The Mud Behind the Toilet



As children head back to school, I think about the student that I was. I was not a good student.

I’m sure that I was no teacher’s favorite pupil in my elementary years. Mostly, this was because I was easily distracted or more concerned with being the class clown than with applying myself to my education. But in second grade, I believe I earned my teacher’s ire over a simple misunderstanding.

Mrs. Thaler had a reputation for being a disciplined teacher. That fact alone was probably enough to earn me the gimlet eye from time to time. In fact, I remember specifically how I one-cheeked a weekly assignment called “The Weekend Report” where we had to write about four things that we did that weekend and draw corresponding pictures. Whenever I remembered to actually do the assignment, I’m pretty sure that I wrote the same four things every week: watch television, go to church, play with Lego, and ride my bike.

But I didn’t set out to tell you a story of my failings as a student. Rather, I wanted to share an egregious wrong done to me and my reputation that year.

The incident happened after morning recess on a day where it had rained but was dry enough to play on the playground. Upon coming in at the dreaded whistle’s announcement that recess was finished, I found myself in need of the bathroom. Fortunately, there was a bathroom located within our classroom (I think every two classrooms had to share a bathroom, but I don’t remember the exact floor plan for the elementary school, so don’t quote me on that).

I was a short second-grader, so my feet were well off the ground as I sat there doing my business. And as I sat there, the dried mud that clung to my shoes started falling to the ground in front of the toilet. Noticing this mess, I made sure to clean up after myself once I was finished on the porcelain throne. I shoved all of the dried mud behind the toilet so the next person wouldn’t step in it.

This was apparently the wrong thing to do.

About a half-hour after I relieved myself, someone else from the class went to the bathroom and reported that someone had pooped on the floor behind the toilet. Mrs. Thaler was furious and demanded that the mystery pooper reveal his or her identity.

I was aghast that someone could commit so heinous a crime. After all, it would have been far simpler to just sit on the potty to do the deed.

It took me a few minutes to realize that the “poop” in question was really the mud that I had tracked in. I timidly raised my hand and asked if I could talk to the teacher privately, since I knew who was to blame (me). I remember telling her that it was just mud and that I was sorry, but I don’t think she believed me. Things were tenuous after that.

Well, it probably didn’t help that I was a bad student too. Anyway, I’m glad that second grade is long behind me. And now I’m kind of nervous for my own kids as they go off to school. Great.

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