Follow me beyond the double arches, beyond the glass doors, beyond the Playland and the soda fountain. Follow me far and follow me further, past the ATM machine, past the bucket, mop and Slippery When Wet sign. Follow me to the farthest reaches of a fast food restaurant and pass into another world. Pass into:
The men's bathroom.
Now remember, you're not just following me. You're following me, Smiley, and Smartypants. And we're running. But why are we running? Is that your question? The answer is simple. Smartypants has to go potty, and the countdown has begun.
The bathroom door opens to reveal one handicapped stall and one urinal. We all shuffle into the stall and lock the door. It's okay. You can come to. There's plenty of room.
Smartypants yanks her pants down and I help her onto the toilet. The handicapped seat is quite high, and she's perched atop it staring down at her sister. For a moment at least, everything is well. She asks, "Why is there only one potty with a door in the boy's bathroom?"
Umm... "I don't know. Just finish up." I see you laughing. Stop laughing.
Then things get weird. The bathroom door opens and a man enters, clearing his throat loudly. I pay him no attention and urge Smartypants to hurry. She has other plans, and informs me she'll be on the toilet a few minutes longer.
The man outside the stall croaks and harrumphs. I can't hear what he's doing beyond the locked door, but I don't worry much. Some men make odd noises in the bathroom.
Meanwhile, lovable little Smiley relates in a loud voice, "There's a man out there, Daddy. What's he doing? He going potty?" Anyone in the bathroom can hear her, and probably anyone standing within three miles of the restaurant.
You're laughing again, aren't you? Stop it. By now I'm getting a little embarrassed. The fellow outside groans and complains in a deep rumbling voice. Actually, I'm a little angry. <span style="font-style: italic;">Shut up, dude</span>, I'm thinking. <span style="font-style: italic;">Be patient. Use the urinal.</span>
"Finish up," I beg Smartypants, who by now is whispering questions to me about the noisy man outside the door. Smiley sings something unintelligible, far too loudly. Then Smartypants spins toilet paper off the roll and laughs, spinning spinning unraveling and spinning. Smiley joins in. Daddy perspires. Everyone laughs, including you, but not me. I'm not happy.
Thankfully, Smartypants announces to the world she's finished. Smiley repeats her, "You're done poopy? Good job."
Another moan and a throat clearing phlegmy rumble from beyond the door.
We pull up pants and get all situated. We stop singing. We stop asking questions. I pick up the stray pieces of unrolled toilet paper and flush them. Then, some seventeen hours after we entered the bathroom, I open the stall door and prepare to give this fellow a nice evil glare. When I see him, I stop.
He's an old man in a wheelchair.
The image lessens my anger a bit. He wheels past us into the stall, grumbling and mumbling like the curmudgeon he is.
"Sorry we took so long," I offer.
He replies in a sour, gruff voice, "Me, too." And that's all he ever says. I close the stall door behind him, wondering if it's possible to lock him in. While I can certainly feel sympathy for his desperation, grumbling and whining from behind a closed door is no way to hasten a little girl conducting business on a potty.
Thankfully, on our way out, Smartypants comes to the rescue. "He's a loud man, Daddy."
As the bathroom door is about to close behind us, I smile. "Yes. Yes he is."
And now, when you tell this story to friends, you can say you were there.