It was early November 1989. Lunch period had just ended and students were settling into their afternoon classrooms when the announcement was made:
"All boys -- grades 5-8 -- please report to the gymnasium."
This was odd. What could be happening that only the boys were called from class? Even stranger, all boys from all grades?
Seated by class in our designated set of bleachers on the gym's south side, we could see the school's two male teachers -- Mr. Marcum and Mr. Skelton -- talking privately with the principal, Mr. Sullens. After a few moments of intense conversation, their meeting dispersed and Mr. Marcum asked for the attention of a gym full of curious boys.
"In the boys restroom during lunch, it was found that someone had left a 'number 2' in one of the urinals. We are in here now to find out who is responsible and to get that individual the help that they need."
Wait. What? Somebody pooped in the urinal?
[Image courtesy of antonnguyen.com]
A few more minutes passed as the three men discussed the best way to identify this mad pooper. As they talked, the boys grew restless and I took it upon myself to provide some top notch entertainment for my fellow 8th graders. In full show-off mode, I pulled my left arm inside my long-sleeved shirt, grabbed the empty sleeve with my right hand, and performed one of the more classic bits of trickery known to junior high boys. You know what I'm talking about. This thing:
Unfortunately for me, I was mid-performance when Mr. Marcum turned around and caught my eye. Marching directly towards me, he pulled me by the shirt to the center of the gym -- hardly offering me the opportunity to put my left arm back in its proper place. The room went silent.
"Gentlemen. Tim here has a trick that he'd like you all to see. Normally you'd have to pay for such quality entertainment, but today you're getting it for free."
With that, he stepped aside and with a wave of his hand suggested that it was my moment to shine. Assuming he wasn't serious, I just hung my head as the color of my face brightened. A few seconds of awkward silence passed.
"Now, Tim. Apparently you think I'm kidding. You wanted to put on a show so badly, you're going to put on a show."
Another wave of his hand in my direction and I knew I had no choice. I pulled my arm back inside my shirt and provided "all boys -- grades 5-8" with a few seconds of amazing entertainment. My friends howled with laughter.
Having had successfully won this pissing match against a 13-year-old, Mr. Marcum directed me to sit alone on the north side of the gym.
Back to the poop.
The leaders of our school decided that the best way to nab their sicko would be through anonymous tattling.
"Boys. We've placed a box on the other side of the gym. In a few moments, each of you will receive a piece of paper. If you know who did this, you will write that person's name on the paper and place it in the box. If you do not know, you will just place your blank paper in the box. Mr. Skelton will be next to the box to provide you with a paper and pencil."
The box was right next to me...but so was Mr. Skelton. It would be impossible to get away with writing Mr. Marcum's name on a paper.
In addition to his duties as a 6th grade teacher, Mr. Skelton was also the boys basketball coach who I'd played for (okay, sat the bench for) for the previous three years. Sitting alone, but close to Mr. Skelton and "the box," my mind wandered as I considered the possibilities in this matter of the poop.
Then it hit me. I had a theory and I could trust my coach enough to share it, right?
"Hey, Coach. Halloween was just last week and kids have lots of candy. Maybe it was just a Tootsie Roll."
My self-worth was immediately obliterated once again as my coach stabbed me in the back by yelling across the gym.
"Hey, Mr. Marcum! Tim's got a great idea. He thinks it might be a Tootsie Roll!"
Eyes rolling in disgust, Mr. Marcum threw his hands in the air as if to declare he'd had all he could take of me for the day. I mean, really, who has time for such nonsense when there's someone pooping in a urinal?!
So their plan moved forward. Approximately 50 boys lined up and placed their papers in the box. I sat silently -- shunned by my homeroom teacher and betrayed by my coach. While the collection of scientific data was being analyzed, we were all dismissed and returned to class.
Then another announcement:
"All 8th grade boys, please report to the principal's office."
Interesting. Had the pooper been apprehended? Was he actually among us?
We filed into the principal's office where Mr. Sullens sat as his desk, flanked by Mr. Skelton and a clearly-irritated Mr. Marcum. The nervous tension in the room was broken by Mr. Sullens' deep voice.
"Boys. Upon further investigation, it appears that the philosopher of your class was correct. It was only a Tootsie Roll in the urinal."
BOOM! Without hesitation, my pal Chad slapped me a high five in celebration. My other friends cheered in support. I had won. We had won. Take your magic show and your box of papers and...well...you know.
Adding insult to injury, Mr. Marcum was known for giving out prizes when students did good things in his classes -- usually Tootsie Rolls.
In the end, the person responsible for the gag was never caught -- and, no, it wasn't me. But more importantly, two grown men had tried to humiliate a kid in front of his friends...and they failed. My victory that day came in a split second I was not even present for -- that split second when someone sniffed what was thought to be human feces and realized that the goofy kid was right.
It was just a Tootsie Roll.