There are some experiences that are just so embarrassing that they stick with you forever. The time that I blocked my mother-in-law’s toilet is one of them. Yes, it was poo, and no, I couldn’t fix it.
Now I can hardly look my mother-in-law in the eye. And what’s worse, I hear her voice in my head every time I have a bowel motion. She gave me advice on how to poo and I can never forget it.
I was visiting my mother-in-law with my de facto partner, Josh, and I really needed to do a number two. I felt uncomfortable, but I decided to hold it in because I was too shy to take a dump in Terese’s beautiful bathroom. Both Terese and I are very discreet and ladylike and I would hate for her to overhear or smell anything untoward.
I didn’t even want her to notice if I was in the bathroom for a longer period of time. Perhaps that’s why Josh chose me as a partner – because my manners and etiquette reminded him of his Grace Kelly-like mother.
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We were sitting in Terese’s expensive apartment about to have some pastries and tea. Suddenly, Terese noticed that she had no milk for Josh’s tea. Terese prides herself on being the perfect hostess, so this was a huge disaster for her.
Even though we offered to get the milk, Terese wouldn’t hear of it and next thing we knew she’d jumped into the car and headed to the grocery store.
This was a relief in more ways than one. As soon as she left, I raced to Terese’s designer bathroom and proceeded to pass a bowel motion. I did my usual routine: I put a small wad of toilet paper in the toilet bowl to prevent any splashing, and then did my business.
It took a bit longer than usual but I felt much lighter and more relaxed once I’d finished. I wiped several times (I like to be as clean as possible) and then flushed the toilet.
Or, should I say, I tried to flush the toilet. The water drained out of the toilet, but the wads of toilet paper and my giant poo remained.
I stood over the toilet and tried to breathe calmly. I assured myself that everything would be OK, and that another flush should do the trick.
I pressed the flush button again, and held it down for several seconds. This time, the toilet bowl filled up almost to the brim. I literally prayed in that moment that it wouldn’t overflow – and thankfully, it didn’t. But now, the toilet was clogged with toilet paper and poo, plus there were lumps of my poo floating on top.
I let out a squeal. I didn’t know how to unblock a toilet. And I’d always been on my best behaviour around Terese – I was smiling, quiet and sweet. I didn’t want her to remember me as “that girl who blocked my toilet”. I wasn’t ready for her to see the “real” me.
Then I heard Josh padding down the carpeted hallway. He’d heard my shriek. He knocked softly on the door.
“Lauren? Are you okay in there?”
I grabbed Terese’s favourite Jo Malone perfume and began spraying it around the bathroom, as it was beginning to stink.
“GO AWAY!” I screamed at Josh. “I can’t, I just can’t.”
Josh began to panic.
“What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
Some of the water had been sucked out of the toilet, thank goodness, yet it was still halfway up the basin. But at least it wasn’t overflowing. I jammed my finger into the flush button several times, but the toilet refused to unclog. It started to fill right up again, until the brown water threatened to overflow.
I started to cry as Josh frantically waggled the door handle.
“Lauren, unlock the door! I’m worried!”
I stormed over to the door and unlocked it and Josh burst in. He saw that I was OK, but then his facial expression quickly turned to one of disgust. He pinched his nose.
“Oh sh*t, it stinks in here!” he complained.
“Shut up, I know!” I screamed, tears streaming down my face. “Your mum is going to hate me forever!” I slammed the toilet lid shut. Thank goodness it didn’t break.
Terese had spent months designing and renovating her bathroom. She described it as her “spa sanctuary”. The tiles were imported from Italy and she only used Jo Malone bath oil in her designer bath – she said that Chanel was too “common”.
She proudly told us that every woman deserved to spend at least one hour a night in a luxurious, hot bath, with plenty of Diptique candles burning. And now I’d stunk out her bathroom and possibly broken her toilet and she would never forgive me.
“Did you block the toilet again?” Josh demanded.
This was a fight that we had regularly. Yes, I’d blocked the toilet several times at our inner city flat, but it wasn’t my fault. Our toilet was old and didn’t flush properly. But if it had happened with Terese’s new toilet then maybe I was doing something wrong. Had I been pooping wrong my entire life?
“Yes, but I’ll fix it,” I said defensively.
He lifted the lid to the toilet, blinked several times and then looked at me suspiciously.
“Did you use too much toilet paper again?” he asked.
“No, I used a normal amount of toilet paper. Leave me alone!”
Josh then lectured me on how to use the toilet and wipe my bum. He said that he had never met anyone who put wads of toilet paper in the bowl before they pooed, like I did. He also said that it was not “normal” to use up a quarter of a toilet roll after each poo.
“Oh, so you’ve interviewed everyone you know on how they use the toilet? Yeah right, Josh! It’s normal to put toilet paper in there before doing a poo. Everyone does it. It’s what my mum taught me, and I’ve always done it that way,” I yelled.
He was being so annoying. Couldn’t he just fix the toilet?
