Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chapter 114: An Embarrassment of Embarrassments

I awoke to the steady burble of the stream outside my tent; and to an unnerving grumble from somewhere much closer, and far more disturbing.

This was going to be bad.

I was camped behind the Mountain Goat Outfitter in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Mimi, Fred, Lou and I had hitched in the day before. Starved for food and culture, we had decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner at Spice Root, a local Indian restaurant. Delicious. A good choice.

Or not.

I needed to take a shit.

What was I to do? I couldn't rightly dig a cathole in someone's backyard. And the Outfitter wasn't open yet, so that was out. Ring a stranger's doorbell? Definitely not. Maybe a restaurant, or coffee shop?

A sharp, stinging pain shot through my intestines as I waddled desperately down the street, with only a half-formed idea of where I was going. I remembered walking past the place the night before, on our way back from dinner, but everything looked so different then, underneath the street lamps, with the sidewalks choked by throngs of annoyingly boisterous coeds galavanting around in their skimpy lacrosse uniforms. Damnit! Why didn't I pay more attention to where I was going?

At last, I turned a corner and spotted the Tunnel City Coffeeshop. It did exist. And it was open. Perfect. I went in.

And was instantly lost, thrown by the sterile corporate sheen of the café's modern decor. All around me, bright florescent lights flashed off of clean steel tables; my ears bombarded by the soft, smokey coo of a suitably austere singer/songwriter. The other customers and employees seemed so tidy, professional, and dignified. No room for a confused, terrified hiker. Running out of time. With trembling hands, I first ordered an espresso, then timidly asked for the bathroom.

It was occupied, of course. I paced back and forth in increased agitation, and threw back my espresso without bothering to savor it—although, it was pretty tasty—all while keeping a scornful watch on the bathroom door. Finally, it opened, and out walked, eh, who cares. I was in.

And then—sweet release!—I'm making like the Space Shuttle, lifting off the toilet seat on an explosive tower of shit.


Returning from the catastrophic scene of horror I left in the bathroom, I tried to play it cool. I ordered an everything bagel, with vegetable cream cheese, then smartly sat at a table outside, all the better to avoid people's accusatory glares. And then, much to my surprise, who walked up but Baltimore Jack, whom I hadn't seen since the Walasi-Yi Center, my third day on the trail!

Baltimore Jack was in fine form, as smug and condescending as ever. He quietly reassured me that—although I had miraculously managed not to die, yet—the hardest part of the trail was still ahead of me, and that I'd probably die. Thanks, Baltimore Jack.

Feeling ever more chipper by the moment, I decided to surreptitiously refill my water bottle at the Coffeeshop before hitching out of town. Trying not to draw attention to myself, I nonchalantly sidled up to the bar where they kept their milks, creamers, and organic agave syrups and whatnot, and grabbed the first thing that looked like water. I wasn't too concerned, and just stood there, gazing off in random directions as I poured, willing myself to be invisible.

"Sir?" came a voice to my right. I snapped out of it. It was a middle-aged woman, an employee. "You do know that's sugar water, right?"

"What? Oh!" I shrugged, bewildered, wanting to die. "I love sugar water, it's delicious. Why? Should I pour it back?"

"No, sir," said the woman, grabbing my bottle as I began to do just that. "I can do it, and wash this out for you. The water is just around the corner, here."

She nodded to the actual water jug, which had a lemon floating in it. Because of course it did. I flushed, and shuffled my feet impotently.

I instantly came to the startling revelation that I hated Massachusetts. Terrible state. And Williamstown? Terrible town. Couldn't wait to put it behind me.

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