Discussing random things with a friend overseas, the subject of the recent debate came up.

When pressed for my thoughts of this momentous debacle, I did what I often do and came up with an analogy.

Back in the late 90s – what seems and feels like eons ago – I lived for a while in a ramshackle cabin on the grounds of a church run campground in East Machias, Maine.

The campground had a cobbled together septic system, and it developed a massive clog (before you ask, it was not my doing). I teamed up with an old timer named Hollis. We used his front end loader to dig up the sewer line in hopes of finding the blockage.

Well, we found the clog. At some point in the past somebody had cut the sewer line and patched it back together. The black rubber used for the patch was under so much pressure that it was this massive object. A round version of the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and infinitely more mysterious. Dangerous. Terrifying.

The trench was deep as a grave. Hollis and I eyed it cautiously. We knew that the slightest touch would make the thing explode and fill the trench with waste.

We were smoking cigarettes, leaning on our shovels and talking of various ways to address the issue when the pastor jumped into the trench and, as we screamed for him to stop, curiously poked the befouled balloon with his shovel.

It… Exploded.

Crap spewed forth like a venomous geyser. Countless gallons of filth shot into the air. I started scrambling up the side of the trench, but Hollis calmly said around his cigarette and in a thick Down East Maine accent, “We won’t make it, boy. We’re goin’ swimming.”

He wasn’t wrong. It was horrible. When I read H.P. Lovecraft’s description of the doors to the ancient tomb of dread Cthulhu opening up I now lazily yawn and say, “I’ve seen worse. I’ve smelled worse. I’ve gone swimming in worse.”

The three of us climbed out of that pit. One or all of us may have been screaming. I am not sure because I had crap in my ears and everywhere else. I am not ashamed to admit that I threw up all over myself – not that it made me any dirtier. The smell was indescribable. The texture was nightmarish and the taste… just remembering as I write this down makes me gag a little.

Hollis called his wife on his walkie-talkie and told her to get ready to clean us up. He ordered me – more like threw me – into the bucket of his front end loader. Leaving the pastor to fend for himself (Hollis said, around a tirade of curses darker than anything from the pit we crawled out of, “He can pray himself clean!”), we drove through rural East Machias – both of us beshitted head to toe, crying, cursing like rabid sailors, laughing like madmen and struggling to smoke with our filthy hands – to his home, where his wife had a garden hose, two towels and two bars of soap waiting for us.

She was completely unsurprised by our ghastly state. We were ordered to strip, and I desperately wanted to clean up, but a small crowd was gathering. The old-timer’s neighbors were having a good laugh at our expense. My shyness was dispelled when somebody pointed out that folks had seen me skinny dipping in Gardner Lake more than once.

So, with an audience, Hollis and I stripped naked and got hosed down multiple times before we were each allowed into the house for a proper shower. It took a while because he used all the hot water. I did not blame him because it took ages to feel clean myself.

While our clothes were in the washer, everybody had a picnic lunch in the cool Down East Maine summer air.

Whenever The Shawshank Redemption is on television Dear Old Dad will say, “It’s Patrick!” as Andy Dufresne crawls through the sewer line.

The recent Presidential debate was much like that awful moment where the trench filled up with swill. The candidates did not, like Andy Dufresne, Hollis or myself come out the other end clean, and they did not have a picnic afterwards.

The debate was all poop and no picnic.