Josh was just shaking his head and staring at the poo. As angry as I was, I also felt so embarrassed that the handsome love of my life had seen my huge, gross poo, as well as my poo-streaked toilet paper. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Would he ever have sex with me again, after this? Would he still want to marry me eventually?
To avoid looking at him I got out my iPhone and started Googling “How to unblock a toilet”.
“Hey Josh, it says here that if you put your hand in a plastic bag, you can reach in and dislodge the poo and toilet paper and then the toilet will flush. You can also use a coathanger,” I read from the screen.
Josh shook his head again, and said that we’d need a plunger. He didn’t want to scratch his mum’s new toilet. The problem was, we didn’t know where Terese kept her plunger.
Even though her home looked like it could appear in Vogue Living, Terese was also a secret hoarder. All of her cupboards were packed with her kids’ old toys (even though all of her children were adults now), and other bits of junk. She also had every exercise book she’d ever used from her school and uni days. Locating that plunger would be hard work.
We shut the bathroom door and began opening all of Terese’s cupboards and drawers and pulling everything out of them, in a desperate bid to find a plunger. We did this in almost all of the rooms of the apartment.
Suddenly, I heard a sound that made me feel sick in the stomach. It was Terese’s key in the front door. She was back with her milk, and the toilet was still blocked. Her entire apartment now smelt like poo mingled with the David Jones fragrance department, and there was a huge mess all over the floor. It was bad, and I wanted to crawl into a ball and die.
When she walked in, Terese looked shocked and confused, but she quickly rearranged her face into her usual pleasant, neutrally smiling expression. Although her eyes widened slightly as she saw the empty plastic bags and old magazines strewn across the floor, and no doubt smelt the changed aroma, she was too polite to chastise us.
“Hello, can I help with anything?” she asked with forced casualness, as she stepped over a faded towel to put a carton of milk in the fridge.
We both stared at Terese, as she waited for an explanation.
I decided to bite the bullet and own up to what I’d done. I stood up straight and looked her in the eye.
“Terese, I’m so, so sorry, but I accidentally blocked your toilet.” I added a nervous laugh.
She took half a step towards her bathroom.
“NO, DON’T GO IN THERE!” I said in an unintentionally loud voice. I cleared my throat, and looked at my feet. “I’ll fix it, I promise. Could you please tell me where the plunger is?”
She smiled at me and murmured, “Of course, darling,” and went over to a cupboard we’d missed. She neatly plucked up the plunger from the bottom of the cupboard, and handed it to me with her sleekly manicured hands.
“Thanks,” I mumbled and ran back to her bathroom as I saw her give Josh a quizzical look. Josh smiled sheepishly, shrugged his shoulders and followed me.
Behind the closed bathroom door, I hissed at him, “What, you couldn’t have taken the blame?”
“I’ve never blocked a toilet before in my life,” he said, smugly. “Mum knows that. And it’s because I don’t use as much toilet paper as you.”
“Yeah, I know, I have to wash the skid marks off your boxers,” I retorted.
“Do you want to help me or not?” snapped Josh.
I meekly handed him the plunger, and was horrified to see that Josh had to immerse the entire thing – including his hands and forearms – into the now-murky toilet water. Again, I was lucky the water didn’t overflow. He plunged and plunged, and finally there was a huge sucking noise and everything disappeared down the toilet.
It was over and everything was gone. We flushed the toilet several times and even found a bottle of Pine O Clean that we poured into it. Still, the smell lingered. But we’d done our best.
We were shoving everything back into the cupboards when I felt Terese’s cool hand on my arm.
“Sweetie,” she whispered.
“Sometimes I find it’s helpful to do a double-flush. Don’t worry about wasting water – there’s plenty of it to go around. But if you find that you have more than usual, so to speak – flushing in between can work wonders. So do some of your… business, flush immediately, do a bit more, and flush again. You could even flush a third time, after you wipe. And I only use three squares of toilet paper per wipe.”
I mumbled my thanks as my cheeks burned.
Once the apartment had returned to normal and we’d opened all the windows, we sat down to eat the pastries, as though nothing had happened. Terese asked us about our jobs, we asked her about her volunteer work, and it was all very normal.
But I felt so embarrassed, and I’m sure my voice was trembling. I kept getting flashbacks to the poo floating in the toilet, and I kept thinking about how Josh’s hands had been in the dirty toilet water. I never wanted him to touch me again, even though he’d scrubbed his hands and used hand sanitiser– and even though it was my poo that he’d come into contact with.
I made an excuse to leave as quickly as possible, and Terese walked us out. She hugged me warmly, and looked into my eyes for longer than usual. It was as though she was trying to tell me it was OK, and perhaps telepathically communicate “double-flush” to me again.
I couldn’t visit Terese for weeks after that, because I just couldn’t face her. I wish I’d waited until I’d gone home before doing a poo. But then again, I don’t know if I could have held it in for so long. Now whenever I have to poo, I think of Terese’s advice about the double-flush. It works. I just wish that I didn’t have to go to such trouble get that tip.
What’s your most embarrassing toilet story?