Every Friday we’ll take a break from topical posts and will post some random personal thoughts.
A Cuppa Joe - Random Ramblings from a Fellow Struggler
Bonding Over the Porta Potty
Did I ever tell you about the time I stole an outhouse? Didn’t think so.
It was my Sophomore year in high school, and I was pledging a fraternity full of fun-loving , somewhat out of control jocks, feeling honored to be asked. What followed the asking was six months of unprecedented abuse and public humiliations, which all us pledges cheerfully accepted as the price of admission into this elite group. And, being a couple years before my conversion to Christianity, I had no reservations about any of the club’s excesses. This particular night, in fact, I upped the ‘excess’ bar.
Our pledge masters had ordered us, that Tuesday evening, to do something, anything, that would impress them. Considering the stunts they’d already imposed on us, from climbing oil derricks in our boxers to sprinting across freeways to skipping down the boulevard singing “We’re off to see the Wizard” (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen high school football players doing that routine!) it was hard to imagine what would impress. But cruising down the Coast Highway in a pickup truck by the beach while mulling it over with the other pledges, I spotted one of many porta potty’s lining the shore, and inspiration came. Student Body Elections were coming up at our school, and a voting booth was to be placed in the center of the main courtyard for kids to cast their ballots in. The booth wasn’t yet in place, so wouldn’t it be fun if —
It took two of us to overturn the facility while the others watched for cops, and since it was already getting dark the beach was sparse. We pulled and heaved, hoisting it onto the back of the truck, some of us piled in the bed beside it and some crammed into the seats. Only then did we realize, while screeching onto the highway, how prominent the traveling outhouse looked and how difficult it would be explaining it to a curious policeman, so we ducked onto side roads while my frightened Catholic co-pledge recited the prayer of St. Francis. We found a back alley, pulled down the porta potty, ‘borrowed’ a hose from an adjoining back yard, and proceeded to clean it out. Don’t worry; no details. Twenty minutes later we were back on the road, headed for our high school and final coupe.
One night guard; seven of us. No contest. We monitored his moves, timed his walk from front to back of campus, and, when we knew he’d be out of range for at least five minutes, we yanked, dragged and lifted our prize into the main courtyard, perching it in the center of the student quadrangle where all serious school socializing was done, and jammed back to the truck, watching to see if the guard would even notice the new addition. It was dark; he didn’t; we rejoiced. The next day we were Kings and Turks, our stunt being the talk of the school, our lovely porta potty on display in broad daylight, cleaned up for voting, ready for business. Never had I felt so high.
I know, it was all wrong. Stolen property; public nuisance; bad decision; bad Joe. But something about the memory, Lord forgive me, still brings a grin. It was an experience taking me out of the box, drawing on my crazy, boyish animal side, a side I’d too often squelched. And, truth be told, a side I need to reconnect with more than ever.
Thank God for seriousness among believers, because there’s a lot to be serious about. But then again, nothing about true discipleship prohibits robust, gutsy fun and occasional craziness. Legitimate craziness, of course, not the type which steals and displaces city property. And maybe that’s what I relish about that silly 1970 stunt. Not the wrongness of it, but the sheer manic energy and hopeless laughter that went along with it.
Amidst the constraints of so many responsibilities and obligations, I fear many of us are bereft of what’s often called joie de vivre, a cheery, hearty celebration of living. That calls for belly laughs, occasional dancing in the streets and going to our windows shouting “I’m glad as heaven and I’m not going to fake it anymore!” and this season is a perfect time for all of it. That’s why, as I schedule January through March, I’m penciling in a trip to Magic Mountain for roller coasters and bungy-jumping to help reinvigorate a kinder, gentler version of that toilet stealing juvenile delinquent from so long ago. Because there’s so much hardship in the best of lives, we simply can’t afford to live in the grey. Color is called for, accenting our God-given situations with glimpses of joyful hilarity. For that, and the strength it brings, I hope we’re all game.
BTW, if you swipe an outhouse, watch the angle you carry it in and be careful with the base, as it’s heavier than it looks. And avoid the freeway.
But you didn’t hear that from me.