Sunday, 25 September 2011

Going Batty

We all know I am bothered by camping bathrooms. When I was about 5 or 6, attending a family reunion at an Alberta campground, my cousin Dougie told me about the bad man who waits in the bottom of outhouses for little girls to go pee. Right when they're in the middle of peeing, when they're at their most helpless, he grabs them, pulls them in and makes them live forever in the darkness and poo. (I'm pretty sure Dougie was a great kid otherwise, but I dislike him to this day.)

It ruined me. Starting the very next bathroom trip, I was terrified. (It baffled my mother, as she was never able to figure out why.) This is a problem that persists to this day. I'm good if I'm there in the daylight, but I still get panicky when I have to lower my guard to pull up my pants. Nighttime? Not a freaking chance. If I have to pee, it's a group project. (And please don't think I won't stoop so low as to make Liz accompany me. We even have a song we sing about how brave we are while we're in there. Drowns out the spooky background noises.)

Recently, a lot of campgrounds have been replacing the one-holers in their outhouses with actual flush toilets, which solves a lot of problems for me- it eliminates the odor, darkness and scary bad man issues all in one fell swoop. A few years ago, we stayed at the Cypress HIlls Interprovincial Park, on the Saskatchewan side (they still do interpretive programs in Saskatchewan, and they have an AMAZING dark preserve that defies description). Cypress Hills, in their wisdom, had switched to flush toilets in their outhouses, and I was pleasantly surprised.

One night, after having consumed our usual 32 litres of cheap camping booze, Jamie, Lana and I made our way to the bathrooms. Jason had long since gone to bed, (he had gotten mildly tipsy setting up the tent the first day we got there, and it had upset his body clock for the entire rest of the trip. Every day thereafter, he was up at 4, drunk by noon and in bed by 7. Although incredibly annoying, it solved the problem of which one of us was going to lay down in the tent with Squid till he fell asleep), but it wasn't a big deal- there were 2 outhouses side by side, so 1 person would be able to wait outside the door to the one I was in. I wasn't really ALONE.

When we reached the outhouses, we realized that in our giddiness, we had only brought two sources of light with us- we didn't have a 3rd, and it was pitch black in the outhouses. As Lana and I looked at her, desperately NOT wanting to be the slasher bait without the lantern, Jamie piped up-

"I'll do it. I don't need a light- everything down there's been in the same place for the last 35 years, and I'm pretty sure I know where it all is."  Chuckling to herself, she went to the left hand outhouse. Lana and I cackled our way over to the other side of the shack, and I opened the door to go in first. I had had a LOT of wine.

I balanced my lantern on the edge of the sink (cold water only), and, already unbuttoning my jeans, turned towards the toilet. And there, struggling to get free, was a bat. A big one, the size of my hand. A giant black bat, squeaking in desperation, drowning in the toilet.

I couldn't breathe. I couldn't scream. The spit dried up in my mouth. It took me a few seconds just to force my paralyzed muscles to unlock. I snatched up my lantern and slammed back through the outhouse door, hysterical.

"Oh, my God. There's a bat. Drowning in the toilet." As I gasped out my story, I started to sob with relief. What if I hadn't seen it? What if I had SAT DOWN? The disgusting nasty creature, already infected with other people's skanky butt germ disease would probably have been thrilled at being presented with such a wide (ha ha) avenue of escape and bitten into my ass and held on for everything it was worth. I COULD HAVE DIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lana was not amused. "Uh huh," she said, "and Micheal Myers is on the other side with a knife. Stop being crazy and hurry up and pee- I have to go."

"Go look." I told her.

Lana held up her flashlight, and cautiously opened the door. She poked her upper body into the outhouse, took a look, and slammed back out of the thing, nearly hitting me with the door and concussing me in the process.

"Oh. My. God." she said, gagging, "You're actually RIGHT."

Jamie came around the corner from her outhouse and looked at the two of us like we needed a spanking.

"What is WRONG with you idiots? People are SLEEPING!"

"She saw a bat in the toilet," said Lana.

"What are you??? New???" asked Jamie, "She's ALWAYS seeing stuff in the toilets."

To no one's surprise, she didn't believe a word of it till she looked into the facilities. But when she had proved to herself that I was without a doubt telling the truth, and not my paranoid version of it, she did what every good friend does and joined us in falling apart just a little.

We managed to make our way back to the campsite, laughing hysterically, with the occasional sob thrown in for good measure. Erik and Shawn were still up, and they wanted to know what all the screaming had been about. (You'll note that although they heard screaming, they didn't bother getting up to investigate. This is how often I scream out camping. It's doesn't even register anymore.) As we explained the situation, we discussed what needed to be done. We thought about just leaving it, but realized that the kids might get up before us in the morning, and may not be as lucky, and not see the bat before they sat down. Also- it was cruel. It HAD scared the bejeesus out of me, but I would never wish that kind of death on anyone. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn't going back in there. Ever. I would travel with toilet paper and pee on trees till the end of this trip. Jamie and Lana weren't dealing with it, either, so, by default, it became the boys' problem.

Armed with a stick, Erik and Shawn entered the outhouse, and were each just a little bit surprised by the fact that I WASN'T crazy. They knew there was a bat, as their wives had confirmed it, but they had counted on it being some sort of miniature specimen, roughly the size of your pinkie finger. A cuddly, non-threatening one. With pink polka dots, maybe. Instead, what they found was a big hairy black bat, roughly the size of my hand, still trying not to drown in the toilet. Its struggles, however, had become markedly weaker.

They leaned over the toilet bowl with the stick, touching the bat's claws, trying to get it to grab hold so they could transport it outside. The bat, though, had become so weak that ther few times they WERE able to get it to grab hold, it would simply fall back into the water as they lifted it up. Once they realized this wasn't going to work, they tried to use the stick to slide the bat up the side of the toilet, and sort of tip him over the edge to freedom, but wet bats are apparently very slippery, and they had to keep chasing the thing around the inside of the bowl, trying to slip the stick underneath it. In a short period of time, the situation had deteriorated so far that they were now essentially scrubbing the toilet bowl with a dying bat. Not only was it not helping, it was embarrassing for the bat.

Erik finally went back to the trailer and put on his 'dumping the porta-potti' gloves and came back. He reached in, pulled out the bat, (who at this point was gasping for breath and far too traumatized to bite anyone), and laid him outside the outhouse door, in the hopes that eventually it would come to its senses and make its way home.

The next morning, the story was told to all the children (and Jason) around the communal breakfast table, and everyone congratulated me on finally having something real to be afraid of. They also commended Erik and Shawn for being Mother Nature's Heroes (Hairy, Winged Creature Division).

I, personally, am thrilled to have a story to repeat when I tell people how crazy I'm NOT, and the others are less thrilled as they have come to realize that now, no matter WHAT I say, they have to give me the benefit of the doubt. Because, on the odd occasion, I turn out to be correct.

And Jamie doesn't pee in the dark anymore.

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