First grade. Think back and remember what a fresh start it was. Everyone was equal. We were all evenly confused with our disrupted half-day kindergarten schedules. And we were introduced to classmates most of whom we'd continue on the next twelve years with. Our slates were clean. There were no cliques--except maybe a couple of kids here and there who were neighbors or cousins. The only caste I remember forming pretty clearly were the troublemakers. My class had about twenty five kids in it, and I'd say four of them practiced questionable ethics. Maybe it was their home life. Who knows? But I was always a rule follower. Back then you were praised for listening and doing as you were told. I never felt a need to question authority or break the rules.
Mrs. Dante was my first grade teacher and she still ranks in my memory as one of my favorites. Kind, compassionate and gentle. Her son was in my class and I always thought it must have been so fun to come to work with your mom because you were her work. But I'm sure that wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
After lunch recess there were about five minutes when we students could go to the bathroom or catch up with friends before settling down for our afternoon lessons in our classroom. Though the school I attended from first through fifth grade was demolished just after I left it, I can still picture it like I was just there yesterday. There was a small boys bathroom around the corner from the lunch room, and just down the hall from my class room. There were two stalls (with doors--unlike in high school) and two urinals. There was a platform under the urinals in order to accommodate little boys so we could comfortably access the urinals. I've always suffered from "stage fright" when using a urinal if there was no barrier separating it from the next one, which was the case in my elementary school bathroom.
I had to pee so bad, so I hopped up on the riser to stood in front of the urinal ready to conduct business. Jimmy Miller had been in the bathroom when I entered. He was bigger than any of the rest of us boys in our class, and though not particularly prone to violence, he did like to push kids around from time to time. I'd never been victimized by him, and I wasn't particularly concerned about it. All I wanted to do was feel the sweet relief of an empty bladder. But as I stood there waiting for the coast to be clear, Jimmy kept yammering away, talking to me. He even came up and stood at the urinal next to me--facing me--carrying on a conversation I have no better recollection of now than I did then. He kept talking and talking and talking. And though I wasn't particularly concerned that he was "looking" at me for any reason, he was doing so while his lips flapped on and on. I knew time was of the essence and the bell was about to sound. When that occurred we were all to be in our seats in the classroom. I realized my attempt to get my little job done was fruitless, and acted cool like I thought, "Oh, well, I don't really have to go anyway."
"You didn't even go," he said. So glad he was paying such close attention to my bodily functions. But I played it like a pro, brushing it off as if I always came to the urinal to just see if I needed to go, never expecting a result each and every time. So normal. He shrugged and we walked down the hallway to our classroom. I took my seat, my mind scrambling for options. I couldn't possibly raise my hand and ask to go to the bathroom because we'd just been given time to do so, plus I had a witness who knew I "really didn't have to go." He'd know the truth about my stage fright, and probably feel the need to share it with my first grade equivalent of Facebook: Teresa Thompson.
As class got underway, I couldn't focus on anything Mrs. Dante was saying. Just on the fact that I couldn't even shift in my seat for fear of releasing Hoover Dam. I considered forcing myself to vomit--something I'd never done before, but I'd seen it multiple after school specials and it appeared to work as a viable diversion. But even tensing up my stomach to perform such a task, would result in a pressurization that would break every seal I had firmly in place. Then realizing a new activity was about to take place, there was no time for any of my plans. The situation was hopeless, and that dip in my confidence was just enough to weaken my tensed up muscles enough to allow the flood gates to open. And they did. I was a first grader, sitting at my desk, peeing my pants. I couldn't regain containment and had no other choice but to let it run its course. It was one of those pees that went on so long, I actually got bored. I didn't make one false move. I didn't look down or around. I kept my focus on Mrs. Dante as she talked about something like the alphabet. Maybe this could still work, I thought. Everything will evaporate. I have plenty of time before the 3 o'clock bells rings.
Then it happened. Someone clearly not paying attention to the lesson at hand, turned around to look at me. It was Teresa Thompson. She had a pink face with pale freckles and strawberry blond--almost orange hair. She pointed at me and mouthed something like "What's that?", talking about the puddle pooling under my desk. I put a confused look on my face. And then looked under my desk like I would have no idea what to expect. When I saw it, I got a knowing look on my face and straightened up to look back at Teresa. I leaned forward a bit and mouthed casually, "There is a leak in the roof." I pointed above me to the fictional hole and even patted my hair like water had been dripping down on it for a while. A perfectly logical and iron clad explanation. I was home free. This was a true caper, and I'd pulled it off--until other students starting smelling urine and and began connecting the dots to my urine pool.
Mrs. Dante was very kind to me, helping me out of my seat and asking me to go the bathroom to see what could be wrung out, while she went to the office to call my mother and have her bring some new undies and pants for me. My mom had to close our store, go home and get my clothes and come to school to humiliate me--so at least she got something for her troubles.
"What happened? You know better than that?" she's said, obviously a little perturbed. After I told her of Jimmy Miller's chatter and how it prevented me from doing my business she offered some wise words. "Next time use the stall." True words to live by. She waited for me while I changed into dryer and non-urine smelling clothes because I figured she was going to get me released for the rest of the day and take me back to the store with her to let me eat candy and relax after such an order. When I met up with her, she took the "soiled" clothes and put them in a plastic bag and gave me a big smile the a peck on the cheek. "See you at the store after school."
So I had to face my classmates taunting for the rest of the day, or so I thought. When I re-entered the classroom there was quite a commotion in the back corner where we kept our class pet: a hamster. When I got to the group, I tapped Teresa "Associated Press" Thompson on the back and asked what was going on.
"They found a turd. A BIG one. Definitely not a hamster turd."
I had been out-bodily functioned by some daredevil in my class, but I didn't care. What I'd done had never been brought up again--even through the rest of the years in school. But the mystery turd grew from a weird incident to folklore. My headline faded away as quickly as it had been written. Anonymity was definitely the life for me.