WHY I'LL STICK TO MY ICE CREAM BUCKET
An Essay by, Polly PI
I finished up my casework for the day yesterday and was heading home. I was really in need of a bathroom, however, and so I stopped at a gas station before I hit the interstate.
This area is definitely a 10 on the Scary Neighborhood Scale (SNS). It's late in the afternoon and there seem to be a lot of people hanging around. I park and lock up the truck. As I walk toward the gas station entrance I notice there is a black man, 6'2", 35 years, 175 lbs sitting on the curb by the door. He is watching me intently and smiling. There is a huge gap where his bottom two front teeth used to be. Just your friendly neighborhood Crazy Guy. Hi, Crazy Guy!
I pass Crazy Guy and give him a cursory smile and nod. He stands up, steps in front of me, and says, "Oh, no, no, no! You can't be touchin' that door handle. It's not clean! A beautiful, pure thing like you shouldn't be touching anything that ain't clean."
He pulls the door open for me and gestures for me to go inside. Yikes. I cross the threshold and thank him. Inside I look for the bathroom. Sigh. Of course. It's one of those places where they hand you a key and send you outside to the back of the building. I wait in line for five or six minutes, glancing outside occasionally to see if Crazy Guy is still there. Yep. He waves at me through the glass door.
I consider my options. I can forgo the bathroom and just leave. But that won't solve the Crazy Guy problem. I can walk out and pretend he's not there, but I'm pretty sure that won't work either because Crazy Guy doesn't seem like the type to take a hint. In the end, I get the key, which is attached with a wire to the end of a fly swatter, and head out the gas station door. I open it and Crazy Guy tells me that I shouldn't have done that...that I'm too perfect and pure and so he would open doors for me from now on. He sees that I have the bathroom key and says he'll escort me to the ladies room. He puts his hand on the small of my back and guides me around the building.
Again, I'm weighing my options. I can tell Crazy Guy to get his hands off of me, but then he might get mad and I'm not sure I want to find out what Crazy Guy is like when he's mad. Meanwhile, he is telling me how God told him I would come today. He says "Praise Jesus!" a lot. "Amen!" I say back. He seems to like that and I get the vague impression that maybe I shouldn't be encouraging him.
We get to the bathroom and Crazy Guy takes the fly swatter/key from me. Damn! I was going to beat him to death with that if I needed a weapon! He stands behind me and reaches around to open the door. For the first time I feel a slight nudge of fear. He is pressed up against my back and I am thinking seriously about stomping on his foot, elbowing him in the chest, and running when he pulls the door open and backs away. "There you are. For the beautiful princess."
I take the key from him and stand at the threshold of the bathroom, which, I note with resignation, has just as much fecal matter smeared on the walls and sink as it does in the broken toilet. I hesitate for just as second. Hmmm.... Crazy Guy or disgusting filth. I step in and the door slams shut behind me.
And there is no light.
I stand there in the dark and assess my situation for yet a third time. Well, Polly, let's see... It's dark. It smells. You probably shouldn't touch anything or you will smell, too. You have to pee. There's a crazy man outside waiting for you. I hear flies buzzing around and note that at least I have a fly swatter. I smile to myself. If I live, this could be kind of funny.
There is a thin line of daylight filtering through the bottom of the door and my eyes finally start to adjust. I make my way to the commode and execute an act of sheer grace and beauty using the bathroom without touching anything. I debate washing my hands but decide against it when I notice feces smeared on the sink handles.
I take a deep breath. Time to go. I walk back out into the sunlight and find my not-so-secret admirer waiting for me. I return the key and walk toward my car while Crazy Guy asks me if I am married. I bury my left hand in my pocket. "Yes. Very happily and I have lots of kids." He shakes his head sadly, but then recovers quickly and asks me out on a date. I remind him that we just discussed how married I am. His face falls.
I am at my truck and open the door. Crazy Guy grabs my hand. He kisses it. "Until tomorrow then, my sweet." I get in the truck and drive away. I look in the rear view mirror and see Crazy Guy smiling and waving at me.
You know, I don't care what you people say...there is something to be said for ice cream buckets.