By KIM POINDEXTER
Strange things happen in public restrooms. I don’t mean the kinds of things that make headlines when pop singer George Michael or former Republican Sen. “Wide Stance” Larry Craig hang around stalls, looking for action that should take place a reasonable distance from toilets. I’m just talking about everyday, run-of-the-mill, casual comments and quirks that accompany human beings in their perpetual quest to rid themselves of bodily waste.
I told you a few years ago how my cousin Kelley chunked a rock into a septic tank outside an outdoor facility at Lake Fort Gibson, causing a backsplash that doused her brother and me in unspeakable filth.
If you care to refresh your memory on that sordid tale and other bits of bathroom humor, they’re still available at http://tahlequahdailypress.com/columns/x966119018/On-plumbers-boo-boo-and-the-infamous-Green-Room.
The incident involving my cousins was not funny at the time, especially when our antics were topped off by a round of spankings from our respective parents. But sometimes, restrooms provide terrific fodder for standup routines. I always behave with discretion when in a public facility, because these days, you never know when some up-and-coming comedian will be in there with a smartphone.
When I was in seventh grade at Fort Gibson, the high school band went to Six Flags Over Texas, and they let some of the “little kids” procure seats on the bus. We stopped at a Howard Johnson’s along the way, and some of us went to the restroom, where a lock on each stall had the audacity to demand a dime for the privilege of perching on a potty. Knowing we’d need every bit of spare change for Cokes and cotton candy later, we played rock-paper-scissors, and the loser crawled under a stall.
Moments later, we realized we weren’t the only patrons, when we heard a woman doing what I can only describe as “coaching” herself. She’d utter a loud grunt and mumble, “Get-it-out-get-it-out-get-it-out-GET-IT-OUT!” and follow it up with a long, drawn-out sigh before inhaling audibly and repeating her mantra. We all began giggling uncontrollably and fled the room.
I think this incident imprinted itself on my brain, causing me to observe things other people wouldn’t even notice. Or maybe I’m wrong about that.
Back in 2006, when my brother was still living in Oxford, we went for a visit, and he took us pub-crawling. At some point, I visited the facilities at one of the pubs, and the girl in the next stall over said to me, “I say... do you have any pay-pah?” There was an extra roll in my stall – one of those huge ones that goes in a machine – so I slid it underneath and said, “Here you go.” When both of us emerged, she asked, “I say, are you an American?” I said I was, and for some reason, she thought that was cool.
Then she pointed to her friend, who was weaving like a snake being charmed out of a basket by a turbaned oboe player, and said, “My friend is p*ssed. Not p*ssed like you Americans say it, like mad, but p*ssed like drunk.” I thought she was stating the obvious, especially when the friend ran back into a stall and regurgitated.
A few years ago, I walked into the bathroom at a local store, and all of the stalls were initially occupied. The patrons had apparently been there for quite some time, judging by the aroma. I just needed to blow my nose, but I went into a stall, and a few seconds later, an employee whose voice I recognized came in with another woman, and they were dragging with them what sounded like a mop bucket on wheels.
The gal blurted out, “Shoooo-wee! Smells lack summun been eatin’ AIGS!” Needless to say, none of the stall occupants ventured out until the two employees had left. None of us wanted to stand accused as the egg-eater.
Some commode episodes can put the kibosh on future business with the establishment. My husband and I used to have a favorite Mexican restaurant in Tulsa until I went in the restroom one day to see an elderly woman helping her granddaughter wash her hands. The woman had either forgotten to pull up her pants when she finished her business, or hadn’t yet bothered. I won’t describe the specific reason for my trauma, but it probably didn’t help that after I left the bathroom, I glanced into the nearby kitchen to see one of the busboys mining for gold up to the third knuckle, a faraway look in his eyes. We haven’t eaten there since.
I’ve been the unfortunate witness to so many of these dramas that my husband and son have taken to asking me, when I come out of a public restroom, “Well, what happened this time?” Occasionally they get lucky and don’t have to hear any tawdry tales.
A word of warning, though: If you have to go, then go – and get out. Though I don’t take notes, I have an extensive enough collection of these stories in my head to write an entire book, and you don’t want to be one of the chapters.
Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.