Monday, July 24, 2006

When You Flush Upon A Star

Foreword: If my bathroom foibles make you think I'm weird, you're lying to yourself and the world at large. Everyone has their bathroom quirks and I'm positive that mine isn't even that strange.

Does anyone else remember that MTV special about OCD with that guy who had to rip off something like thirty sheets of toilet paper and arrange them in a line, then do this weird breathing ritual for five minutes before he could poop? That is the kind of thing that is out of the ordinary. But if it's what you gotta do to poop, I'm not going to hold it against you.

My thing is that if someone else comes into a bathroom while I'm in a stall, I don't like to come out until they're gone. It's not a weird Freudian embarrassment thing, it's just that I don't like bathroom socializing. Brad doesn't like it when people eat food on the street. It's his thing. I don't like having conversations near farting and toilet paper, leaning on that gross counter with the sinks where everything is wet.

Especially at work, where you could conceivably be talking to your boss about five seconds after they finish pooping. What if you were silently judging the person in the stall based on their horrendous, embarrassing, hysterical body noises or furious toilet paper unrolling, and then it turns out to be the person who signs your paycheck?

In movies, on TV, and according to the general word on the street, women have bathroom pow-wows, a practice that originates in elementary school and continues until they're chatting on their bedpans in the home. Maybe over the years I've missed out on important sisterly advice gained only on the shitter, but I just can't bring myself to do it. So maybe I'm the person who you think is taking a really long time in the stall for no reason, but the reason is that you're there, and you seem like a talker. I'm not going to have a conversation with you over the handsoap about who did what with all the paper in the second stall. That's horrible. I'll count floor tiles until you finish your business.

Still, no matter how hard I try to fly under the radar while in the ladies' room, the place is an undeniable Bermuda Triangle of intensity. I can't count the times I've been trapped in a stall (often rattling my belt or blowing my nose a lot to remind people that I'm there and assure them I'm not trying to eavesdrop on their eliminatory functions) through stupid conversations ("My neck looks fat!" "NO, it totally doesn't." "My neck looks TOTALLY fat!"), or arguments, or the occasional huddle of girls blowing rails.

I vividly remember being in the bathroom once in fifth or sixth grade, and actually, thinking about it now, I bet this is where this whole minor pathology started. I must have been particularly bored in class, or particularly full of Juicy Juice, because I never, ever went to the bathroom when I was in school. Aside from the horror of putting your girlybits on a public school toilet, my teachers would always insist we wait until lunch, wait until after math, wait until after art, wait, wait wait. I chose to wait until I could park it on a crapper I could vouch had been cleaned sometime since the Cold War.

Anyway, so, I'm in a stall and all of a sudden I hear footsteps thundering down the hallway, followed by the door to the bathroom smashing open. I remember being absolutely terrified. It wasn't until I heard girly shoes pacing up and down in front of the sinks, and even girlier sobs and sniffles that I realized the tornado was just another fifth grader. Still, though, I was in the middle of someone's moment, so I kept my mouth shut.

Until the sniffler started yelling at me through the door.



"Come on out, you wimp! WHO'S IN THERE?!"

[I pull my feet off the ground, like she hasn't already noticed them, and remain silent.]

"Oh, I bet you think this is really funny. (Sniff). I bet you're having a real good laugh in there."


"Fine, just stay in there. I'LL leave."

And she did. I'd figured out who she was when she accused me of laughing at her; only one girl in the fifth grade had that flair for the dramatic, and the social life to warrant hysterical tears and the balls to storm out of Social Studies and into a bathroom, and then accuse the lone pee-er of interrupting her. She grew up to be the designated badass, the one who ran away with boys who wore leather jackets even in the summer, leaving the rest of us to play volleyball in gym class and speculate where the cops would catch her.

Occasionally, when looking back for places my life might've taken a more exciting fork, I stop on that one. That's the stuff of teen dramas, you know? The beginning of a growing-up montage that starts with the bonding in the avocado green bathroom, and fast-forwards to another bathroom in a high school, years later. I'm positive if I'd answered her, asked her what was wrong and gotten the lowdown on whatever Brendan or Mike made her cry, a different life would've unfolded like a telescope toward another point on the horizon.

Anyway, I hate talking in bathrooms.


Anonymous stupid boy said...

Great to have you back! I was worried you might not have time to blog with the new job.

And that's the best story about toilets I've ever read.

5:48 AM  
Anonymous nicole - yeah that one said...

glad that you saw past your bathroom socializing phobia to help me out when i drank way to much vodka - you even assured me you did not mind - you big tease

2:33 PM  

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