colour. It is a (terribly unhygienic) reminder to me to stay grateful. At least that’s what I tell myself.