Recently, I had to collect a stool sample for laboratory tests. Not a particularly fun experience but it does put one in contact with a routine fact of life: we all defecate. Rich, poor, famous, unknown--all bodies process food into feces. For most of us in the first world, that means a trip to the bathroom and a flush. The rest is handled by our sewer pipes and treatment plants. Even an outhouse leaves us with minimal contact with our own wastes.
Occasionally, that routine elimination is a bit more elemental. As a long-time hiker I've taken my share of dumps in the woods, digging cat holes and squatting before covering the hole. But even those occasions are relatively infrequent and, at best, slightly inconvenient.
Where it was not infrequent and definitely inconvenient was on patrol in Vietnam. We were out for weeks at a time which meant that most every day I and my fellow grunts would make that trip to just outside our perimeter to take a dump. Of course, I carried my M-16 with me but somehow when I was squatting over that hole with my pants down to my ankles I felt particularly vulnerable. If a VC or NVA had appeared in the jungle ahead of me, I'm pretty sure that I would have dumped my load pretty quick. I am less than certain that I would have offered much more in the way of a response. Fortunately, that test never came.
What did come was the indelible memory of my vulnerability and fear. One of those lingering memories of a time so long ago that always seems to be part of my present.