75: The Poop that Saved Christmas

75: The Poop that Saved Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

The Poop that Saved Christmas

Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.
~Marshall McLuhan

After I was laid off in mid-October, I faced the loathsome task of informing our seven-year-old. I tried to put it in as positive a light as I could—when the company merged with another company, they had twice as many people without having twice as much work to do. I stressed that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that it was nothing personal, but that they no longer had enough work for me, so I was basically finished with my job.

I said nothing about us having been treated more like an acquisition in spite of the fact that our company owned a controlling share of the new stock. I never cast aspersions on how our CEO cut us loose during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, nor did I point out that the company’s profits had been up by more than eighty percent, which negated any claim that the layoffs were a necessary cost-cutting maneuver.

I figured that was too much for a seven-year-old to swallow, which is why I put on a smile and simply told him I’d be looking for a new job, ignoring the urge to warn him that he might hear weeping sounds coming from Mommy and Daddy’s room.

Later came the talk of cutting our own expenses. We knew we’d be able to pay all of our bills through the end of the year, with little extra. Unfortunately, that time span included a period when tradition dictates that a family needs that little extra—Christmas. It’s one of the two most important holidays on the Christian liturgical calendar, as well as the season to essentially stick a vacuum cleaner hose in my wallet.

Nevertheless, we switched the vacuum cleaner off, and Christmas was suddenly about religion again. That’s also difficult for a seven-year-old to accept, but we figured it might be easier if he had advance notice. Hence came Part Two of The Talk, in which I explained that fortunately we’d bought a few small gifts for him and his brother before I’d lost my job, my money and my self-worth. This meant they’d get something for Christmas, but not nearly as much as in past years.

He took the news remarkably well; in fact, he even put a positive spin on it: “That’s okay, Dad—at least Santa Claus will still bring us the big gifts.”

After removing that dagger from my heart, I slunk to my computer to see if there was any possible excess in the budget I’d worked up. That Santa! He’s always upstaging me. The budget review indicated that even Santa had no chance of scoring with the big gifts.

There’s another aspect of the holidays that was affected by the layoff—travel. We needed to visit my parents, especially since my mom had a stroke in October. By the way, the news of Mom’s stroke was the third bad thing to happen in that October week that included my layoff and the death of a long-time pet.

So we knew we should go visit my parents in Virginia for Thanksgiving, but for us to get there would have cost more than we had between the cost of the gas and the hotel room we needed because I was allergic to their dog.

Not so with my in-laws. Which is how we found ourselves driving to their home the weekend before Thanksgiving. They live a little closer, so the gas cost is better, but the big difference is in being able to sleep in their house instead of a hotel.

Halfway there, I started feeling guilty about my own parents. But my thoughts were interrupted by a more urgent problem.

“I needa go poo-poo,” our toddler said.

“Okay, hold on. We need to find an exit. Will you sit on the potty at a gas station?”


Sigh. We’ve been fifty percent successful with his potty training. He mostly wears “big boy unnerwear” and is able to keep them dry, but when it comes to Number Two, he’s been defiantly resistant. He warns us when it’s on its way, but refuses to sit on a potty. Instead, we have to take off his pants and underwear, put on a Pull-Up, and let him do his business as if he’s still in diapers.

So we pulled up behind the closest gas station/convenience store, and made ready for the deed. My wife was willing to do the hard part while I stood in the 20-degree night air, waiting for her to roll down the window and hand me a sealed freezer bag containing a soiled Pull-Up and wipes. My job was to throw it away while she changed him back into his big boy underwear.

When I finally took possession of the freezer bag, I had to walk around to the front of the store to find a trashcan for it. I had a hard time finding one, and briefly considered keeping the bag, so I could later mail it to my former CEO.

But I was resolute, and my search eventually took me inside the convenience store. I forgot all about the freezer bag once I noticed the glitzy display of lottery scratchers at the cash register. When I remembered my own lottery rules—including the increased likelihood of winning when a ticket is purchased in a nasty store in the middle of nowhere—I knew I had to buy one.

So I sidled up to the counter and asked for one of the scratch-ers, fishing in my pocket for money with one hand while I clutched the dirty freezer bag behind my back with the other. I glanced at the cashier’s nametag: “Virginia.” Ouch. Let the parent-related guilt continue.

We arrived at my in-laws in our usual flurry of chaos, the boys hyped on chocolate and excited about seeing their grandparents, me unloading our luggage as quickly as possible in order to minimize my risk of hypothermia. It wasn’t until the next morning that I remembered the scratcher. I found a penny, and began the anticipatory scratching ritual. I won $200 on the first space, and was ecstatic. I figured no more prizes would be revealed, but continued scratching. Nothing. Nothing. Then another $100—the holidays were suddenly looking up!

Next space, nothing. Then $100 again. Then a third $100. Was this really a $500 winner, or was I reading the numbers wrong? Next two spaces, nothing. Then another $200. Whoa. They don’t make $700 winners, do they? Nope—next space, another $200! Nothing, nothing, then $100 in the last space.

When I told my wife we’d just won $1,000, she asked, “How is that possible?” That’s when I had to admit I’d been frivolous and bought a lottery ticket. She asked where I’d bought the ticket, and that’s when it hit me—I had no idea. Neither one of us could remember the exit number, the town, the highway, the gas station, or the store name. It was supposed to have been nothing but a poop stop, but suddenly my son had presented us with the richest poop in town. Courtesy of a cashier named … Virginia.

“Sweetie, I think we should go to my parents’ place during the holidays, after all. We can stay in a hotel for one night. And maybe we should buy a couple more Christmas presents for the boys. And what the heck? Why not make a mortgage payment, while we’re at it?”

Most importantly, while I was full of holiday spirit, I finally threw away that freezer bag before I could find my ex-CEO’s address.

~Dan Bain

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