Lessons Learned. Life Lived.

It’s time to dig once again into the Public Bathroom Risk-Taker Mailbag! Let’s see what you’ve all got for me:

Q: Dear Public Bathroom Risk-Taker,
Exactly how silently judgmental would you estimate the staff at the 19th Street Taco Bell to be when it comes to people coming in off the street just to use their bathroom? -Sandy from Northwest

A: An excellent query, Sandy. I’ve had my share of close calls at the 19th Street location and I’m here to tell you that their eyes might as well hold flaming arrows of shame and damnation. I’ve found that the best technique to use there is to literally get in line, consider the menu board for at least sixty seconds with a squint of the eyes and a stroke of the chin, and then feign painful stomach distress. Only then might you manage to enter and exit the bathroom without being pummeled with invisible, wordless contempt. The fact that the staff doesn’t seem to care at all that you just used the bathroom without buying something is exactly the kind of mind game they love to play---and I do not recommend that game for the weak of heart.

Q: Dear Public Bathroom Risk-Taker,
What has your experience been with the Burger King on Walnut Avenue----the so-called “Impenetrable Fortress”? -Mark from Southeast

A: Well Mark, I can only say truthfully that the Walnut Avenue Burger King took about four years off my life, so narrow was my escape the first time I went there. The close proximity of the public bathroom to the counter, the sparse crowds that make you stand out, the single-stall design of the bathroom which can lead to a terrifying wait outside the door if it’s occupied----all these things contribute to the place’s reputation as a true gauntlet for even a seasoned public bathroom risk-taker. I’ve found that even starting to order and then asking for a minute to “think about it” to allay suspicion of your intentions of using the toilet for free does nothing to throw them off the scent of deceit. These bloodhounds are especially adept at spotting the old I’m Meeting Someone Here And Am Just Looking Around For Her When I Happen To Spot A Bathroom ruse. Oh, sure, you can’t see anything on the staff’s faces that proves they’re secretly looking down on you, but it’s there. I would advise outright stealth: crouching and sneaking hurriedly past the counter might just get you to the tall potted plant on the east side of the restaurant, which can provide an adequate screen for you to get into the hallway unnoticed. After you’ve relieved yourself, your only realistic option is going out through the emergency exit, setting off the alarm. Better the public at large sees you running from the building at top speed than one of the cashiers realizes you only came in to pee and not purchase anything. God only knows what stories they’ll tell of you once they get home to their families.

Q: Dear Public Bathroom Risk-Taker,
Help! I find myself trapped in the men’s room of an Arby’s, I’m not even sure which one. I breezed past the counter okay upon entering the place and practically waltzed into the bathroom unnoticed, completely in the clear and ready to take advantage of the facilities without spending a penny----but then one of the cashiers started talking to his friend just outside the door for a half an hour, trapping me inside, and by the time he stops, I fear the place will be closing for the night! There is NO WAY that I can get out of here without him KNOWING that I was never interested in a roast beef sandwich or even a small order of fries, that in fact my ONLY desire was to shamefully go to the bathroom and just leave again! What do I do?? -Bill from West North

A: Bill, I feel your pain. I can only hope my other readers don’t suffer the same fate. Remember, folks, it’s better to go to extremes to avoid being suspected by total strangers of public bathroom freeloading than to wind up doomed to being spotted. In the past two weeks I have twice scaled the side of the Union Square McDonald’s, slithered into the crawlspace above the john, and dropped through the ceiling tiles so as not to be seen. I’m not going to say I didn’t hurt myself rather badly, but what counts is that the minimum wage staff I have no connection with was utterly oblivious. And that’s a victory you can’t put a price on.

Until next week, friends!