|Bathroom Stall by mirrormasked|
Have you ever gone into a stall in a public bathroom, sat down, then noticed that the person next to you isn’t making any noise?
None. At. All.
No grunts, squirts, or plunges. No tugs on the toilet paper roll. No wiping. No snorting, chewing, or coughing. No tapping of their feet or snapping of their fingers. No clickity click sounds of their iPad or iPhone. No talking, humming, or singing. No moaning or slapping sounds. No sounds of their belt buckles, badges, pagers, or other belt accessories, brushing against the tile floor. No jingling of jewelry or beeps of their digital watches. No turning of pages or that familiar crinkle sound of a newspaper or magazine. No laughing or crying. No heavy breathing.
Some may argue that not hearing any noises from the stall next to you is a good thing. After all, noises in a public bathroom are often associated with, and followed by, terrible smells. Sometimes these smells can cause your eyes to water, your gag reflexes to kick in, or make you pray for a quick death. But silence is worse. Much worse, as the story I’m about to share with you will prove.
|Karl's Toys & Hobbies|
It was 1986. I had just turned 16 and landed a sweet job at Karl’s Toys & Hobbies in the Fashion Show Mall on the Las Vegas Strip. My high school girlfriend was pregnant and I had been scouring the pavement looking for a job, when finally I got a call back to Karl’s. I was so excited. I needed the money, and what 16 year old wouldn’t want to work at a toy store?
Consuelo was the assistant manager and my trainer. She was from Cuba and had a very strong Cuban accent. She was also very strict. When she got angry, which seemed to happen quite often, she would shout out random, long-winded sentences in Spanish. They seemed random to me because I had no idea what she was saying.
On my first day on the job she laid down the rules: code of conduct, dress code, schedule, and timeliness. She emphasized the dangers of tardiness and to be on time when you came back from breaks and lunches. If you were late a write-up would soon follow, and after 3 write-ups you would be out the door.
No problem, I thought. I’ve always followed the motto, “If you’re not at least 15 minutes early, then you’re late. Plus having a newborn on the way was enough to keep me plenty motivated to walk the straight and narrow and do whatever it took to keep my job.
Consuelo approached me on my first day. “Time for you to take a break. You can take a 15 minute break, or a 30 minute lunch.”
|The Fashion Show Mall as it appears today.|
I wasn’t hungry, so I decided to take a 15. I didn’t smoke and we didn’t have cell phones or internet back then to occupy my time, so there wasn’t much for me to do on a 15 minute break. I decided to take a stroll of the mall. It wasn’t your average mall. Never mind the fact that it was on the Vegas Strip, it was also loaded with stores I had previously only seen on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Sax Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, etc. etc.
Two minutes into my stroll I realized that I had a turtlehead poking out and needed to drop the kids off at the pool. Instead of backtracking to work to do the deed, I decided to find the mall bathroom. Besides, a fancy mall had to have nice fancy bathrooms.
So I thought.
To my disappointment, I opened the bathroom door to find a small, cramped, plain-looking bathroom with only two stalls. The clock was ticking – literally and figuratively – so I made my way over to the stalls. My modus operandi is to always go to the furthest stall away from the door; it limits the number of people you have sit next to and generally they are larger stalls made for the handicapped. That stall was taken, so I took the only other available seat.
I did my business while contemplating the mysteries of life. At least what a teenage boy my age understood them to be. Finished, I reached over to grab some toilet paper only to find it empty. Zoiks! No problem, every bathroom stall has a place for two rolls for just such an occasion.
Second one was empty too. No worries, that’s what those toilet seat tissue condoms are for. I reached behind me.
It was empty too.
My plan? To wait for the guy next to me finish and then walk over to the other stall and take some from there. It seemed logical. It seemed like a solid plan. Other than pulling my pants up and going all caveman, it seemed like the ONLY plan.
So I waited.
It occurred to me as I waited that the person next to me hadn’t made a sound the entire time I’d been in there. Not a peep. It also occurred to me that he had been in there much longer than I and still hadn’t finished, and that for some odd reason, I couldn’t see his feet on the floor.
I waited some more.
The clock was ticking and I was starting to get nervous that I was going to be late coming back from my break. Hurry up dude!
I began to wonder if I had mistook the closed door to the other stall as I sign that it was occupied. As I considered the possibility, the door to the bathroom opened and a tall man – I could see his head over the stalls – walked in and opened the stall door next to me. I guess it wasn’t locked. Damn it! That meant it was empty and I had wasted all that time for nothing. Worse, the stall would soon be occupied by a fresh body, which meant more waiting for me.
After opening the stall door the man mumbled, “Uh… um oh, sorry,” and shut the door.
For about a millisecond I was a little relieved, because maybe the added pressure of knowing other people were waiting for the stall would spur this dude to hurry up. Before I had finished that thought, the tall man bolted out the door like bat out of hell. I guess he really had to go.
I buried my face in my hands and noticed a very peculiar and disturbing thing. I still have nightmares. There are just some memories you wish you could use hot bleach and a wire brush on. Where the man’s feet should have been was a pair of knees facing towards the toilet. They were either knees or amputated legs. My brain would not allow me to linger on the scene to try and figure it out. It didn’t want to figure it out. It just wanted OUT.
I began to panic.
I was late for work. I had a dirty butt with which no means to clean, and now I had some weirdo in the stall next to me doing who knows what and wanting to add me to the mix. It couldn’t possible get worse.
The guy… it… thing… it could have been an alien as far as I was concerned, was a magician. In what seemed like something from a morbid carnival magic show, his knees were magically replaced with a note – blue ink scribbled on a piece of torn toilet paper – that was on the ground and facing directly towards me.
My mind was racing; still frazzled by what I had just witnessed. I was finding it difficult to focus on anything, let alone the mysterious note. I leaned down close to read it; my heart pounding in my chest.
“Do you want me to suck you off?”
I had run track in school. I played a little football. I was never very fast, but I doubt Carl Lewis could have caught me that day. I jerked up my pants and was out the door before the toilet lid hit the seat.
|It All Ends Here by Destroy-The-Map|
At first I was scared; terrified. As I rushed back to work, those feelings morphed into disgust and raw anger. My mind began playing out all sorts of scenarios, all of which included me going back to that bathroom, kicking the stall door open, shoving a double-barrel shotgun into his/it’s mouth, and screaming, “SUCK ON THIS!” as I pulled the trigger.
But I couldn’t. My job was on the line and I had a newborn on the way that was counting on me to provide – that and I didn’t have a double-barrel shotgun handy.
When I got back to work, Consuelo was waiting for me. She gave me that look, but I didn’t pause. I ran right past her and straight for the employee’s bathroom to clean myself up. I don’t know what she saw in my eyes or what horrid look I had etched on my face, but she never said a word to me about being late. Not that day or any day following, and Mrs. Consuelo was never one to shy away from confrontation or giving me a piece of her mind.
It took me a long time to get over what happened that day. Even now, as I am writing this, some 26 years later, it leaves me feeling uneasy – sick to my stomach.
Michael A. Walker
"Like" Defying Procrastination on Facebook!