Anyone who travels often inevitably collects a compendium of experiences or tales to dazzle and amaze their friends and colleagues. Many of these accounts are meticulously stored and crafted for years by we experienced racconteurs until the correct time and situation arrive. There is nothing more satisfying than experiencing the reactions of your listeners in rapt attention.
Still other stories are worth repeating until everyone has heard them multiple times, and are quickly filed into the "never not funny" category, even though they require a profuse apology to the poor soul at whose expense the account came to be. What follows is one of these.
Living in New York there are two basic principles which are apparent from the beginning: There are trash cans on every corner, and there are scarcely any public restrooms. Traveling to undisclosed locations in otherwise non-urban areas, one can expect exactly the opposite to be true. On a recent trip to an area in which restrooms should be plentiful and my rental car was already starting to feel like a trash can, I figured I should likely stop at the gas station and rid myself of the several liters of coffee and water I had consumed the couple of hours before heading into a meeting.
No big deal. I've done this before, right? Walk in. Do my business. Pick up a bottled water to refuel. Head on about my way. Go to meeting. Done.
The gas station restroom was out of order, and not just the men's room, but the women's room too. (For the record, I am not above using a single occupant women's room if it comes down to it. Desperate times...) The station attendant suggested trying the restaurant further down the road. As I arrived to the restaurant, I spot a "Closed" sign in the front window--Closed on Mondays. Terrific.
At this point, the side of the road seemed fairly appealing, though I remembered there was a Target a few miles away. Certain that they would not leave a potential customer in the lurch, I headed that way. I had been in this particular Target before, so I already had my plan of attack worked out, in addition to preparing to pull up my recent debit card transactions to prove that I had been a recent customer were there any question of my relationship with the store. I had no contingency plan further than this.
I walked into the store, and into the men's room. (I'd like to point out that there was a fully functioning women's restroom across the hall.) I walked past the stalls to the wall urinals on the other side. In the midst of relieving myself, I hear the door open and then a shuffle of footsteps. This is not unusual, though I'm now aware of another presence in the room. I continue, rather unaffected. The person entered the stall right next to me, and shuffled around a bit more. I look down and notice that there are clearly women's shoes on the other side of that wall, and the bottom of a skirt that was inching its way downward. Suddenly, all movement halted and froze. I then heard a very frail woman's voice from the other side say, "Oh no! Not again!!!"
I stopped. I looked around. I had no idea what to do, other than finish what I was doing and look for stage management to call the fire curtain. At the same time, I was worried. I hoped that she didn't need some kind of help. My mind raced: 'Oh no' can mean a lot of things-- We are talking about an older woman here. It was the 'not again' part which actually concerned me the most because it meant that whatever had just happened had happened before, which brought me back to the 'oh no,' indicating that it was not a wanted occurrence.
I made a deal with myself that I would take my time walking over to wash my hands and wait it out to see what was going to happen before I alerted someone else. (NB: My hands may actually still be clean from that washing.) It seemed like an eternity before she came out of the stall.
Calmly walking over to the sink, she sheepishly began to wash her hands. I finally worked up enough courage and said, "Excuse me, but... I couldn't help overhearing when you walked in, and you seemed concerned. Is there something I can get someone to help you with?" She shook her hands dry, looked straight at me, straightened up and said, "Oh, no, honey. I just ran out of toilet paper."
Another entirely different line of questioning fully opened, I stood there stupefied as she exited the restroom, asked no questions, and fled the store.