martes, 23 de julio de 2013


It is funny how inspiration hits you in the most unexpected ways, sometimes coming from the most unexpected sources. Early one night, as I was minding my own business, lying down in bed, gazing at the latest “The Economist” issue, listening to The Alan Parsons Project’s The Turn Of A Friendly Card album, my four and a half year old son came right out of left field and approached me with a rather unusual request:

Daddy, daddy! Come ‘ere and take a look at my poop!

Hold on, sonny…” – I replied, taking my reading glasses off, leaving the magazine on the bed and pausing the record while incorporating myself to follow my overexcited son.

What’s the deal with your poop, huh?

Just come and take a look, daddy-o!

I walked slowly and tiredly behind Ben, in great contrast to his enthusiastic agitation. “What could be so exciting about his shit?,” I thought to myself. And then, as I walked inside my son’s bathroom and stared at the toilet bowl, I noticed one single, floating turd.

It just stays there, daddy-o… It won’t flush!

It was true: It wouldn’t flush. It would just float in the water indefinitely, permanently, in spite of a powerful flush, and a demonstration wasn’t at all necessary, for I had seen such phenomena before. Right then and there, after a long period of writers’ block, I finally figured what my next essay’s topic would be: The amazing and spellbinding Fyfe Wheeler Effect.

Human nature seems to be immutable as to how our bodies get rid of waste material and the remains from ingested food and alcohol. Defecation is undeniably a part of every single human being, for better or worse, and this fact doesn’t seem to go away any time soon. As food enters our mouths, a complex digestion system acts on it, processing it into small components which allow our bodies to apprehend its nurturing elements and feed from it. Actually, such system does not belong exclusively to humans, but to all major vertebrate animals, sharing the same essential basics and, of course, varying degrees of peculiarities within.

To make a long story short,[1] the thing is that our bodies take away the nurturing elements from food and disposes of its useless remains. These useless remains I refer to are no more and no less than mere feces, also spelled faeces, sometimes expressed by certain braggarts and smart-ass hipsters as fæces, or simply put just fecal matter, for that matter. Feces,[2] according to acclaimed Welsh scholar and Renaissance man extraordinaire Lord Harley P. Davidson (1903-1970), who in turn cites the Merriam-Webster® dictionary, states that feces is a bodily waste discharged through the anus. The process of discharging bodily waste through the anus is commonly known as defecation, also according to Lord Davidson, who claims to have taken such information from the aforementioned source material. A single piece of fecal matter is commonly referred to as a turd.

It is widely believed that any person who knows how to read is already acquainted to the basics of how human feces are disposed of.[3] Please, for your own sake, don’t prove this statement wrong.

Regular toilets, as we know them in present day, were invented simultaneously in several parts of the world around the year 3.000 B.C., which basically used the same essential components: A seat and a chute which leads the waste into street drains or cesspits. Some few hundred years after that, the Harappan civilization in Pakistan and North-Western India - according to Lord Davidson and supported by British archeologist Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler, more widely known as Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1890-1976) - was one of the first civilizations to incorporate water in the use of toilets, mainly for the purposes of cleaning the chute and remove the turds from the toilet. However, it was the Romans who actually flushed their toilets through cascades of flowing water.

Notwithstanding the Romans’ input into fecal matter disposal, it was only very recently, specifically in the 1890’s, when flush toilets as we know them were properly introduced among the wealthy, and by the 1920’s it had become regular for the lower classes as well.

The basic idea of flushing was explained by my good friend Doctor Raoul O. Campus (1954-) in a lecture before 160 Yale students On November 22nd, 1982, at the Royal Albert Hall in London:

