a real “shitty” job

Immediately following graduate school, I worked for several years with individuals who had been moved from huge institutions and were being reintegrated into  communities in small group homes. Most were of adult age- but without adult-level self-care skills. In other words, one of the major parts of our day revolved around trying to toilet train grown-ups who had no idea what a toilet was all about. Our students (or clients) wore great big diapers, which was a good thing because they took great big shits. That was, without a doubt, a shitty job. Oh, in other ways, I loved my job. It was rewarding. I felt like I was doing important work. I met caring, like-minded idealistic people at these jobs.

But, oh, those shitty diapers. There was no getting around them. Put eight or so adults in a classroom and imagine each of them taking a rather large crap at some point during the day. You just could not get the smell out of your nose. I would leave at day’s end, certain that I would stink up the subway or bus on my way home. It was a smell with a life of its own.

I remember most clearly one young man, Ronald, who had a habit of ingesting string of any sort. You could not leave any unsupervised sneakers within eyeshot of Ronald. Lickety-split, he would rip out the shoelaces and swallow them whole. That wasn’t even the worst part. When he shitted them out, he would use his feces to finger paint on walls. The shoelaces gave it an interesting texture. If shoelaces were not available, Ronald would attempt to unravel carpets or his own clothing. I’m not sure what happened to him. I heard he had a gallery in Soho for performance art. I remember those jobs fondly. I spent ten or so years working with individuals for whom toileting was a major developmental milestone. I teach elementary school now. When other teachers complain about the kids, I just smile. It could be a lot shittier!


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