One of These Is Not Like the Others
Is there one special moment that stands out in your mind as a hallmark of humiliation, an emblem of embarrassment, a monument to mortification? If you’ve read my blog for a while you undoubtedly know that this theme is nothing new to me. I embarrass myself (and my wife and kids) all the time.
Tuesday night, however, introduced probably one of the top three most degrading experiences of my lifetime. I intend to share it with you guys, because I know (I pray) you won’t judge me. Maybe you’ll even be encouraged to share your own “moments,” and in the process learn to laugh at yourself and quit worrying so much about maintaining an “image.” Commiserate with me in the comments section below.
Trust me, after reading my story, yours will not seem nearly as horrific. If I’m wrong and it still does, at least you’ll be able to take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Without further ado, I’ll let my favorite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny, introduce my story:
Overture, curtains, lights,
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart
This is it, you’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it!
I mentioned in my prior post that I spent the first half of my week at a Change Management conference in Orlando. I had the privilege, with 700 peers and fellow CM practitioners from around the world, to crash SeaWorld for a private party Tuesday night. One of the conference sponsors had reserved the whole park from 6:00 until 10:00 pm. It was one of those rare occasions where you can do anything you want with no lines. I rode Manta five times in a row and met lots of like-minded coaster lovers along the way.
After I’d had enough of being flipped upside down and around while lying on my stomach, then my back, then my stomach, over and over, I texted my co-workers who were of the non-thrill-seeking tribe. No response. They had ditched me like the stale, half-eaten plates of party cheesecake that I saw lying all over the place. “Forget you,” I thought, as Cee Lo Green played in my head (the clean version, of course). I wandered around the almost completely empty park by myself, saw dolphins sleep-swimming, and talked with one of the park animal handlers.
About this time the three Shamu Shocker Icees I’d gulped after coming down off my Manta high hit my bladder with a powerful urgency. The park was pretty dark (I guess with only 700 people here they didn’t see the need to waste electricity to light the pathways) but I could just make out the lights of a restroom across the dolphin pond. I made my way hastily toward this beacon of relief, painfully clenching the whole way.
As I approached the structure, I saw that it was one of those divided restrooms that you often find in airports. You walk up and either take the entrance on the right, or the one on the left. I saw the “Women” sign clearly on the right entrance so I headed left.
I guess my nearly-exploding bladder created some mental confusion, or maybe I really am as clueless as you think I am. I rounded the first corner, past the sinks, where I came to a sea of stalls. I have a vague recollection of thinking, “Weird…no urinals?” I had to go way too bad to ponder the situation more deeply. I went to the end of the first row, entered the stall, and locked the door. I lifted the seat (my wife has trained me well), unzipped, and began the journey to relief. As I’m sure you know, the length of time it takes to do your business is proportional to the quantity of liquid consumed. I’d had three 44oz Shamu Shockers, so I was only about two minutes into the process when I heard something that caused me to break out into a cold sweat. The unmistakable clickety-click of feminine sandals on tile, heading right toward me.
OMG! I’m in the Ladies Room. The right and left entrances apparently both led to the same place – the stall farm. The sound of Clicky Woman got louder as she made her way toward my end of the row. She opened the door to the one directly across from me, closed it, and snapped the lock in place.
(Editorial note: this is another difference between men and women: when men enter a public restroom, they’ll pick a urinal as far away from the next guy as possible; apparently women prefer the unseen but close companionship of other women as they do their thing.)
Imagine the scene if you dare. I’m behind a stall door, standing up, shoes facing the bowl, creating a waterfall sound that can only result from a torrent falling the distance of two or more feet from source to toilet. And yet this woman chooses the stall right across from me. I wonder what the heck she thought was going on in my stall? The only experience I have with the other gender’s bathroom habits are what I know from home. Are there other bizarre things that happen in the Ladies Room that we men have no insight into (other than the occasional dude invading the space)?
The waterfall immediately and involuntarily dried up, I recklessly zipped up (ouch) and listened to make sure Clicky Woman was settled behind her door. When I was sure the coast was clear, I flung my door open and bolted for the exit.
Just as I thought I’d made a clean escape, I ran face-to-face into another woman coming into the restroom. Crap! I completely avoided eye contact and focused on the ground as I brushed past her. I have no idea what her reaction was because I never even saw her face.
Keep in mind the context of this whole situation. I’m at a private party with my fellow conference attendees, my peers, industry professionals. There’s a high probability that I’ll run into this woman tomorrow at the breakfast buffet. To make it worse, I have no idea what she looks like – but I’m quite sure she got a good look at me. I’m undoubtedly now labeled the “SeaWorld Perv.” So much for maximizing my networking opportunities.
Be brave – what’s one of your most embarrassing moments?