John approached the men’s room at the venue with some trepidation. He’d been to enough rock clubs and dive bars in the course of duty over the years to know that the only thing to expect in a place like this was the unexpected.
In the past week alone he’d been in a bathroom with no seat on the toilet, one with a full-length mirror on one wall (why, so you could watch yourself taking a dump?), and one with a pile of damp paper towels spilling over the edge of the sink onto the grimy floor since there appeared to be no trash can. John took it all in stride, though. It was part and parcel of attending a large music festival. You took the bad with the good, and he’d heard a lot of good music this week. As he pushed open the door to the men’s room, though, he knew that the bad had caught up with him in a big way.
For one thing, there was only a saloon-style half-door to shield the occupants of the restroom from the prying eyes of anybody who might be hanging around the entrance – and when it was open they could see everything. For another, it was extremely cramped and poorly lit with a trough-like communal urinal along one wall and a single toilet stall at the end of it. John couldn’t imagine how it had ever passed inspection, but that probably went for every other venue in town. Standards were obviously lax at festival time.
It was midway through the evening’s showcase and all of the available spaces at the urinal were taken, so John had to squeeze past the standees to get to the unoccupied stall, which naturally had no door on it. Feeling like he was back in grade school, John quickly pulled his pants and underwear down, taking care not to let them rest on the floor as he sat. It was only then that he noticed that his legs stuck out past the partition that inadequately separated him from those who had mastered the art of urinating standing up.
Forgoing the full treatment due to the lack of privacy, John went about his business, staring straight ahead so as not to draw anyone’s attention – or make anyone think he was scoping them out. After all, all he had to do was lean forward just a little bit and he’d have a clear view of… well, he just didn’t want to give that impression.
Finishing up, he took a couple sheets of toilet paper so he could dab, then flushed them down the toilet and stood up, pulling on his underwear and pants in one move. As he turned toward the exit, though, he met the glare of the middle guy at the urinal, whose intense look radiated anger and inebriation.
“Don’t even think about leaving that stall,” said the drunk.
No problem, John thought. I’m rooted to the spot.
“If you take so much as a step toward me, I’ll punch you in the face.”
That sounds fair. I wouldn’t argue with that.
“You just wait until I’m gone. Then you can move.”
Sure thing, sir. I’ll even count to 60 and everything. John thought this, but was unable to say it out loud. Fear had paralyzed his vocal chords along with the rest of his body. Looking around at the others in the cramped room while the ornery drunk drained his bladder, John noticed that he wasn’t the only one stunned into silence, waiting for this unpleasant encounter to be over.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact only a few seconds, the drunk finished, shook, zipped and exited without even pausing at the sink outside the swinging door. Everyone who had been holding their breath – John included – exhaled in relief. Disaster – or at the very least a bloody nose – had been averted. Still, John noticed that nobody looked at him as he made his way to the exit.
As he pointedly washed his hands at the sink, he splashed some water on his face. It was only when he turned to grab a couple paper towels that he realized the dispenser was empty.