Good deed of the day
This morning at work, Fred walked in on a woman while she was sitting on the toilet. She had a physical therapy appointment, and was using the restroom tucked in the no-man’s land between the physical therapy offices and the break room they share with program staff at the gym. Fred walked into the break room where I sat with Caitlin and said:
“hey, there’s somebody in the bathroom,” as casually as if he were announcing there was an extra can of soda in the fridge.
“Really?” I asked, because I hadn’t heard any commotion. “If it had been me, you all would have known about it right away.”
“Yeah Fred,” Caitlin said, “how long were you in there?”
“I just washed my hands,” he replied. Caitlin and I exchanged glances.
“After you walked in on her?” I asked, “and she was okay with that?”
“Well yeah, I mean, I already saw her sitting there,” he said, “she just said “go ahead.”
I considered which was weirder – the fact that Fred went ahead and washed his hands in a restroom that was clearly occupied, or that a physical therapy patient allowed a strange man to wash his hands while she sat on the pot next to him. Getting walked in on while using a public toilet is one of my top five fears in life; it’s right up there with slipping on black ice and accidentally leaving the house with the iron plugged in. Whenever I have to use a public bathroom, which is often, because I work in a gym, I double check to make sure the door is locked, and sometimes keep a hand or a foot extended towards the door, just in case.
“So,” I said, “you figured, what had already been seen could not be unseen, so why not just go ahead and do what you went in for?”
“Well what else was I supposed to do?” Fred asked, “I wanted to wash my hands before I ate.” Caitlin and I exchanged glances again.
“Use the sink in the break room,” Caitlin suggested. Fred turned to face the counter where a sink lived next to a dish drain, right next door to a microwave and a 10 cup coffeemaker.
“Oh, yeah” he said. Then he launched into a story about a woman who accidentally plugged up her new boyfriend’s toilet while he was out of the apartment. According to Fred, the toilet began to overflow, but the woman couldn’t find a plunger anywhere. In desperation, she found a plastic bag and used it to remove the blockage, tied it shut, left the apartment, and only after the door had locked shut behind her realized that she’d left the plastic bag on the kitchen counter and had no way of getting back inside to dispose of it. Fred ended the story with: “she never saw him again.”
I felt like I’d heard this story before, like maybe it was an urban legend, or something I’d heard at a party, when my attentions turned to the woman who was now trapped in the bathroom between physical therapy and the break room. The walls were paper thin, and I was certain that she could hear our entire conversation from her throne of humiliation.
“She’s still in there,” I whispered, “she’s probably going to stay in there all day until she’s sure nobody is left here.” There are two doors to the break room, one on either end. I closed the one closest to the bathroom, so that the victim of Fred’s hand washing habits could at least exit the room with a modicum of dignity, and disappear into the relative anonymity of the physical therapy office. I consider it my good deed of the day.