Chicago, IL-On Tuesday, an employee turned to the divine in an effort to sustain solitude whilst in the throes of a midafternoon ring piece onslaught after dabbling in a tray of Potbelly sandwiches, which were left out for an indeterminable amount of time.
“Once the door opens and the eager footsteps of a sniveling coworker become audible, there are certain desperate promises made to the Lord Almighty. Those promises are obviously exchanged for a moment of divine influence in which that coworker occupies anywhere in the bathroom except the stall adjacent to you,” said Bill Biscane, carefully turning his name badge over to maintain some level of perceived anonymity.
“My first born is not out of the question,” continued Biscane bracing himself for more carnage.
Like most people, Biscane is under the impression that, if there is a god, he/she/it would surely prove their existence by intervening in lifeless corporate bathroom scenarios. The perfect setting to prove their divine power and convert skeptics.
Unfortunately, the footsteps slowed and settled in the stall adjacent. Leaving Biscane sitting on the can pondering that he is in fact completely alone.
The groans were muffled, albeit still present, through the usually sound proof bathroom door. A sound that seemed to transition from immeasurable pain to improbable gratification echoed through the moist walls of the company bathroom as I entered. I assumed several substantial orcas were submerged somewhere in the depths of the bathroom stalls, bellowing their enduring mating calls. Or a herd of goats had been brought in for a routine office slaughtering. I briefly considered retreat but my bladder ached from several cups of weak coffee prior that morning. I passively glided towards the urinal, the primal urge of relief easily overpowering the suspicion of the unnatural howls resonating from the stall.
As soon as I reached the urinal the sounds ceased…almost immediately as they began and my biggest fear was on the verge of full realization. The beast that had somehow managed its way into a corporate bathroom stall was preparing to emerge. Unquestionably leaving whatever filth it had birthed to ruin the next unsuspecting employee’s day. The looming confrontation with whatever was clawing at the cardboard toilet paper transformed the pace of my urination from hurried to frenzied. There was still the slight possibility of escaping without conflict.
Just as the stream lightened and inevitably stopped, I heard the familiar creak of the stall door. I hastily zipped and spun around with the hope that I could at least be at the sink focusing deeply on drying my hands to avoid any discomforting eye contact. Unfortunately our eyes locked with the intensity of two people who had just suffered a near death experience together. I sheepishly smiled as though I hadn’t heard the several minutes of revolting, barely human cries prior and was met with a pair of judging eyes. As though it was somehow my fault that he was tormented by transcendent constipation.
Following him to the sink, I braced myself for another several seconds of excruciating silence. Then a saving thought…the Cubs had just defeated the Cardinals the previous night and the entire city had been buzzing about it…there was an opportunity for commonality after all. “Big win last night,” I suggested cheerfully. “I don’t like sports,” he replied dryly, his condemning eyes still suggesting I somehow influenced whatever poor diet was causing the blockage. “Neither am I,” I blurted, not taking the time to consider it made absolutely no sense given that I had made the original suggestion. “Not toooooooo…big into that much sports either,” I continued desperately but unsuccessfully trying to fill the silence. Our eyes met again in the mirror, he gazed even deeper with the melancholy eyes of a parent who had just discovered a VHS copy of Backdoor Busty Babes XII hidden strategically in the rarely used family bread maker.
Looking back on the interaction, perhaps it was my fault, maybe I could have done something to help…suggested a preventative daily regimen of probiotic months earlier…slid a laxative under the door…anything…but I did nothing.
We exited in silence, he thinking that I was a person that didn’t like sports and enjoyed being silently scolded in office bathrooms, me knowing that he was a man that disliked sports and presumably had a singular bowel movement monthly. The way those blaming eyes had probed the depths of my soul, I still feel somehow responsible for the anguish suffered that day.
The forceful gust was greatly unexpected and thus escaped both violently and noisily. I stood at the urinal relieved, and alarmed. The duration and immediacy of stomach turning scent were inhuman. As the last piercing, eye stinging whine escaped I heard the recognizable creak of the bathroom door opening. Now sheepishly residing in my own stench, I wondered how much the person had heard. If they had heard the entire thing, how deeply disturbed were they? It was an incredibly sobering moment.
It’s certainly always possible to blame a venomous fume on the stalls. Those stalls could take it. They were well equipped to be shamed, to neutralize the transcendent humiliation. There was always plausible deniability. It all came down to what the hell he had heard. Since I was the only one in the bathroom, if he had heard the rebel yell and smelled the ghastly aroma, only one conclusion could be drawn. The echo of the footsteps was agonizing. A glaze had gathered on my forehead.
As the person engaged the urinal, I turned to realize it was the CEO of the company. Someone, whom I had rarely engaged with, was now standing beside me, drenched in the sour, stagnant air. Death sentence. There was nothing I could say to excuse this. It had exceeded offensive, and was bordering on abusive. Then words. “Angry lunch today eh?” He had heard the whole thing. I somberly agreed that it was in fact an angry lunch that day, having nothing else to add. A resounding silence followed that still haunts me to this day.
Why mix business with pleasure?
I stood peacefully at the urinal, in what seemed at the time, a perfectly empty bathroom. There’s something incredibly calming about the rare circumstance of a completely uninhabited office bathroom. Though it smelled only recently vacated, at least I wouldn’t have to engage in a cripplingly awkward urinal conversation or listen to the sound of someone making in one of the adjacent stalls.
As I indulged in the amicable sound of my steady stream pulverizing the urinal cake, I heard something from the far end of the bathroom. The distinct very sound of someone, or something, ripping toilet paper. Then the hesitant flushing of a toilet. Had someone been there the whole time? Did they poop with their legs elevated so no one could tag them by the shoes they were wearing? I had considered this, but lacked both the flexibility and concern that someone would see me pooping. Were they even pooping? My mind was spinning and I was becoming visibly agitated.
My once undisturbed sanctuary had been invaded by some heathen. The most confusing part was they appeared to be making a bee line for the urinal next to me. What the hell was going on in that stall? I racked my brain. I had to get the hell out of there, but I had four cups of coffee that morning. I made a valiant push but was unsuccessful. How was this piss taking this long? I need to get my prostate checked.
As the person approached the urinal we locked up in a reflective, deeply uncomfortable stare. I tried to think of something to diffuse the situation as the bathroom walls seemed to be crumbling around me. I glanced back at the stall he had just exited from and then back at him and painfully muttered “Why mix business with pleasure am I right?” Holy shit, what did that even mean? Was that a John Travolta acting like Nicolas Cage line from Face off? I had never said that before and it likely wasn’t applicable in this situation, or any situation for that matter. A deafening silence ensued that carried all the way through the washing of hands and exiting of the bathroom. I never talked to that person again.
What the hell were they doing in that stall?