One of These Is Not Like the Others

May 06, 2011 10:37 am

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?


Manta Take-off:

23 Responses to “One of These Is Not Like the Others”

  1. Jon says:

    I did the same thing, except at a rest stop in Michigan. And when I realized where I was, it was to late. The woman in the stall next to me stood up and we made eye contact. I have never been more embarrassed…

  2. Jon,

    Wow! I learn something new about you every week!

  3. Cyndi McDonald says:

    Ha ha ha ha!!!! I walked into the men’s bathroom when I was in the 5th grade. I was at school. The school was open-concept, so basically about 4-5 classes saw what happened. That was 30 years ago. I still haven’t gotten over it.

  4. Kevin says:

    One of my best moments was throwing up at McDonald’s.
    On my Big Mac and fries.
    Back when the burger container was the styrofoam clam shell type.

  5. Ammie says:

    I was at a church lock in with a friend – Junior High. I was playing ping pong with some guys and was really getting into it. They were smiling and kinda giggling and I thought, man I must really have my groove on tonight! I look down and my shirt (that only had 3 large buttons) had completely come unbuttoned. I was MORTIFIED! I left the room and hung out with other people the rest of the night.

  6. Thor says:

    I was at a bible study while in high school. I was one of two teens (I was a senior) in a MasterLife study with my small group leader and a bunch of other adults (about 12 of us in all). My Small Group leader started messing with me and wrestling and he had me in a headlock on the ground before we were starting… you know. just messing around. Somehow the leader of the group decided to start the meeting with prayer.

    So 12 people in the room. 10 adults, me and my buddy as high school seniors. I’m in a headlock sitting down (so imagine I’m sitting indian style, bent forward in a headlock). My group leader gives me a squeeze during the prayer and I let one rip. long and loud. during prayer.


    I still laugh about it today!

  7. Every dude I’ve ever known who’s lost the right bathroom lottery has ignored the same still, small voice: “Hey, why are there no urinals?”

    When I was a freshman, our campus ministry took a spring break trip to Florida State to work with the same ministry there. Their group (Chi Alpha) had picked up the house of a fraternity that had been kicked off campus, so they had members living there. This was now a co-ed house. The downstairs bathroom, which had originally been for female guests of the all-male fraternity, was now a bathroom for all guests. They even had the unisex restroom sign on the door. Only problem: the bathroom had two stalls. I used said bathroom for most of the week without a problem. Then, one afternoon, I noticed the feet next to me under the divider. They had on flip flops with green nail polish. Unlike you, I was able to finish and make a successful retreat. Nobody ever mentioned it, and I never figured out who it was (thankfully).

    Great Mother’s Day present, by the way!

  8. Chuck Allen says:

    That is SOOOO funny! And when you were describing the lady choosing the stall next to you, I was going, “What? That close? No buffer stalls?” Nice job calling out that difference between the genders.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll be laughing the rest of the evening.

  9. Eileen says:

    Very amusing post! Just be thankful lady in stall next to you didn’t ask if you could “spare a square” ;) (Sorry, your post reminded me of a Seinfeld episode.) I will have to be more observant next time I am in ladies restroom to see if women do choose stalls next to one another :)

  10. jerry says:

    Done that before…and yes the question that came before me was, “Why are there no urinals?” However, before that the thought that came up first was, “Wow, why does this bathroom look so nice…couch…flowers in a vase…I’m in McDonald’s right?”

    That wasn’t my most embarassing moment…Sophomore year of high school…I had the biggest crush on a girl…she really never let me know how she felt…but we would walk to Second period together every day. I really enjoyed walking with her and talking with her for those few brief moments every day hoping to hear her share her feelings of love for me…well one day when we were walking, the words I had been waiting for from her mouth…finally came out…”Jerry, I have something I want to tell you, but I don’t know how to tell you…” My heart started beating so fast and so hard…I begin to feel euphoric…offcourse she didn’t know how to tell me that she finally was starting to have feelings for me…”Just tell me…” I think I may have closed my eyes as I waited for her to share the words I so longed to hear…”Uh…Jerry…your zipper is down…” I immediately opened my eyes and looked down and the contrast was there…my navy blue cordoroy pants and the white hanes underwear bunched up where the zipper should have been tightly closed…

    yeah that was embarassing and heartbreaking… :( hahaha

  11. Tom Rubenak says:

    John. Great story. One of my “not best moments” was when I offered to carry a large box for a wan who was walking to the elevator. Being the gentleman that I am, I took hold of the box and she proceeded to ask what floor I was going to. All was smooth and friendly when I asked her …”so when is your baby due”? Ummmm. Ok. Never ask a chick this question and I learned the hard way. The rest of the elevator ride was really tough ride as she quickly noted she wasn’t pregnant. Couldnt wait to get off that ride. :-)

  12. [...] in one of those awkward, uncomfortable places again.  (And no, I’m not talking about the Ladies Room.)  I continue to wrestle with the meaning of “significance” for my life.  My head is filled [...]

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