For many people, Fourth of July is a time to think patriotic thoughts. Thoughts of respect for the sacrifices of the past that have made our country what it is today and hopes for what the future can bring. I think of many of those things, but I also mix in another emotion… regret.
A handful of years ago that I made one of the stupidest decisions of my entire life. Fireworks were not directly involved, but a port-a-potty was.
When I was a kid living in the south suburbs of Chicago, we went downtown on occasion but not that often. My dad worked downtown and by the time he got home, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to go back into the city. Not only that, but with 3 small boys in tow, places with large crowds tended not to be an ideal setting for family enjoyment.
However, one year when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, we decided to make the trek into the city for not only the Taste of Chicago, but also what used to be the best night of the festival. On July 3rd was when the city would have their major fireworks celebration to celebrate Independence Day. Because it was such a big event and immensely popular, we decided to make a whole day of the experience. We packed up blankets and chairs and set out to Grant Park. Once we arrived, the family laid claim to our territory and made ourselves a home base.
The five of us had a great time eating food, entertaining each other with games and other activities we had brought with us. As the sun started to sink in the sky, our thoughts turned to the majestic fireworks display that would soon be unleashed. We could hardly wait for the show, but it was still going to be a little while until it was dark enough for it to begin. It was around that time that nature called, and so the long cross-country journey to the land of port-a-potties commenced.
After making our way across the park and waiting for what seemed like an hour in the massive lines for the bathroom, the sky went from the golden hue of sunset to the indigo of dusk. It was only a matter of time before the fireworks go thundering up into the night sky, the moment we all had been waiting for. It was my turn to go and so I approached my appointed station to do what I had come there to do. But as I was securing the door behind me, I was startled to hear noises and rustling coming from just outside. Confused as to what was going on, my mind started to race.
I remembered that behind the long embankment of port-a-potties were some trees. As I continued to hear the rustling and movement, it sounded like it was coming from above the roof. I then heard what I thought was laughing and chattering. Then it hit me… some punks must be in the trees looking through the vents at me. They were laughing at me. At that point, no matter how much my bladder argued with me, there was no way I was going to through with this. So I waited for a few more moments so that my dad wouldn’t suspect that I hadn’t actually gone to the bathroom, and then I turned around and walked out. I showed those idiots!
At first, this seemed like a reasonable plan. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom that badly. Surely, I would be able to hold out for awhile longer. And there was no way I was going to expose myself so that those kids could seem me. Not a chance! So we walked back to our blanketed home base, by which time the firework show would be imminent.
Sadly, once we arrived at our place in the park, I suddenly realized that error of my plan. It was in fact, the dumbest plan I had concocted to date. (And I once let another kindergartener convince me I was going to die and locked myself in the bathroom weeping!) It is probably in the top 5 of dumbest decisions I have made in my entire life. Because of course it was only upon returning that I realized that I would not be able to hold it for much longer. I fought my bladder and my bladder won.
So I fessed up to what had happened. Hearing the kids in the trees, worrying they were looking at me, faking going to the bathroom. Amazingly, my dad was rather stoic after hearing this information, took a deep breath and proceeded to head back with me to where we had just come from. Thankfully, there were no lectures, eye-rolls or frustrated venting. We just hustled back, hoping against hope that we could somehow fight our way through the line so that we could get there and back without having to watch the fireworks from the bathroom line. Which miraculously, we did not.
As a parent myself, I have such a huge appreciation for what happened that night. The bathroom false alarms during church or other times that my kids are bored, or the having to go potty seemingly every 20 minutes (and always at the least convenient times possible!) are so very frustrating. But that is when I think of how my parents handled that July 3rd night so many years ago when I ignored the myriad of plausible options at hand (telling my dad at the time, switching port-a-potties, going to the bathroom anyways), I figure that I can get through whatever minor inconvenience I am confronting at the moment and keep the scorn and eye-rolls to a minimum. It’s the least I can do to try an balance out that karma.