The Bathroom Incident by Craig J. Clark

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.



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this makes me glad im a woman.
we get doors on our stalls.

another great read, craig.
*thumbs up*


You've done an exemplary job painting a picture here of the kind of things that I know I think about in public lavatories.

It's funny: your use of the word "duty" implies that he is a man who is in control of his surroundings; yet your matter-of-fact mentioning of his not having mastered upright wizzing just as quickly calls that into question.

Bonus points for mentioning the importance of keeping one's clothes off the floor, too. I wonder why no one ever taught me this growing up -- I had to figure it out myself, and even then, only in recent years.

Dabbing -- another good idea that just doesn't get brought up.

This whole piece is simply rife with the kinds of procedural concerns and anxieties that are present in any men's room that has more than one person in it. "d" is right to say she's appreciative of her two X-chromosomes: men's rooms are places of terror, where our sense of ourselves dangles tenuously by a thread.

Will there be water on the counter that we rest against, making it look like we've wizzed ourselves? Will our shoelaces get soaked in another man's stale urine? Will we fart at the urinal and not have something clever to say to brush it off? Will our pooping sounds amuse the others (who we don't want to be amused; who we don't even want knowing we're there)? Will our dates think we're weak for having even gone to the restroom in the first place? Will we inadvertently make eye contact, or worse, will we commit the Gravest Error ... absentmindedly STARTING a conversation?

The stalls in my high school lacked doors, too, you know (thank, you teen smokers!). I lived in fear of ever having to bake some brownies during the school day; I worked hard to force my body into a "before or after school" schedule on that front. In four academic years (roughly 720 days) of high school, I think I took fewer than four dumps at school; only one of which was in an open stall. That was a white-knuckle ride, let me tell you.

As for the others which might have occurred, thank goodness my associations with the Drama department granted access to the only student-available lavatories with locking doors.

Anyway, I'm glad you've addressed some of these issues in your fine story. In my opinion, not enough attention gets paid in fiction to peoples' more basic needs. I know they were supposed to have toilets on the Star Trek Enterprise (the Star Fleet Technical Manual said as much), and yet no one ever seemed to use them, or even mention having to use them or having just used them. You would think that at least the Klingons would have; they strike me as a people who would be proud of taking loud and stinky dumps, especially in Star Fleet toilets. I could see them surreptitiously "beaming" over to an SF ship just to do such a thing, in fact.

It's funny, and it makes me a little jealous, how women can all band together and make going to the restroom seem like a fun and fanciful group adventure. With us fellas, we just want to be left alone with our doubts and fears. Clean facilities and adequate paper products are tops on the list, too.

Wow. How does one follow a comment of that magnitude?

Having been to many a rock show, I feel John's pain -- the bathrooms at said shows are, by and large, nasty. In my opinion, this is where being a guy works out quite nicely. My deepest condolences to the poor ladies out there who must touch rump to those microbially-infested commode seats. I'd have to be mighty ill in order to "2" in any setting associated with the rock 'n' roll music, and, if I were that sick, I wouldn't go to the concert (unless it was Jonathan Richman, who I once went to see even though I was feverish, had body aches, and a cough that lasted a week and half beyond the date of the concert).

That said, this story would make a good comedy skit. Bruce McCullough as the drunk bully?

...And Kevin McDonald as John.

Also, ask a lady to describe to you the technique of "hovering" in nasty surroundings.

Leaving that comment really took it out of me, I'll tell you what.

I'm fully aware of this thing you call "hovering," but I'm also aware of the fact that this technique causes the majority of problems in the restrooms of lady-types. Cheeks must buss seat for optimum aim.

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This page contains a single entry by published on March 27, 2008 8:42 AM.

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