“When a user flushes a toilet, a valve opens, and allows the toilet tank's water to quickly enter the toilet bowl. This rapid influx of water into the toilet bowl of the tank water causes the swirling water in the bowl to rapidly rise and fill the upside down U-shaped drain and the siphon tube mounted in the back of the toilet. This full siphon tube starts the toilet's siphon action. The siphon action rapidly (4–7 seconds) “pulls” nearly all of the water and waste in the bowl and the on-rushing tank water down the drain—it flushes (The audience gasps in unison). When most of the water has drained out of the bowl, the continuous column of water up and over the bottom of the upside-down U-shaped drain pipe (the siphon) is broken when air enters the siphon tube. The toilet then gives its characteristic gurgle as the siphon action ceases and no more water flows out of the toilet. After flushing, the flapper valve in the water tank closes, and various water lines and valves connected to the household water supply refill the toilet tank and bowl. The toilet is again ready for use.” [4](Applause; standing ovation)
What that means, basically, is this: With the help of one flushing cascade of water and gravity’s pull, all turds should fade away from view of the toilet bowl, and this is true for about 1,327,998 out of 1,327,999 turds which are flushed down in a regular fashion on an ordinary toilet. However, one (1) out of 1,327.999 turds remain, and that turd, my dear readers, is the Fyfe Wheeler turd.

If you ever witness one turd floating about, even after one regular flush, I can safely suggest to stop trying, since each additional flush will be wasted in vain. The Fyfe Wheeler turd survives the first and all subsequent flushes, completely unscarred and unflawed.

I know this for a fact, for I witnessed the birth of such bizarre phenomena (or phenomæna, if you will) with my own eyes. It all began on a particularly warm spring afternoon of the year 1.979, in which Professor Fyfe Wheeler, distinguished grandson to the abovementioned Sir Mortimer Wheeler; Professor Nathaniel Everett Abrahams, also known as N.E. Abrahams, author of the Pulitzer® award winning “Inertia as the Motor of Society” and many other famed essays, and myself went together for a short spring-break vacation to the exotic Sri Lanka island, just a little south of India.

At that point we were of course good friends for a couple of years, more specifically since November 23rd 1.973, as Fyfe and me were the only attendants at a lecture on the pros and cons of hitchhiking in Latin America, organized by the distinguished N.E. Abrahams. Why that lecture was not cancelled after such a poor box office draw is still everybody’s guess[5]. Anyway, the three of us gathered around and walked away from the venue while discussing our different hypothesis on the topic, and then the discussion progressed as we talked about Big Star music, and then later other sorts of music, cinema, literature and then later virtually every other subject in between and around. However, it was not until that most extraordinary journey to Sri Lanka that we first started discussing poop and shit and our bonding went to the next level.

It all started on a fateful afternoon in which the three of us reached the South coast of Sri Lanka at Tangalla, after a four and a half hour bus ride from Kandy. I still remember it vividly: It was 4:13pm, 34°C in the shade and we arrived at the hotel with the toilet as our most immediate goal, taking into account our Srilankan lunches, which consisted basically on curry, lentils kochchi miris hot chillies and frikadell meatballs.

We arrived at the hotel and Fyfe called shotgun on the toilet; N.E.A. came in a close second; I had to settle for third and last. So Fyfe went first as agreed, and N.E.A. and I thought upon the possible things to do while in the coast, which were mainly to go to the beach, drink beer, relax and do absolutely nothing else, as we were tired of touring around the middle Srilankan area for five days. As a flush was heard, N.E.A. rose up from his bed and went to the restroom, right after Fyfe left directly for the beach; a few minutes later I heard N.E.A.’s flush, and as I was getting ready and waited for him to come out, I heard a second flush. A few seconds afterwards, as I was about to enter the restroom, N.E.A. warned me: “I believe this toilet’s busted.”

I gave him an absolutely perplexed look, as he invited me to take a look at the toilet bowl. As I witnessed a lone, 8cm long floating turd, N.E.A. continued: “I thought it would sink with my own dump, but strangely enough it survived,” which could only mean that the turd was not his’ but Wheeler’s! I looked at N.E.A. again, as perplexed as I have ever been in my life, and he replied: “You best believe it!”  So we proceeded to call the registration desk from the hotel, which promptly sent the janitor to take over the situation. The janitor did not speak a word of English, but he seemed to indicate that the toilet was in perfect condition and went away in disgust, as if we had executed a prank upon him.

As I could not wait any longer, I proceeded to lay my feces over the floating turd. I flushed, like my friends did in their own turns, but just as one lone turd remained, the Wheeler turd, my own feces sank into oblivion. It was an absolutely perplexing sight, indeed.

