The Last Public Bathroom Ever

The State Fair is always a huge event and the annual turnout this years was record breaking.  My husband and I usually go on opening day and get our fill of fried foods, sticky sweet treats and, of course, beer.  All the usual beers are present and accounted for along with a generous amount of micro brews.  After shoving down my third pile of fried cheese curds and washing it down with a fourth micro brew (see the priority there?) I was belatedly alerted to the distress calls of my bladder.  To be honest I had actually been ignoring it a bit which I knew was going to be a bad idea since all the restrooms were a bit of a walk and would be lined with other women who had been doing exactly what I was doing.  With a completely unnecessary request for my husband to ‘hold my seat’ I grabbed my purse and headed for nearest bathroom.

With a full bladder a short, one minute dash up the midway can feel like a twenty minute hike through rough terrain.  By the time I reached the door I was feeling the strain in serious way.  Stepping inside I entered a line of six other women and pressed my thighs together.  I felt I could manage the wait.  Six people wasn’t a lot.  This particular bathroom was one of the smaller ones on the grounds, only twelve stalls with matching sinks on the opposite walls along with the required paper towel dispensers, feminine hygiene dispenser and a condom dispenser.  A plastic changing table was mounted on the wall I was leaning against for emotional bladder support.  The whole room was accessible through a walk-in doorway, no actual door.  While I waited, listening to the toilets flush, someone unrolling a lot of toilet paper, and the automatic sinks turn on and off I amused myself by wondering which had come first, the changing table or the condom dispenser?  My money was on the changing table.  The dispenser was more banged up but I felt it looked more like an unrelated afterthought.  Too bad.

The ladies ahead of me moved quietly along, each one watching for the next open stall as their turn came.  Soon I was next and I was really excited about it.  Poised for take off I gave a little bounce on the balls of my feet, testing the springiness.  No one had entered behind me but you could never be too careful when your bladder was at stake, and mine had definitely been pushed to its limit.  I knew I would be racing the clock.  In my mind I was already going through the motions, making certain I would be able to get things unbuttoned and unzipped and smoothly shoved out of the way in a timely manner.  When the next stall opened I was ready to go.  

I heard a metal bolt slap backward and saw the door begin to open.  My feet moved of their own accord and my hand reached to grab the door before the lady exiting was fully out.  She looked at me with a flash of surprise.  I smiled apologetically and dashed inside, driving the locking bolt into place as if I was chambering a live round and flung my purse on the hook.  Everything went as planned.  The button opened, the zipper came down and I dropped onto the seat with a sigh of relief.  As my bladder heartily celebrated its release my skin told another tale.  The seat was wet.

I’ve never understood how women could pee on a toilet seat.  I’ve seen the proof of this more times than I can count.  Had I not been so pressed for speed (and under the influence of four micro brews) I would normally have surveyed the area before throwing my bare bottom onto it.

Feeling things tapering off I reached for the toilet paper, the giant, silver dome fastened to the brown, metal dividing wall.  It was empty.  I leaned forward and pawed awkwardly up as far as I could go and found nothing, not even a spent cardboard core.  What had the lady before me used?  She could have warned me!  I probably would have just shrugged considering how desperate I had been at that moment but it would have been nice to know I needed a backup plan.  Somewhere to my left I could hear the toilet paper unroller still going at it.  Rolling my eyes at the irony I eyed my purse hanging on the hook and wondered if I had any take-out napkins stashed in there?  As I’m a bit short in the arms I had to lift myself from the seat to snag the bag, an act accompanied by a sound similar to what you hear when you peel masking tape from a wall.  Despite being something of a hoarder my purse was a barren wasteland for paper.  It was time to call for assistance.

“Hello?  Can someone help me?”  The instant I spoke a lady with a high, jilted voice began to sing off key and very loud.  To my ears my own voice sounded small and breathy, as if I were just sitting here talking to myself.  I tried again.  “I’m out of toilet paper.  Can somebody help me out?”  The toilet paper unroller continued in her task, an unrelenting sound that was beginning to feel personal.

I sat frozen on my throne, a tumble of thoughts jostling around in my mind.  What if I was the only person in here now?  What if I wasn’t?  What if I was suddenly the butt of a big, silent joke that everyone was in on?  How many women were standing out there with their hands pressed over their mouths to stifle their shared laughter?

Seemingly in response to my plea a shadow filled the frame of my stall door.  I waited expectantly  for a hand filled with toilet paper to come under the door.  After a few seconds I looked up wondering why nothing was happening.  To my surprise I found an eyeball staring at me through the crack.  I stared back for a second, mortified then angry.

“What are you doing!”  The eye didn’t waver.  “Get out of here!”  The woman didn’t budge, just kept on staring at me.  I thought about standing up and yanking open the door to confront her but I would have to let her watch me put myself together without ever wiping before I would have the pleasure of yelling into her face.  That idea seemed more demeaning than the end result would justify and probably wouldn’t be very satisfying.  Still, it was an option.  I settled for more glowering and extended my middle finger.  “Quit staring at me, freak!”  I heard a low chuckle and felt my hair rise.  It was really low.  Was that a man?  The eyeball vanished and the light came back.  I felt somewhat relieved for a few seconds.  I was still in a drip-dry state but at least I was alone.  Another shadow crossed the light.

The stall beside me became loudly occupied by a woman breathing heavily, grunting and muttering to herself.  The door slammed against the divider as she entered then banged shut.  Her large, faux leather handbag hit the floor a split second before she shot the bolt.  Every move she made was accompanied by a sound I could identify.  Against my will my brain became filled with images of what was happening beside me.  Just as I was getting up the courage to ask her for toilet paper she spoke.

“Oh lord!  I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all that Mexican food.  Those tamales never agree with me.”  This statement was delivered with several huffs and grunts followed by an explosive bowl clanger.  I leaned away from the wall and rethought leaving in a natural state.  I could always tell my husband what happened and he would understand my need to get home immediately and shower.  As if reinforcing this idea the woman groaned deeply and let loose with another bomb.  In seconds I would be overcome with the gaseous overflow.

“Jesus!  This is gonna tear me apart.”  Boom!

I stopped hoping and starting zipping.  My nostrils reared back, trying to close themselves off from what was coming but it was too late.  The smell crawled over me like napalm and I gagged.  I grabbed for the bolt on the door and jammed it back just as the eye returned to the crack.  I saw it a split second before shoving the door open and felt a small thrill of victory in the act.  I knew it was going to hit the mark.

With a thunk the door struck the woman’s forehead at the same time another depth charge was released next door.  I barrelled through the door clutching my purse like a football.  The woman was older than I had expected and definitely not a man.  I paused long enough to give her a withering look and a piece of advice.

“Why don’t you check on the lady in the next stall?  She seems far more interesting.”  Holding one hand over her face the woman flipped me the bird with her other.  I responded with a grimacing smile.  Giving the sinks a regretful glance, they wouldn’t help anyway, I bolted for the door.

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