relief in the wrong place
Ken Hoffman on how his worst public restroom mistake yielded the best luck
I had the most embarrassing moment — and luckiest day of my life — last week. Both on the same day, within hours of each other.
I’m going to have to explain what happened in delicate terms. But first, let me give you my view of public restrooms.
They’re disgusting. I do everything in my power, every ounce of my foresight, will and intestinal fortitude, to avoid them. I’ve never used a port-a-potty. I try to avoid using the restroom at Buc-ee’s, and they’ve built an empire on clean restrooms and beef jerky.
So imagine my distress last week when I was driving in Southwest Houston and suddenly realized that nature was calling — and it was an emergency call. Oh, like this has never happened to you?
What to do? I calculated the time it would take me to drive home vs. finding a public restroom vs. never being able to trade in my car. (Editor’s note: Thanks for that, Ken.)
Sidebar: Several years ago, I wrote a column detailing all the quirks and oddball habits of Houston television legend Marvin Zindler. One of them was, his wife Gertrude never saw him without his famous wig during their 55 years together.
Another was, when young Marvin was in grade school and felt he had to go No. 2, he would go to the office and call for a cab to take him home so he could do his business there. The cab would wait and bring him back to school.
(I thought that was the most normal thing about Zindler.)
Now I’m sweating bullets and wriggling in the car seat, please get me to a public restroom. I saw a sporting goods store along the 59 feeder. I had no other choice.
Wait, we’re not to the most embarrassing part yet.
A desperate search
Where’s your restroom? A cashier pointed to the rear of the store. Usain Bolt had nothing on me as I raced there, shoulder blocked the door open, found an empty stall and took a seat — I’m serious, just in the nick of time. Whew!
I stayed there listening to make sure nobody else was in the restroom before emerging. When I thought the coast was clear, I opened the stall door and walked out … to find three women standing by the sinks. I took a quick glance, no urinals. And where are the flowers? I had always heard that women’s restroom had flowers.
I was in the women’s restroom with three women who were shocked, to say the least, to see me. Almost as horrified as I was to see them. I didn’t know what to say. I was frozen with shame and embarrassment.
Why, hello, ladies...
The women quickly left the restroom. I washed my hands (hygiene, always) and plotted how to leave the store, hoping the women didn’t report me to security. I pulled my baseball cap down low, stared at my feet and slunk out of there.
A few hours later, I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch and realized that my wallet was missing. I tore my house apart looking for it. We’ve all done that when we can’t find keys or sunglasses — or wallet, right? I looked everywhere, including the refrigerator. You’ve looked there, too. I searched my car. No wallet.
I thought it could be in only one place — the women’s restroom at the sporting goods store, third stall on the right. Maybe my wallet fell from my pants during the frantic chaos.
Losing your wallet is a Top 10 worst thing that can make your life miserable. I started calculating what’s in my wallet: driver’s license, healthcare ID, work ID, parking pass, credit cards, ATM card, gift cards, and money. I was leaving for a trip the next day and had a few hundred in my wallet.
Losing your wallet will wreck you.
I drove back to the sporting goods store, this time with a different though equally desperate urgency. I retraced my steps to the restroom area. That is when my day went from hugely embarrassing to incredibly lucky.
A woman and her two daughters were about to enter the women’s restroom. I said, “I know this sounds weird, but would you mind going to the third stall on the right and see if there’s a tan men’s wallet on the floor?”
Please, please let it be there. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on hold getting new credit cards and driver’s license. I was writing off the gift cards and money.
Mom came back out, said here it is, and handed me the wallet with everything intact — including the money.
What were the chances? My wallet sat on the floor of a public restroom of a busy store for several hours and nobody saw it or took it or turned it in or anything.
Lesson learned. Like your parents told you before taking a car trip, go to the bathroom first.
And most important: If you must use a public restroom, use the correct one.