N.E.A. called upon Fyfe and let him know of the phenomena. The three of us gathered and motionlessly stared at the floating turd, the one which refused to go down in spite of many other turds laying about and a powerful flush. What could have been the reason? It is still not quite clear many years afterwards.

That fateful day we lacked the proper tools and atmosphere to study the phenomena, so after a few more useless flushes and remembering the old adage Divide et Impera, I proceeded to alter the mass of the turd by cutting it in half with a stick, leaving two pieces of shit of about the same length, that is around 4cms each, thus lending a whole different meaning to the common expression “cut the crap.” Right afterwards I flushed again, but the two turds clinged on to the surface of the water in the toilet bowl. Why would these turds refuse to flush down?

Absolutely immersed in awe, however, I proceeded to crush the turd repeatedly with the stick, pulverizing it completely. Only in that pulverized stage did the turd finally flush down, and as of yet there are no other known means of eliminating these Fyfe Wheeler turds. Maybe an extraordinarily powerful flush would do the trick, although the investment of money and time on such a measure does not seem to be proportionate to the goal.

Many of us have studied the now famously known and scarcely found Fyfe Wheeler Effect, although not as many have dared published their findings to the world. It is said that a turd bears the Fyfe Wheeler Effect when it is seemingly filled with air in its interior, allowing it to float in water, without losing its integrity by the action of repeated, powerful flushes, not to mention the sheer action of rested water on the fecal matter. Recent findings[6] have revealed that these special turds allow the bearer – that is, the defecating person who creates them in their own digestive system – to weigh less whenever they bear them, and then return to normal weight – that is, regain weight – once they defecate.

The abovementioned finding leads us to believe that the air which fills them is some sort of helium, which however is not strong enough to either allow these turds to float out of the toilet bowl, let alone to lift the body of the bearer above the ground. However, when I crushed that Srilankan Fyfe Wheeler turd with the stick I did not notice any particular gases coming out, well, any different gases from the usual fecal gases that may be regularly sensed through smell after defecating a Srilankan dish or any spice-heavy dish in general.

Sadly enough, not much more can be said about this spellbinding phenomena. There are no known side effects to the health or the environment, but I encourage all readers to publish or share any further enquiries or findings in relation to this subject matter. A hunch leads me to believe that several people have witnessed the Fyfe Wheeler effect but have refrained to publicly comment on the subject, which is understandable.

As I was starting to crush my son’s turd with a stick, and revealing to him the background to this phenomena, he just went to his room completely disinterested, promptly forgetting about the situation. He has refrained from crapping this kind of turds to this day, and to tell you the truth, I’m kind of glad about that.


[1] If for whatever reason you are not sufficiently acquainted with the way our digestive system works, or if you simply want to further study this fascinating anatomical topic, I suggest you read into COOLIDGE, Bartholomew S. Our Digestive Systems, Ourselves. Oxford University Press, 1981.  

[2] According to Professor Atticus F. Portomæstre, AKA Professor Atticus F. Porto-Mæstre (1829-1890),  in his “Discussions From and About the Edge of Reason” (Mad Hare Publishing, 1869, p. 234) “feces” is one of those rare words which does not allow a singular form. “However – he states in the aforementioned work - , should it be referred to as a singular, I suggest the term fæcum. “ However, in spite of Professor Portomaestre’s overall respected status and great influence among his peers, the term never found serious echo and did not catch on into scientific lexicon. It survives to this day exclusively among historians and fecal-matter enthusiasts as a hardcore pub-quiz fact.

[3] Do you really want to look this one up?

[4] It was later revealed on a Rolling Stone® magazine interview that Doctor Campus had actually recited by memory a fragment of an extended article found on Wikipedia®, which may be accessed through the following link: -- Emphasis is added. The reactions to the speech are authentic.

[5] Citation needed.

[6] See endnote number 5.

4 comentarios:

  1. Beautiful piece. With a tear in my eye, I feel proud to say that I quasi-belong to the earliest water-users.
    Thanks also for relieving me from my constipation.

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your comments, Flushing Dutchman.

  2. Respuestas
    1. Chimbis, chimbis. ¡Mil gracias por la atención y el comentario!