Anyone that has been in a car with me when “Ironic” comes on the radio, or even spent enough time around me to notice that I will occasionally break into a verse of “You Oughta Know” or even “All I Really Want” knows that I know far too many lyrics to the songs off of Alanis Morissette’s breakthrough album “Jagged Little Pill”. Now, this is a good album, and Morissette is a great singer, but neither of these facts explain why I know these songs. I spent most of my adolescence listening to embarrassing rap-rock or metal, and I’ve spent my post-adolescence listening to Queens of the Stone Age, bands that try to sound like Queens of the Stone Age, and music that is really just waves of arbitrary noises set to a slow back beat. Morissette doesn’t fit with any of these categories.
I only just recently remembered why I know this albums so damn well, and I thought I would share it. The album came out in 1995, so I couldn’t have been much older than 9 or 10 at the time. I was at a swim-meet with my cousins in Portland. It was a camp out setting. Basically, everyone camped out, had picnics and bbq’s, and competed when it was their turn. I didn’t swim, I was just there to support my cousins. From what I remember, it was a nice place to camp, and the weather was nice as well. There was a great playground, and the people all seemed friendly enough. The only problem I can remember was the bathroom.
In the 4 days that I spent at this campsite, I visited the bathroom exactly once. I was so innocent back then. I didn’t know that people would abuse a bathroom the way this bathroom was abused. I guess I still had a vision of humanity being comprised of decent people, that wouldn’t shit on the floor just for the fun of it. This conception of mankind was shattered after I took approximately 5 steps into the bathroom. After the initial shock of this moment wore off on me, I realized the full extent of the degradation that had taken over this camp ground bathroom. Every surface was wet, only one light-bulb still kind of worked, there were things on the floor that should have been in the toilet, and there were things in the toilets that should have been in the nether-realm.
Needless to say, I did not use the bathroom at this time. Nor did I use it for the remainder of the trip. Of course, I had the option of using the abundant woodlands as a bathroom, but as an awkward, frightened 10 year old, this prospect was far to overwhelming. Instead, I opted to just hold it in. This was a great idea until about day 2, when my uncle announced that he was going to make burritos for everyone. Now, if you know me, you know that burritos are always a good idea in my book. This, however, was not a good idea.
By day 3, I was confined to a tent with considerable stomach pains and nausea. My uncle thought it was food poisoning, and was paranoid that others would get sick as well. What still confuses me to this day is how no one else seemed bothered by this bathroom – no one else got sick or even complained about it. The only explanations I can think of are: 1, dodging piles of shit and sitting in caked-on vomit wasn’t a big deal for them; 2, no one else had a problem with going to the bathroom outside; or 3, and the most disturbing option for me, that there was another, perfectly clean bathroom that no one fucking told me about.
Regardless, I spent the last 2 days of the camping trip rolling around in a tent with massive stomach cramps, but refusing to go to the bathroom. My brother, being a classic older brother and wanting to look after me whenever he wasn’t too busy punching me, gave me his discman so that I could keep my mind off the pain. The only CD in this discman was, you guessed it: Jagged Little Pill. (There is added humour for anyone that has met my brother, and gets to know that he at one point owned and listened to this album.)
Essentially, the next 2 straight days of my life were composed of stomach pains, trying not to shit myself, and Alanis Morissette singing about bitter break ups and misunderstanding the concept of “irony”.
So the next time you see me rocking out to “Hand in my Pocket” or sweetly crooning “Head over Feet”, just know that it is my way of celebrating the harrowing experience that she and her potty-mouthed poetic crooning helped get me through.
Also, I hope you think of me stepping in shit next time you hear one of these songs.