There was an awesome kid in my troop we'll call Ryan. He was a really sweet kid who was almost too smart for his own good. Easily the most intellectual of his entire school, to say nothing of our troop, Ryan was prone to drawn-out stories about his Icelandic ancestors. Without strong skills in oratory, the stories generally put me into a near-comatose state. He was so intelligent that it actually hindered his ability to live in reality.
We attended a large scout “jamboree” to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Mormon pioneer’s entry into the Salt Lake Valley. It was a complete dust trap—over 5,000 scouts from across the state and elsewhere descended upon the area, completely demolishing any vegetation that had tried to scrape out a meager living in the arid environment. There were rows of hundreds of port-o-potties lining every border of the camp. Those are some of my most profound memories of that place—noxious clouds of dust and the intense smell of teen excrement. Those were the days.
Ryan came out of the johns one day with a smile on his face. He walked up to our scoutmaster.
“Wow! Those latrines are so nice.”
Our scoutmaster was understandably disconcerted by Ryan's observation. “Nice? Which ones did you go in?”
“Those ones right there. I’ve never been in one like them.”
“Um, Ry, what made them nice, exactly?”
“Well they had a wash basin and soap and everything.”
Equipped with a square urinal placed fairly high on the wall, each latrine had a mint urinal cake that attempted to mask the putrid odor in the small plastic box. Given the right amount of imagination, and if you squinted, you may have been able to mistake the mint cake for a round, minty smelling bar of soap.
The entire troop was fairly disturbed by the experience, but none more so than me who shared a tent with Ryan. Even though he had washed his hands numerous times and even disinfected them in bleach, we all maintained a five foot radius at all times. Ever since then, I've been grossed out and have had a strong impulse to recite the scout oath at the sight of a urinal cake. Weird.