Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pooping Far from Home

I'm not much of a traveler. I enjoy the occasional road trip, but I don't make a habit of going too far from home. Rarely out of state. It's not that I don't WANT to go farther, it's just that the longer the trip, the more expensive it gets when you start adding extra tanks of gas, hotels, food, police bribes, etc. Because I'm poor, this isn't usually an option for me except on special occasions. Last year, for my birthday, my family all chipped in and bribed a policeman for me. They're swell.

Today I took one of my shorter, in-state trips. I live in Michigan, specifically the Grand Rapids area (...ladies), and I drove to the outskirts of Detroit as a favor to a friend.

"Why don't you drive to Detroit?" she suggested, hurling insults and objects. "You're crummy."

"I'll show you!" I said, ducking. "I will totally go to Detroit and/or its surrounding areas!"

And I did, too, which is where I am now, making things up. I'm hooked in to the free WiFi at the Wayne Public Library in Wayne, Michigan. I'm sitting next to a little Christmas tree facing a magazine rack. There's a WebMD magazine! That strikes me as odd, since it's a magazine that costs money about a website that is free to visit. But never mind. The library itself would be pretty familiar to anyone who has ever been inside a library. What I would like to tell you about, dear readers, is the bathrooms.

"But Foodaddy!" you whine to your monitor because you think that's going to help. "I don't want to hear about bathrooms! Those are gross!"

Well, fine. Go pick up a copy of Blog of Stupid Magazine, then, and read something else. Only five bucks.

As a Secretly Awkward Man who suspects himself of being a Publicly Awkward Man, I approached the bathroom with some trepidation, as I was carrying my laptop (this one). I was happy to find that the bathroom's entrance was in the lobby, and not in the library proper. This would allow me to sneak in undetected, and not have to worry about people being suspicious. "Wonder what he plans on doing in there with that laptop," they would wonder aloud, perhaps to their child. "If it has a webcam, I bet it's unspeakable. He looks like the type who would be unspeakable."

Alas, I was spared this difficulty, because the door was locked. There was a placard informing me of this, and further explaining that to unlock the door, you had to see The Front Desk. I figured a kindly library staffer would give me a key tied to a big stick like at some gas stations, but their setup here at WPL is considerably more elaborate and 21st century.

"Hello! First of all, I am carrying a laptop, which means I would like to avail myself of your complimentary Wireless Internets, should you be so equipped!" I hooted.

"You can just sit anywhere and have at it," the lady said with a smile.


Then I stood there for 30 seconds, smiling oafishly.

"Oh, right. Is there anything I have to do to log in? Use my library card? Because I'm from Grand Rapids!" I said, like that explained everything. Maybe it did.

"Nope, it's just a straight connection. No passwords or anything."

"Excellent. Now, before I embark on that endeavor, I have one other thing I must accomplish. I must use your bathroom. There was a sign," I pointed, just in case, "on the door that said I must first come here to be allowed to poop. I would like to be allowed."

"Certainly. We'll buzz you in when you get to the door."

"Capital! And if you would be so kind as to keep a watchful eye on this," I said, suavely dipping my hand behind the counter and depositing my laptop (this one) on her desk. "I don't want anyone to think I'm being unspeakable! Ha! Ha!"

And then I made a dash to the bathroom door. What marvelous technology is available these days, to even Michigan's cash-starved public sector! It was as if I were approaching the apartment home of a good friend who looked out a window and saw me coming! Except that this time, instead of getting a bucket of lukewarm pudding dumped on me, the door's electric lock clicked, and I gained access.

I found myself in a square room, a bit bigger than a walk-in closet. At first, I thought I had entered a closet. It wouldn't have been the first time I got my directions jumbled and wandered into a room full of boots and coats in search of a toilet. But this room was entirely empty, except for me and a light switch.

I turned the light on.

"What odd customs these East-Siders have!" I remarked, noting again the lack of even a single toilet. I looked down at the floor. "And their carpet-cleaning technology must be years ahead of our own."

Then I spotted another door. Cunningly placed on the opposite side of the room as the one I had entered by, it seemed almost purposely designed to fool the unwary outsider who wasn't paying attention to which way he was facing when he entered. Aside from different hinges, latching mechanisms and colors, the doors were identical.

This second door led into the actual bathroom, a modern affair with the lone toilet caged in a stainless-steel stall, and a urinal I didn't pay any attention to.

"Now, to poop!" I squealed, removing my jacket. I feel weird wearing a coat and pooping. It seems uncouth somehow. Anyone who knows me knows that I am most couth.

As I set about my work, I realized I hadn't turned on the light. High windows let in some daylight, but it was pretty dim. Evidently, there was a system in place to alert you of your failure to properly illuminate your work area, as I was accompanied by a persistent beeping. It was kind of like the dinging your car emits when you leave your lights on. Except, like, in reverse.

I sat there, getting beeped at, becoming increasingly concerned. What if the beeping in here corresponds to a warning light on a control panel out at The Front Desk? What if they grow suspicious and send someone in to investigate? Worse, what if another member of the public comes in and wonders why I'm pooping in the dark? "What does he have to hide?" they might wonder, making a hasty exit to report me to The Front Desk for being unspeakable.

That would be awkward. "Here's your laptop back. Why didn't you turn on the lights in the bathroom? Our sensors indicate that they were off the entire time you were in there. We don't mean to pry, but state law dictates that we add people like you to a list."

I whimpered a little.

All went smoothly, however, and I was not investigated, interrogated, or constipated. I was pleased to find that the sinks were not of the "push and hold" type of water-saving public fixtures with a big button you have to hold down with your foot while you wash your hands. I have tried holding the button with one hand and sort of squeezing some soap around in the other, rinsing, then switching hands, but as a gentleman of considerable couth, this half-assed approach does not sit well with me. Often, I hire a nearby orphan to hold the button down for me. When no orphans are available, I use my foot.

Exiting the bathroom, I briefly considered turning on the light switch, but decided against it. "No use in turning it on now! How ridiculous!" I hooted to my--oops, left my jacket hanging in the stall. Fetching it and again making my way to the strange anteroom, I turned its (entirely unnecessary) light off and re-approached The Front Desk. The lady who I had entrusted my laptop's safety to was nowhere to be found, having been replaced by another woman of entirely different composition a couple of seats down.

"Urg," I stated.

She was helping a patron, and I didn't want to interrupt. I coyly reached over the counter and snagged my laptop, tucking it under my arm and skittering off into the Children section, braking, saying "urg," again, and skittering the other way into the Adults section.

It is here you will find me, refreshed and calm once more, the seasoned veteran of travels, awaiting my friend's call. Oh, what an adventure today has been!