The Experience of a Lifetime This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


   It happened when I was standing in line with my sister.It was 8:30 p.m. on August 19, 2000, and we were waiting. Then ithappened.

It started out as an ordinary trip to the Porta-Potty. Eventhough there were two million people with whom we had to share these toilets in afield in Italy for the celebration of World Youth Day 2000, they were stillPorta-Potties. I had reluctantly agreed to accompany my sister on the 300-yardtrek. I figured we wouldn't be gone long, so I exchanged the camera that had beenin my hand for hours for a roll of toilet paper. Bringing only the bareessentials is customary, why would I need a camera? I was only going to thebathroom.

The 300 yards felt more like a hike up Mount Everest. It was thehottest day of the Roman summer, and the six-mile walk to Tor Vergata early thatmorning had been tedious and accompanied by the relentless, scorching sun. Peoplehad begun to fall asleep under their makeshift tents constructed from blankets,tarps, clothing, trees and even trash. Others waited, wide-awake, with anxietyfor the arrival of Pope John Paul II.

It was on this night that I was tocelebrate a vigil with the Holy Father at Tor Vergata, a field outside Rome thatheld over two million young Catholics from Croatia to Australia and other nationsof the world. My church youth group had spent nearly two years preparing for thispilgrimage of a lifetime.

Instead, I found myself waiting. It was a good25 minutes before there was any significant movement in the line. I passed thetime by observing the others in line and identifying our cultural differences.Conversations could be heard in Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese, but onething we shared was our need to use the bathroom. My sister and I were nearingthe front of the line when the experience of a lifetime occurred. Yes, thisexperience occurred in line for a Porta-Potty.

Suddenly, the linesthinned. People began running and screaming, as camera flashes illuminated thenight sky. I turned to see what all the commotion was about. Much to my surprise,Pope John Paul II just happened to be cruising in the Pope Mobile down the dirtroad directly in front of the Porta-Potties! Bewildered, I ran in the directionof the Porta-Potty mob and found myself within 10 feet of the Pope. As flasheswent off left and right, I reached for my camera.

Where could it be? Iwondered in a moment of panic. My first thought was that I had lost it. I haddone such a good job of convincing myself that a camera would not be necessary onmy bathroom outing that in this moment of absolute astonishment, I found myselfwith only a roll of toilet paper - the Pope, a roll of toilet paper andme.

I missed taking the picture of a lifetime. Who would ever believe thatI had been so close to the Pope? The picture is so vivid in my mind, but not onKodak Paper.

Overwhelmed by shock and disappointment, my sister and Iheaded back to the Porta-Potty line. We lost our spot in the disorder, and onceagain, were forced to wait. My originally underestimated trip to the Porta-Pottyturned out to be the journey and experience of a lifetime.



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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the November 2000 Teen Ink Travel Contest.






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