In the sixth grade, we took a test about what kind of learner we were. Apparently it has something to do with how you draw an infinity sign — if the nexus of your sideways “8” is below the center line, you’re a visual learner; if it’s in the middle, you’re tactile, or something like that. I was visual. This made sense. I, like many Yalies, respond well to words, symbols, diagrams. Ever since, I’ve basked in this self-knowledge, content to take meticulous notes and revel in following the written instructions on everything from problem sets to assembly-required IKEA furniture.
But there’s something about tactile experience that just can’t be paralleled. Especially when you’re holding your tactile experience tactilely in your tactile hands, cupped in a tactile paper towel, fresh out of the (need I mention, tactile) laundry machine.
Okay. So I found poop in my laundry.
By then, we were far enough into shopping period for Kant and the species development theory to have popped up at dinner. We were all, myself included, pleasantly sinking back into the intellectual soirée that is Yale, with all of the casual Chaucer and breakfast-time Bernoulli that it entails. Yes, GHeav and Woad’s have their place in our priorities, but the primeval calls for food and reproduction generally fade into the background as we face far more urgent lab reports and looming midterms. I was, only moments before the incident, considering frantically how to do two readings at the same time. Waft along the gauzy phraseology of “Gatsby”? Or delve into the depths of psychological truth in Genesis 22?
But you know, it’s hard to weigh Fitzgerald against Biblical commentary when there’s poop next to your socks in the dryer. Actual poop. Not poop in the abstract. Not a drawing or diagram or description of poop. Not even a metaphor for poop. Real, physical, slightly dried-out poop.
In a matter of seconds, I fell several thousand feet, from the lofty heights of human sapience to, well, the ground.
And, surprisingly, shockingly even, it was an okay place to be. Where instead of asking, “Where am I on the plane of human existence?” I suddenly asked, “What the heck is in this dryer it’s awfully round those were some pretty nice socks.”
We find ourselves at a unique juncture, here in college. We’re immature enough to find human excrement funny, yet mature enough to write policy papers on the use of force in Syria or Martin Luther’s approach to feminism. We’ve graduated from wearing diapers, but we’re not even thinking about changing them. (Hopefully.) Toilet humor pops up when we’re trying to prove we’re still kids, but it’s just humor. When was the last time you actually saw someone else’s excrement? Ask yourself. Probably not for a while.
But there it was. Poop. Someone else’s poop.
And yeah, as I walked to the bathroom in utter shock and horror, it did cross my mind that Martin Luther himself had an encounter with some poop, specifically when the Devil threw it at him to test his faith, and it’s usually translated into English as “ink,” but in the German, it’s “Scheiße,” plain and simple … and the visual learner in me wanted to know what it meant and what it symbolized and what it reflected about our society that someone would do this … but for once, I put my foot down, stopped thinking, grabbed a paper towel and went to clean it up.