You might not want to read this installment over dinner.
On a cold evening in the early fall, one of the north-side building's tenants left the locked gate to the alley ajar. Given access to a windbreak and a privacy screen, a transient took a dump in the back walkway. By this point in my tenancy, I was committed to getting out of the building, so I could only muster a resigned sort of disgust as the pile - festooned with its shit-stained washcloth - sat there for a week. Resigned disgust. You might wonder how on earth a pile of human feces could possibly muster anything less than outrage, but in the not-quite-year of my tenancy, it wasn't even the worst shit-incident.
See, the toilet was unusual. The bend going into the pipes was sharp and the water pressure was weak. Unless one was 'mindful' of this fact, flushing became an unpleasant game. Repeated flushing was entirely ineffective unless the flushes were perfectly timed. It was only with practice (and a sense of timing honed by years of bomb-jumping up walls in Super Metroid) that I was able to master the precision art of successfully flushing the toilet in under 5 minutes. Frequently, I had to discreetly play this game for a guest who didn't realize that whatever they flushed might make a stealthy return visit to the bowl. Even with practice, things had a tendency of coming back.
The afternoon which left me so unaffected by the sight of human feces outside my apartment could not have been more perfectly scripted for maximum trauma. I'd just returned from the airport after a 3 hour, early morning flight. I was already a depressed, lonely wreck from leaving my family after the holidays, but I returned only to discover that the pipes had been worked on while I was out of town. At some point during this work my toilet bowl had regurgitated a disgusting, shit-crusted mess, the full details of which I have surely blocked out of my mind. I'd been out of town for two full weeks.
I spent the next 30 minutes gagging, throwing open windows (entirely heedless of the freezing temperatures outside), and scrubbing.
. . .and scrubbing.
. . .and scrubbing.
. . . and then there was a punchline.
I scrubbed so hard that I discovered that those pesky "rust" stains - the ones that had been in the toilet's bend since the day I moved in - they flaked off. More shit in disguise. Shit that I had been unknowingly living with for months. Shit that no brush, no chemical, no frenzied scrubbing would EVER fully remove. By the time someone took a dump outside, the only thought I could muster was, "At least it's outside."
After the adrenaline from the horror had worn off, I fell asleep on my couch with the windows still open. When I woke up and realized where I was, I laid in the cold and cried for half an hour. I'd like to say this was the low point of my adventures in Chicago tenancy, but that would be a lie. Things got worse.