Today is August 5th. I don’t need to look back through Triumphs & Tribulations to see what happened on this day…although some interesting stuff has happened on this day in 2001, 2002, and 2006. None of those things match up to what happened on this date 5 years ago. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Helen Walker incident.
How I first came across this moment? Deep into the Long Hot Summer of 2011, I found myself in charge of the CES Customer Service Office at Joint Base Andrews. The NCOIC was at training at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, the civilian office chief was on leave in Texas, and all of the other NCOs that ranked me were out on leave. It left me and our Air Force Reserve augmentee in office. It being the dog days of summer, it was an incredibly slow day. Things got a bit lively when one of the budget analysts came rushing into the office and said “Oh my God, y’all. Somebody used the bathroom all over the floor”. I was a bit dumbfounded initially but she re-emphasized with “somebody did the #2 on the floor in the women’s bathroom”. As I also doubled as the Facility Manager for the CES headquarters building, I took a look and as soon as I peeked my head into the door, I saw feces all over the floor. I felt like something needed to be done immediately so I tasked the augmentee with going to clean it up. Look, as long as I was in charge and had somebody working under me that day, I certainly wasn’t doing it myself. As he went to grab cleaning supplies from our closet, I recalled him and told him that I’d just call over to Service Contracts and have the cleaners come in on emergency. The cleaners came and about an hour later, the bathroom was as good as new. Meanwhile, while all of that happened, the administrative assistant for the Operations Flight—an elderly woman named Helen Walker—left in a rush to go home. As we found out a little while later, she was the culprit. When everybody returned to the office the following Monday and found out, it touched off hours of laughter and different commentaries from the people who were in the building. Helen, by the way, never returned to her position in the Operations Flight. She moved over to the Service Contracts Office.
What it meant to me then? In the immediate moment, I was shocked. I had been a Facility Manager for 4 years at 2 buildings in 2 different countries and I had never seen anything like that before with my own eyes. There was literally globs of $#!+ on the floor and the watery poop trail following. I was in service dress too so I wasn’t gonna be cleaning it up myself and potentially messing up high-gloss oxfords. But something had to be done immediately: I couldn’t just leave it there. So, in my panic, I pulled the rank card and had the augmentee—a senior airman—clean it. Luckily, my cooler reserve kicked in and neither of us had to clean up Helen’s mess.
What it means to me now? Looking back on it now, it was actually pretty sad. I’m sure Helen—she had to be early-to-mid 60s at the time—simply had a bowel movement she couldn’t control. But that don’t make it any less funny though. Me and my supervisor from the Andrews days still talk about the Helen Walker incident. I still remember it all so vividly.