If you look up "recipe for disaster" in a disaster cookbook, you'll find it has four ingredients: (1) a 4.5 year old who's actively shitting his pants; (2) a busy European train station at rush hour; (3) 90 degree heat; and (4) a thirty pound backpack.
That's the situation in which I found myself several days ago upon arriving in Amsterdam and
It started with Isaac complaining of tummy trouble. This came as no surprise, because he had touched every public surface on two continents in the preceding days while subsisting on a diet composed almost exclusively of "frittes" and chocolate gelato consumed with his filthy bare hands. But being several years out of practice with diapers, I wasn't prepared for the level of pants-shitting that was about to go down, nor the context in which it occurred.
I was carrying two weeks' worth of possessions on my back and weaving from street to street (or, more accurately, "straat" to "straat"), while Isaac hopped frantically up and down, asking for the bathroom every five minutes. It was rush hour on a Thursday afternoon, and the cobblestone straats of central Amsterdam were jammed with tourists, commuters, trams, bicycles, pedicabs, and cars. I raced him into every other toilet in the city in a twelve block radius while trying to avoid being struck by a conveyance. Most of the shopkeepers and restaurateurs were sympathetic and, recognizing the gravity of our predicament, graciously allowed us to make swift use of the "WC."
I was drenched in sweat from head to toe and everywhere in between. Periodically I'd catch a whiff of marijuana smoke, inhaling deeply in the hopes that I'd second-hand high myself into better coping with this dilemma. I bit off the tip of an immodium AD gel cap I had in my bag, and squeezed some of the bitter contents onto Isaac's tongue. He winced, whined, and begged for water while I held his nose in order to try to make him open his mouth and swallow the medicine.
We were just feet from our front door when Isaac announced that "more came out." Yep, that it did. I looked down, and to my horror, saw a streak of yellow-brown liquid running from Isaac's shorts to the bottom of his foot. I raced him inside up three flights of precarious stairs and cleaned him up, only to have him do it AGAIN--in even greater volume--in the new underwear I had just put him into.
As I helped him out of the second pair of pants he'd shat up in as many minutes, the contents spilled onto the black-and-white tile floor of a bathroom whose window looked directly into a restaurant where someone was literally ordering food at that very moment. I took a gulp of air and began gagging violently. As I said, I was not prepared for this, and Isaac wasn't prepared for my reaction. He started crying and apologizing and I reassured him through dry heaves that really, this was no big deal.
Afterwards, I made him sit on the toilet for 20 minutes timed on my iPhone to make sure we didn't achieve a pants-shitting hat-trick. Don't worry, I told him as he looked mournfully at me, chin in his hands and feet dangling six inches above the bathroom floor. Someday I'll be old and shitting my pants too, and you can return the favor then.