Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/6/2011 (2188 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's something we've all wondered at one time or another: How long does it take to pass through a human colon?
Well, based on my experience, it takes about five minutes, depending on how chatty your guide is and whether you stop to watch TV along the way.
At least that's how it worked for me.
You probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not. There was a 12-metre, three-tonne replica of a human colon on display at the Red River Ex. It was plopped in Exhibition Place as part of a nationwide tour to educate Canadians about colorectal cancer and the importance of colonoscopies.
The giant colon is exactly like yours in every detail, except yours is probably not the size of a convenience store and -- I'm going to take a wild guess here -- you probably do not offer guided tours.
I felt compelled to stroll out to the Ex Friday to look into the giant colon, although it occurred to me that having an exhibit like this at a fair raises troubling questions:
1) Would a visit to a giant colon make a good first date?
2) Would the spinning teacups be a better option?
3) Is it rude to eat a candy apple inside a giant colon?
4) Do you wash your hands before or after visiting a colon?
5) If you are inside a giant colon and someone yells "DO YOU WANT TO GO FASTER???" what do you reply?
You should never enter a giant colon by yourself, so I asked Linda Neyedly, the Ex's communications manager, to join me. We were given a guided tour by Adrien Mitchell, the hip, young national director of exhibits for the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.
I warned Adrien I planned to write a column containing a bunch of tasteless colon jokes, and he said that would be great. "One of the main goals of the exhibit is to make people laugh and get people comfortable and talking about colon cancer," he explained.
The idea is, as you walk through the giant colon, you simulate a colonoscopy and encounter scary items that might actually be in your colon right now. Yikes! There are also four TVs featuring a puppet professor who explains the part of the colon in which you are standing.
We entered through an opening we normally do not talk about in family newspapers, but which Adrien was able to discuss with a remarkably straight face.
"The first thing you see is hemorrhoids," he noted, pointing at several inflatable growths the size of basketballs.
At this point, you are probably wondering what it's like inside a human colon. As a journalist, I would have to say: It is extremely dark. Fortunately, and this may come as a surprise, colons contain strings of floor lights just like you find on commercial jetliners.
As we strolled, Adrien pointed out objects of interest. "Here's a polyp," he'd say, grabbing a mushroom-shaped projection. Then, pointing at a blob of cancer, he'd add: "This will turn into that, eventually."
There was a steady stream through the colon, by which I mean a stream of visitors. As of Sunday, they'd had about 20,000 people inside the giant colon at the Ex.
"In the last year and a half, over 100,000 people have walked through the colon," Adrien boasted.
"That's a lot of people in your colon," I told him.
"Yes," he replied, "it's a high-traffic colon."
Some of the visitors Friday were starry-eyed young couples. I wondered what they might tell their kids if things worked out in the romance department.
The kids: "How did you meet mom?"
Dad: "We were inside a giant colon."
The kids: "What have you done with our real father???"
It also occurred to me that, while intended to fight cancer, giant colons might also help in the war on terror. Imagine if we dropped one on top of whoever has replaced Osama bin Laden. Talk about poetic justice.
In the end, so to speak, after five minutes, Linda, Adrien, and I popped out of the part of the giant colon called the cecum, where the small intestine joins the large intestine, next to an appendix the size of Shaquille O'Neal.
I asked a visitor from B.C., Liz Betteridge, who toured the colon with mom Nancy, sister Deanna, and 10-month-old son Micah, what she thought. "It was pretty cool," Liz chirped. "It's a great family experience."
The best news is the giant colon is coming back to Winnipeg on Sept. 1 to 3 at Garden City Shopping Centre. I hate to be a pain in the butt, but you should go see it. And you should get a colonoscopy, too. I know I will.
Right after I go on the spinning teacups.