Open Mic, Spotlight

Open Mic: American Toilets Are Boring by Micah Shannon

American toilets are boring.

Staring up at the rectangle of ceiling framed by the four walls of the stall, my mind counts each tile for the fourth time. My jaw unhinges, letting out an airy yawn, as my mind slowly drifts off.

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I was thankful that the night air remained untouched by the moonlight—I was not keen on discovering that the sludge that slowly crept up my ankles was anything other than mud. I continued forward, further into the blackness. I inhaled sharply as the floor ahead suddenly plunged into a yawning abyss, immediately regretting it as the smell pierced my nostrils.

We were guests in a small countryside village for the weekend. Upon our arrival, the entire village convened outside the lone restaurant in town, a small mud room with two tables and four plastic chairs. We shared a meal of fresh injera and shiro, exchanging fragments of English and Amharic with the locals as we ate. Dusk fell, and the mosquitos began settling in, swarming the lone dangling lightbulb that lit the space.

We asked around for the shintebait, wanting to relieve ourselves before bed. A tall, gaunt man with hollow eyes, cloaked in a pink child’s blanket that barely concealed his shoulders, took control. The cartoon bunnies on the blanket stared ominously at me as he pointed a knobby finger towards a muddy path that cut through the low brush and disappeared into the darkness.

I was the last in our group to go. As the rest of the group headed toward our home for the night, I ventured back along the narrow trail. The dim light of the bulb back at the restaurant quickly faded, leaving me fumbling through the nearly-opaque night air. Squinting through the darkness, a sagging shadowy structure suddenly loomed before me. Around one side I found a dilapidated door hanging ajar from a single battered hinge. The rusted bolt lock did not promise much protection if someone endeavored to intrude.

As I stepped through the black doorway, I felt the mire encase my threadbare hiking shoes, and I grimaced as my socks drank up the cool moisture. My second step took me further into the dark, when the entire floor shifted beneath me, catching me off balance. I paused for a moment to recompose then continued, feeling for the spots where the deteriorating branches and palm leaves were absent. The thatched floor suddenly slumped into a gaping hole. I edged towards the pit, the juddering bamboo support poles beneath me threatening to spill me in. I found a foothold and feverishly went about my business, unbarring the floodgates while shuddering within at the thought of tumbling into the sewage below. A brisk draft swept through the broad slits in the structure’s walls. A steady stream echoed throughout the sprawling chasm beneath me, a tinkling, maniacal chortle of a serial killer, zeroing in on its next victim. Eyelids clenched, I prayed that I would not be this fetid maw’s next fatality. I told myself that I was being ridiculous and began to loosen up. That is, until the macabre shriek of a goat tore through the night air. My fly was up, and my feet were pounding back toward the village before the last drop reached the bottom.

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Coming back to the U.S. after eight years in Ethiopia, the bathrooms were one of the biggest changes. It was glorious to have running water, electricity, toilet paper, entire walls with locking doors, an actual toilet to sit on…Yet as I assume my Thinker pose on my pristine white ceramic throne in an American bathroom stall, suffocating on the aroma of lemon and bleach, I think back to and long for the days when life was unpredictable—when something so simple as using the bathroom gave cause to fear for my life.

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Meet the Author

I’m Micah Shannon, a homeschooled high school senior currently living in Syracuse, New York. I grew up as a TCK, MK, and PK (third culture kid, missionary kid, and pastor’s kid) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I lived for a little over eight years. My life overseas has really shaped me into who I am today, giving me a unique perspective of the world that not many others share. To be honest, I hate writing. As a perfectionist, I’ll spend hours trying to find the perfect phrase or wording, and I still don’t feel like it fully captures what I want to say. Nevertheless, whenever I push past my inability and persevere til the end, the result is pretty rewarding. I am currently taking Mrs. Maynard’s Beginner to Brilliant Photography class, rediscovering a lifelong passion of mine and thoroughly enjoying every second of it.

14 Comments

  1. Wow this is amazing Micah! You’re an amazing writer!! Like… I wish…. I would love to see more of your writing sometime😊

  2. @Kimberly Thanks! Unfortunately this was my first and last year with TPS—I’ve really enjoyed reading all of Clay’s articles though, and figured I’d contribute one of my own before graduating 🙂

  3. LOL! This is hilarious!!

  4. This is so true! though the toilet situation in the country I live in isn’t nearly as bad as that, I’ll never forget the time I was back in the States and spent ages in the stall trying to figure out how to flush the toilet. In the end, I fled the bathroom, hoping no one would notice. 🤦

    • Haha!!! I’ve never done that before 🤣

    • XD It’s pretty funny—on our way back to visit the US for a few months once, we stopped to use the bathroom leaving the airport and my little sisters went in together. A few minutes later, we heard the load roar of a toilet flushing and the two girls shrieking in terror! We found out that the toilets flushed automatically which they had never seen before, so it totally freaked them out 😀

      • lol, that’s true though; automatic ones can be pretty scary 😆

        • I was terrified of then when I was little XD

          • Me too Lilwen! I was so small that the toilet would trigger and then not see me afterwards so I’d still be sitting on it when it flushed – AAUGH lol for a five-year-old, that was terrifying

  5. Wow!