I spent an hour in the mall over Thanksgiving weekend. That alone would be worthy of pity, but hold the sympathetic tears for a minute; it gets worse. I spent half of that time in the men’s room.
Okay, let the wailing begin.
While on our mall visit, my wife, who is uncannily in tune with such things, noticed something in the way our five-year-old was walking. “Do you have to go potty?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, which meant, “I do, but I’m really into these Christmas ornaments in the Hallmark store right now, so I’m gonna pretend I don’t.”
I led him down the corridor of despair that leads to the mall restrooms. Inside the men’s room, he took off his coat and handed it to me. I thought this unnecessary, but little boys have peculiar peeing habits.
He walked past the urinals toward the stalls. “Oh, it’s one of those?” I moaned.
“Yup. One of those.”
An inspection of the three choices led us to the least disturbing toilet. In my head, I heard my wife’s frantic voice demanding a buffer between her child’s precious behind and the germ-ridden seat. I wiped the seat with toilet paper and laid down one of those paper seat rings with the punch-out center. Having prepared his nest, I left the boy alone with his duty in the stall.
I placed myself in the sink area. That seemed like the most innocuous place for a figure lurking in the men’s room, with no legitimate business there, to stand. As people passed me to get to the urinals, I held my son’s coat prominently, testament that I wasn’t camping in the restroom without reason. It would have been more clever to hand out paper towels, but I’d left my tip jar at home.
One gentlemen said hello to me as he passed. I decided to relocate.
I retreated to the stall area. The other stalls were empty, leaving me free to converse through the door without raising a response from the wrong squatter. “Almost done?” I asked.
“Nope. When I do this, I do it slow,” he replied. “I’m not good at doing things fast.”
“Just keep plugging away then.”
I had to warn my wife. I went and stuck my head out the men’s room door.
“What’s taking so long?” she asked.
I held up two fingers.
Her eyes grew wide, like from some sharp, internal pain. “Oh my God! Did you put down toilet paper?”
I patted myself on the back as I nodded to her.
I returned to the stall door. “Almost done?”
I leaned against the wall, holding up my child’s coat of a flag for all to see. People came and went.
From behind that stainless steel door, came the sound of gentle humming – the melody of his favorite Christmas song: Carol of The Bells.
“Dum de de dum.
Dum de de dum.
Dum de de dum. . .”
It goes to show that even the horrors of a public men’s room can’t rob a child of his Christmas spirit.