Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Boldly Go (Where Few Men Have Gone Before)

It seemed simple enough: a nice afternoon of dinner and shopping with The Wife and kids. Little did I know I'd end up in total darkness in a large, dank, filthy, locked room.

The day started pleasantly. The Wife was home from work for Spring Break (she teaches school), so we attempted to take the opportunity to actually sleep in. And, amazingly enough, the kids let us! We didn't get out of bed until after 9:00 AM, and I can't over-emphasize how unusual that is compared to our norm. I'm pretty sure Roni was up and awake before then, but in another stunning turn of events, she didn't follow standard operating procedure and whine at us or whack at us until we were awake.

We lazed about the house for the rest of the morning, doing a whole lot of not much. While off for her break, The Wife likes to make us nice breakfasts. The kids, being the contrarians that they are, prefer cold cereal. (Really? Rice Krispies over french toast? More proof that they have a lot to learn.)

Eventually we got showered, dressed, and ready for the world. It was the one day of her break that The Wife and I both had off work, so we decided to make the most of it. Spring Break, for most people, means a trip to the beach or someplace warm, with lots of fun and parties. Us? No. For us, Spring Break meant splurging on a late lunch at Olive Garden (we had a gift card), followed by an afternoon of shopping. (Yup, we are living on the edge!)

Because of the slow rollout of our morning, we didn't get to the Olive Garden until after 2:30 PM. I thought that at that time of day the restaurant would be pretty empty, but, although we were seated immediately, most of the other tables were full. (It just goes to show that breadsticks will have their sway, no matter the time of day.)

Roni likes the Olive Garden, but she didn't always. A year or so ago she was very excited one night to hear that we were going out to eat. She then became very disappointed that we weren't going to McDonald's or Wendy's. She was only appeased when we got to the Olive Garden and she saw their sign, which features grapes. "Oh, grapes!" she said, excitedly. "I like grapes!" She became a fan of Olive Garden that night. So much so that on this day as we passed one of her favorites she said, "Oooo, McDonald's! (slight pause) But I'd rather go to Olive Garden!"

Why grapes? Why not olives?

When we got there, Buzz was very enthused to see and tell us about the "purple grapes" on the Olive Garden sign. Roni wondered why the sign featured grapes instead of olives. (Which seemed like a legitimate question to me.) Both kids were ecstatic when they got purple grapes as their "side" with their meals. I got a calzone, which was delicious, although not as good (or as big) as the homemade ones The Wife makes.

Our whole dining experience was excellent, except for when the waitress cleared Roni's plate (while Roni and The Wife were on a bathroom break) even though there was still food on it. (I turned my head for a brief second and the plate was gone.) (I had been eyeing the one piece of pizza Roni had yet to take a bite out of.) (Part of my Daddy duty is to finish food that the kids can't.) (I relish this duty.) (Mmmm.....relish.)

We then started Phase 2 of our Spring Break Extravaganza: shopping!

The Wife wanted to go to The Fabric Store. I did not. But, I did want to go to the sporting goods store two doors down from The Fabric Store, so I was fine with this destination. (I needed to get myself some new socks.) (That's right, who needs Spring Break in Cancun when you could have Olive Garden and new socks?)

This was only the second time in my life that I had ever set foot in The Fabric Store. (Not its real name.) (The name has been changed to protect...well, me, I guess, in case I say something too derogatory about the store.)

The Fabric Store is a paradise for a man's man like me! They don't just have fabric. They have fabric and crafts! And it's not just fabric and crafts. It's fabric and crafts and knick-knacky stuff!!! It's every man's dream store!
[The preceding paragraph has been brought to you by sarcasm.]

I thought I would be taking one of the kids with me to the sporting goods store (you know, divide and conquer), but it turned out The Wife was going to meet her mother at The Fabric Store. And, as much as my kids love me (and they do), they'll cast me aside like three-week old newspaper if it means a chance to see Grammy. Grammy trumps all, even Daddy, or Super Why, or Word Girl.

So, I was about to make my escape from The Fabric Store when several of the Olive Garden breadsticks I had eaten sent me a very clear message. (I told you those breadsticks will have their sway.) I asked The Wife for directions, she pointed to the front corner of the store, and I was off to one of the most lonely places in the whole world: The Men's Room at The Fabric Store!

I wondered, for a brief moment, if they even had a men's room at The Fabric Store. But, of course, they do. (For the same reason they have a women's restroom at the Star Trek convention. I think they are legally obligated.)

As I approached the men's room at The Fabric Store, I imagined a pristine, clean, never-been-used place. I was wrong. I opened the door to find a large, filthy, stinky room.

I was surprised by how big the room was. It easily could have housed two toilet stalls and three or four urinals. And yet, all that was there was a toilet in the far corner and a sink. The room was at least three times bigger than the trucker's cave at work. (For more about the disgusting bathroom at my work, the trucker's cave, see The Quest For the Ring or The Room Without a View.) But, since there was only one toilet inside, I was forced to lock the door behind me. (Don't want anyone walking in on me while I'm seated. It would be even more awkward than usual with all that extra space in the room.)

I walked over to the toilet and was pleased (there's that sarcasm again!) to see the toilet seat covered with another man's urine. (I've said before that I thought "Another Man's Urine" would make a really good name for a really bad rock band. Given more consideration, I've decided that it also would make a really good title for the next novella by Stephen King.) So, before I could sit down to do my business I had to clean off the seat.

Having cleaned the seat to the best of my ability, I sat to take care of the things I went into that room to take care of. All was fine until two minutes later when the room went completely dark. Motion lights!

There are times and places where motion lights can and should be utilized. Up until my experiences of that day, I would have thought the men's room at The Fabric Store would have been a perfectly acceptable place for motion lights. I would have been wrong. There are no windows in the men's room at The Fabric Store. It gets very dark, very quickly. And, no amount of waving my hands while sitting on the toilet would persuade the motion lights to light back on. I was in the dark.

And that, of course, is when I found that the men's room at The Fabric Store is not the loneliest place in the world. Because that is when someone came to the door and wiggled the handle, trying to get in. I wondered if they could see from the crack at the bottom of the door that it was dark inside and wondered what kind of weirdo would lock himself into the men's room at The Fabric Store in complete darkness. I worried that they might try to go find a manager to open this locked, "empty," men's restroom.

Finally, after leaving the toilet and doing a few jumping jacks in the vast expanse of the room, I was able to convince the motion lights that yes, indeed, there was someone in the room and that the lights should be on. I was positive that my experience in the men's room at The Fabric Store couldn't get any worse. And then it did.

I turned on the sink, rinsed my hands, and reached for the soap dispenser. There was no soap in the soap dispenser. I pushed and pushed and pushed, but no soap would come out. Okay, I could deal with that. I rinsed and soaked my hands in the hot water. (Hey, at least the water did get hot. And it wasn't a motion sensor sink.)

After soaking and scrubbing my hands as best I could without soap, I turned off the water and reached for a paper towel. Yes, you guessed it, no paper towels! Not even an ineffective hand dryer blower. Just an empty paper towel dispenser. So, I was forced to do the hand hokey pokey (you put your right hand in and you shake it all about) with both of my hands to shake as much of the water off as I could. Then I used my pants legs as towel stand-ins. (Being very grateful that I didn't wear shorts that day.)

As I made my escape from the men's room at The Fabric Store, I wondered what the women's room was like. Surely they took better care of it than they did the men's room, right? Did they, like me, think that no one would ever use the men's room at The Fabric Store? Is that why it was in such a state of disrepair? I'm just not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that the next time I go to the Olive Garden, maybe I won't eat quite so many breadsticks.

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