When a tornado hit the St. Louis airport recently, people were told to take shelter in the restrooms. Airport video showed men and women running through the flying debris, past the opposite gender’s restroom to get to “their” restroom.
My cousin Ed, a St. Louisan and keen observer of the human condition, wondered: doesn’t a tornado justify a suspension of such niceties?
Not by me. I would be one of the idiots running by the Men’s room. I would be embarrassed to interrupt some poor guy in flagrante urinale. I would never, ever go into the Men’s room.
But there was that time in college…
I went to a rock concert at an outdoor amphitheater called Pine Knob. I don’t remember who was playing, but given that it was in Michigan circa 1980, there’s a 50/50 chance it was Bob Seger or Ted Nugent.
It was a beautiful summer day and the place was packed. It would be safe to say that the majority of the attendees had consumed some adult beverages.
A group of us girls decided to hit the ladies room before the concert started. That was when we got our first inkling that all was not right.
We approached the closest restroom only to discover an OUT OF ORDER sign on the door of the Women’s. Damn! The beer was starting to kick in with some urgency. We trudged on.
In the next corner of the park we found the second restroom, and a second OUT OF ORDER sign on the Women’s room. The OUT OF ORDER sign that greeted us at the third restroom wasn’t a big surprise.
The main building at the entrance had the only Women’s restroom in the whole park that was in operation. This was not good.
There were 15,000 drunk and nearly drunk people in the place, and half of them were women. Women with bladders.
We got it line, maybe 50 people back. A low murmur of discontent started.
One group of girls formed a circle around a friend as she squatted and went on the concrete. We were appalled at this lack of modesty, but could understand it. When you gotta go, etc. For many, the situation was becoming desperate.
I could hear the muttering, “We have to take half of our clothes off to do our business. Then we wash our hands. Then we have to check our hair and makeup. What do the guys do? Unzip, whiz, zip-up. They don’t even wash their hands!” The volume of the mutterings rose and the tenor became angry. “We should have TWICE as many restrooms as they do, but do we? No! We have one. One lousy restroom!”
Our line was growing longer by the minute. The guys were going freely in and out of the Men’s room. They had no line at all! They, whose needs are so much simpler, had 4 bathrooms and who knows how many stalls. Why? They didn’t even use them. All they needed was a tree. That wasn’t fair, was it?
More girls were squatting right in line. I was witnessing the breakdown of civilization.
Someone started a chant. “MENs room, MENS room, MENS room.” Girls whipped out makeup, and started adorning their faces. Vivid slashes of turquoise, red and green were swiped across chin and cheeks. War paint.
“MENS room, MENS room, MENS room” the chant grew in volume, angry and high-pitched. A group of girls who had been singing Bob Seger tunes moments before, now moved slowly toward the Men’s room, hairbrushes clutched menacingly. They were the hunters of the tribe.
I was appalled. I tried to inject a note of reason “Ladies, ladies! Which is better — to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”
When the human spirit is put to the test, we do not always pass.
The men who had been in the restroom were pulled out. They were passed overhead, from hand to drunken hand over a sea of angry, chanting women. The men’s faces showed confusion turning quickly to horror.
I swore I would not degenerate into a savage. We were civilized women! There had to be a better way!
And yet, I had had quite a bit to drink. And I really had to go…
I woke up the next morning, safe and sound in my own bed. My head was aching; memories of the night before were hazy. Surely we hadn’t…? But no, it had all been just a dream.
So I told myself. Until I saw the smear of paint on my pillow.
And the conch shell resting at the foot of my bed.
* Picture, pre-embellishment, courtesy of the Lord Of The Flies movie.