The extremely insignificant bathroom of Lobby Area A in my office building is home to two clean, beige stalls set side-by-side. The stalls face two clean, white sinks with long, rectangular mirrors that sit above them. A third, extra large stall masked in the same dull hue swells into the territory that two normal-sized ones would perhaps otherwise steak claim to; its massive door looms at the back of the room confronting visitors at first entrance.
The XL stall was built under some government mandate – a space to enable the Physically Incapacitated a reasonable place to poop within the space they require. The unintended consequence of such laws being that without a regulating body to enforce the strict use of these earmarked public (yet private) spaces, they become magnets for dissidents who derive adolescent pleasure from greedy moments of entitlement, even in a situation as mundane as going to pee. There is no such thing as the Porcelain Police, so people take advantage.
Although I am a firm believer in civil rights and social benefits for the disenfranchised, I am guilty of such momentary weaknesses. I default to this stall for a number of reasons: the number is one, just one reason. It is quite literally as big as the kitchen in my San Francisco apartment with an eerily similar color schematic. The stall also includes a sink, a mirror, and upgraded paper towel and soap dispensing amenities. As my place is devoid of a dishwasher or a garbage disposal, I spend whatever moments I have in there contemplating the incremental upgrades needed to transform the space into a functional area for potential food preparation. The irony of this is not lost on me, but for all intent purpose lets just say that I default to this stall because it’s comfortable and is as reminds me of being at home.
Due to its size I am allowed ample distance from other waste producers and any types of audial unflattery from other parties. I can execute any variation of God’s Nature in a literal throne room of anonymity. It would take pervert or a lunatic to perform the cranial limbo necessary to identify me by shoes alone.
Who would do such a thing? A fucking lunatic is who.
With this territorial claim come fleeting and addictive waves of delusions of power. These are momentary lapses in logic and sensibility; it is the kind of childish thrill you get when you know you’ve gotten away with something and feel that rush of impish glee, like sneaking cookie before dinner or finagling more TV time before bed. There are few moments in our adult lives where these moments of senseless me-first moments occur, so I take them, and take them I should.
I can easily identify lesser subjects in the smaller stalls adjacent to my kingdom and I judge them during their natural transactions. Unfair, I know. They are powerless and frightened in their boo-box, poo-box. I should feel bad. I should feel a sense of pity or empathy, but all I feel is entitled pride at the station in life I have temporarily secured. It is what I believe Jay Z and Beyonce must feel every day on some deeply subconscious level and which permeates every pore of their perfumed, pampered bodies. Something they would never admit to each other, but most certainly to themselves.
On bad days when a squatter (both a literal and metaphysical) has taken the property hostage, I have two options: I can wait it out, or I can continue to a runner-up stall, stall number one. It’s like taking a downgrade from business class to bulk-head economy – quite a significant blow to my comfort and ego but not entirely devastating. The worst station, of course, is the central stall, the ugly middle child lacking any virtue from what I can tell. Even in an emergency crisis situation I will try the bathrooms in the distant lands of Lobby Areas B and C, and quite possibly D before considering this steel Hooverville, a place vulnerable to every angle of disgusting, sensory onslaught that comes with personal waste disposal in public.
Even in the Royal Standard, as I’ve come to refer to it to no one but myself, I am confronted by urine spray on the seat from time to time which I have no choice but to diligently wipe off. But when it comes to the necessary evil of shared latrines, doesn’t everyone? And of course there have been times when I am rudely confronted with abandoned, solid content floating in drowned defeat, like a poorly discarded body bag that spontaneously bobs to the surface waiting to incriminate the culprit. Who are these debased individuals who, out of lack of morality or pride, forget or refuse to thoroughly clean up after themselves, or dispose of such blatant evidence? Could anyone be so absent-minded? I don’t understand this, but I don’t understand a lot about the psyche of the general populace.
But something life-changing occurred the other day. OK, perhaps not “life changing” but definitely perspective-shifting. I walked out of the RS and ran directly into a wide-eyed youth (OK, about 5 years my junior) waiting for my stall, my stall, when the other two were wide open. That’s right, waiting. Just standing there, haughty and self-assured. Upon reluctantly offering her safe passage, we exchanged a charged glance. Her gaze seemed to say that my game was up, or rather, I wasn’t the only one playing it.
I’ve been at this job for 9 months now, excreting in said bathroom at a rate of 3-4 times a day we’ll say 3.5 times for good measure, multiplied by 5 times per work week and over 36 work weeks…that’s 630 visits. That’s 630 times I’ve bore my bare ass to this hovel with wild abandon, blind to a conviction that I was privilege to a fairly protected and exclusive entity in which to proceed with humanity’s most dishonorable task.
Oh, sweet irony! How wrong I have been, how cruel! I have been so ignorant, so proud, so blind. As with any high station in life comes competition. After all these long months of feeling protected in the ceramic womb of the Royal Standard, developing some sort of distorted kinship and linkage to home, the dare I say it – epiphany – occurred that the truth has been there waiting all along. The Middle stall is the most virtuous place and surely the best-kept secret of the bathroom in Lobby Area A with three stalls.
In a blind quest for comfort I have sacrificed integrity and only Middle stall can say it maintains any shred of it. Middle: the last to be picked at kickball and hasn’t been asked to the dance. Compared with its two horribly slutty sisters, the prized territories in the bathroom of Lobby Area A and who have seen more ass than a Mexican rodeo, Middle stall remains saintly in comparative stature. By the grace of statistics and physics it holds significantly less airborne particles of caca floating in its atmosphere, or invisibly clinging to its surfaces and within its receiving lap. Middle stall is the cleanest throne of them all, to be wise.
Humility. A lesson learned in a place that couldn’t possibly become even more degrading to the image that we try to project or uphold. That even the most mundane situations we sequester ourselves to comfort without consequence; the decisions rooted in falsehood and ego and fear that always threat to pull us to back to the brink of mediocrity.