Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Mens’ Primer: Horror And Etiquette In The Library Restroom as suffered through by Jim Chatman


What’s the difference between a fairy tale and a war story? Fairy tales begin, “Once upon a time…”. War stories begin, “This ain’t no shit…”. Well…this is the latter.
Back in 2002, while I lived and worked in Eugene, Oregon,I was in the process of being promoted from Field Rep to a management position and needed to pass on the files for the clients in my district to the person taking my place. In order to do so in an orderly manner, I decided that a meeting room at the local library would be a good place for us to lay out the files as I briefed him on each client before turning them over.
As usual, I arrived a few minutes early and decided to take the opportunity to visit the restroom before our meeting. Files in hand, I ascended the steps to the second floor, juggling files to be turned over in one hand, files to be kept in the other, and trying to turn off my cell phone and pocket my keys with both. Upon arriving on the second floor, I glanced up to locate the restrooms, then proceeded into the nearest one, head down.
Not wanting to expose the files to the restroom environment, I tucked them into my briefcase before selecting a stall and proceeding. I hung the briefcase on the door hook and went about my constitutional, happy that I had wisely chosen to do so prior to the meeting which would need close attention to detail.
After a few moments, I began to notice that the woman shouting to her kid in the restroom was actually IN the restroom. I thought it was pretty rude of her coming into the mens’ room like that, kid or not, but I kept quiet and tried to tune her out.
I’ve never been one to sit idly when there is something within grasp to read or check out, e.g., toothpaste labels, shampoo bottles, under-sink cabinets in others’ homes, or in this case the silver container which hung on the left stall wall above the toilet paper dispenser. Not having seen one before, I decided to explore.
A warning to my gay friends: Looking into one could make you ill.
A warning to my straight friends: Looking into one could make you gay.
For inside that innocuous-seeming container was the proof that women did indeed receive a ‘monthly visitor’ and therein was the bloody evidence. I dropped the lid like it was a Republican Party membership card and recoiled in horror. My cartoonishly-fast shrink to the far wall gave me a clear view underneath the partition into the stall to my left and I noticed a svelte, toned and tanned leg terminating in a rather petite foot shod in a size, oh call it 6, brown, woman’s pump, which, for some bizarre reason at that moment, I found both tasteful and elegant.
I want to take a moment and address the manner that horror filmmakers rely on to properly elicit the shrieking screams that come from their duly frightened audiences. One might be of the mistaken assumption that having Jason or Freddy Krueger jump out with no warning would create the maximum amount of fright, but that’s not the case. No, the best way to create wealth for heart surgeons is to let the victim KNOW that the bad guy’s there, and THEN have him jump out. Yeah, let her or him catch a glimpse of the evil that waits, let that dread build and gnaw for a moment, and THEN spring it on them. Fortunately for me, I was already on the toilet.
Yep, I was in the womens’ restroom…in Eugene, Oregon…the last resting place of every patchouli-wearing-long-haired-former-hippie-chick who ever walked a shoeless mile on the West Coast. Feminazi Central. They were going to drag me out of the restroom and hang me with the braided hair from their ne’er-been-shaved-or-deodoranted armpits, I just knew it.
This is probably not the time, but it’s important to understand restroom anonymity and etiquette. We males understand that the resulting greenhouse gases caused by the enormous spicy Mexican meal we had the night before…as indeed I had enjoyed the evening prior…will never be mentioned by our porcelain-rocket fellow travelers. The sole agonized, astonished face I happened to glimpse on my egress indicated that no such rule applied in the ladies’ room.
I made it out alive, though. After 20 or so minutes of imagining every possible form of hell and damnation that they would visit upon me, I got up the nerve and just walked out. I walked completely out, out of the restroom, out of the library, out to my car and I drove hastily away. A couple hours later, when I had pulled myself together and recovered from the maniacal laughter that only comes from the criminally insane or those who’ve suffered-through-yet-survived a horror like mine, I called my replacement. He was still at the library and had to go outside to take the call. It was fine anyway, he told me, because a couple hours ago, library security and a SWAT team showed up and rushed the upstairs womens’ restroom and we probably wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on our meeting anyway…