Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Bathroom

If you haven't heard me say it before, I'm a writer. Its just something I've always done. Sometimes I look at something later and think its embarrassing, but I found this little ditty I wrote about an experience in a bathroom at Union Station in Chicago and rather like it. I hope you do, too.

The bathroom is crowded, hot and muggy. The grime-covered floor is slippery, suggestive of the dirty feet and dripping hands that have moved over it continually for as long as its existed. The tiles are grey, the grout black, as if to suggest it had never been clean to begin with.

Women crowd the three small sinks, balancing bags and purses and umbrellas under their arms and between their knees as they try, with each futile pump, to free some soap from the tank. Giving up, many walk away with dripping wet, cold hands. Others take a moment to use the new Dyson hand dryers that seem to be some part of a Star Trek set. Those that do leave slightly confused as to whether they worked properly or not.

I stand in line, waiting, silently cursing myself for not having used the rest room back at work, where the floors were pristine and the toilets flushed automatically.

The small space is cramped, as women in line need to shuffle out of the way of those triyng to dry their hands. Once moved over, we in line need to move back, as stall doors fly open and more bodies emerge with more bags.

The shuffle continues - back, forth, back, forth until finally I'm at the head of the line. The nearest stall door opens, and reveals a large black woman in a heavy, ankle-length coat with two winter hats upon her head. She is clearly wearing everything she owns.

Dark over-sized sunglasses cover half her face as she murmurs under her breath something that isn't completely coherant. I smile, the woman behind me smiles, as if we can offer her that one small bit of happiness and generosity and that will somehow make her feel better. Her troubles less...troublesome.

She continues to prattle on, to no one in particular as she hefts her pack off that putrid floor and another coat from her hook on the door.

"They should do something about that, you know," she says to me as I secretly hope the next stall's occupant finishes up before the Bag Lady moves to the sink area. Then if I take the second stall, I wouldn't look rude, like I didn't want to sit where this woman has sat just moments before, doing God knows what. I'd look like I was being polite to the woman behind me. As though I was moving out of her way so that she could more easily access *her* stall.

Bag Lady lumbers through the narrow area, so that each of us waiting has to press our bodies and our bags more tightly up against the wall, grimacing as we each imagine what is covering it's surface.

Looking up, I see stall #2's occupant is shuffling around inside the 2x2' space, but still isn't ready to vacate.

I sigh and enter Bag Lady's stall.

The toilet seat has one of those automatic plastic seat-liner things, and I hit the button with my toe, causing it to whirr into action and shoot out a fresh layer of plastic. Not the most enviro friendly, but ass friendly. Hopefully Swine Flu free.

I'm not a hoverer, so I sit. One day my children will be an evolved species due to their more enhanced immune systems. I chuckle out loud at the thought.

Great, now I sound just like her.

TP is different, though, it touches "inside places", so with two fingers I rip off the 12" she's left hanging there touching the floor and stuff it into the square box hanging on the wall for "sanitary napkins."

Why'd I just touch that? I should have just wiped with the TP.

I finish up and exit the stall to find Bag Lady is still there, murmuring away, and that she really IS a bag lady. She has nearly a dozen plastic grocery bags tied to the straps of her backback and coat, like she's preparing to take a dozen dogs out for a walk.

"I wish they wouldn't do that," she says, coughing (GREAT). The cough turns into a laugh and she throws her head back, enjoying her own joke. The other women just look like they wish she weren't in the way.

Her plastic-laden backpack on her back, she hoists another bag from the dirty floor, which is filled with more plastic grocery bags.

"We'll see y'all soon!" she chirps, leaving the room.

And then its strangely quiet.


Denise said...

You're a great writer, Colleen! I think I could be one too, if I just took the time to sit down and put some of the stories swirling around in my head on paper. It's almost like I go through my day writing little stories in my mind. Wish they could somehow appear on paper, via osmosis : )

Roger said...

Thanks for taking me to that scary place! :) And here I thought that the women's room was a paradise filled with flowers, couches and sunshine.

Andrea said...

You made me feel dirty just by reading it! lol

I have a phobia of public bathrooms. Especially when they are *that* gross and nasty. blech...

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I love the layers in this piece.