With a toddler nephew, little boys and potty training take on new meaning

A boy, a bus and a lack of shame, Damascus, Syria, 4 July 2008

The other day I was walking to town, taking the route I usually take. The sidewalks aren’t great, but the road is heavily trafficked, so I generally switch back and forth quite a lot between crooked quiet spaces and car-swept smooth treks.

On one such switch, I found myself walking behind a big coach bus. Standing behind the bus was a boy, somewhere roughly around 7 years of age. As I walked towards him, I noticed he was facing the bus, with his head just about parallel to the top of the stowage space under the passenger area. And then as I walked passed him, I noticed that he was peeing on the handle of the stowage area door. Aiming very carefully for the handle, in fact. He looked up at me briefly, then went back to soaking up that handle. Oh, the poor bus driver who had to open that cargo area next!

Several questions came to mind. Most basically, Did he have no shame? Did he have no sense that peeing in public might not be such a great idea? I supposed that his parents had never taught him that and, considering other things I’ve seen in this country, perhaps they actually taught him the opposite: find a slightly isolated area, face away from the world, and fire away.

Then, I wondered, Why the handle of the cargo stowage door? Why was he aiming for a part of the bus in the first place? Perhaps there is something innate in a young boy’s mind that tells him he needs to aim for something, and that was the something that caught his eye. Or, in a much more interesting scenario, maybe this was youthful revenge! Maybe he was angry at the bus driver and so aimed for a spot he knew the man would touch. Oh, or maybe he’d had a negative experience with a bus stowage area in the past, maybe someone had locked him in one or taken something terrible out of one, and this was an expression of his bitterness, of his processing that experience. All in the deep thoughts of a 7-year-old.

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