WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Public restrooms aren’t the place for small talk

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A while ago, my wife and I had gone to the mall. Usually when we go to the mall, we shop for a little while and stop for something to eat and then we shop some more. Calling it shopping is kinda exaggerating, because we never really purchase anything. We do more window shopping than anything else.

Once in a blue moon, we find something to buy, and it’s never anything expensive. More times than not, it’s a need and not a want. It’s a known fact that you are an adult when you get excited about buying new pillows.

On this particular trip to the mall, I had gone without food, but with about four cups of coffee. For you gentlemen 50 and older, you know this is a recipe for inconvenience. Our mall is not large, as mentioned here before, and the restrooms are plentiful and clean. I probably should have had something more for breakfast than a gallon of Chock Full O’ Nuts, but that was not the case. My wife was taking her sweet time in Bath and Body Works and I was squirming like a 4-year-old.

“I told you not to drink so much coffee.” she scolded.

I told her I would only be a few minutes and made a beeline for the nearest loo. You’re probably wondering where this is going, but trust me. Stay with me and you will see. I promise this is not going to be some lurid scatological tale that will make you cancel your subscription to this newspaper. It’s a family paper, so I won’t go into great detail.

Upon arrival at the men’s room, I did what you suppose I did, to great relief.

“How about that Duke game last night?” a voice boomed from inside one of the bathroom stalls.

I paused. Was this guy talking to me? I wasn’t sure, so I kept to myself while I handled the matter at hand.

“You, buddy.” said the voice, “didja see that game last night?”

“Are you speaking to me?” I queried.

“Unless someone came in with you, yeah, I’m talking to you.”

“Um, no.” I said, “No, I did not see the game.”

The fact that I am not a fan of college sports, Duke or otherwise, was not the point. I don’t make a habit of conversing when I am, well, indisposed. My newly minted pal had apparently no issue with this and I can only imagine he fancied himself the emcee of the public toilet.

“Not a Duke fan?’ he continued.

Not a fan of chatting up the others in the bathroom, I wanted to say. I simply finished what I went in for, washed my hands and reunited with my wife in the mall.

I guess the point I am getting to is, when did we get so familiar that we feel the need to talk to folks in situations that are, well, a little personal? When it comes to the restroom, I just want to come in, do what I came into do, and leave.

When I was a kid, I caught a glimpse of that couch that was in the ladies room at the big department store in town. Well, ladies, we men don’t have a lounge. We don’t have sofas and chairs and such where we can, um, rest, in the restroom.

If we’re lucky, we might get a dirty joke written on the wall above the urinal or there might be “Free Cowboy Hats” written on the dispenser of the paper toilet seat covers.

I was in a men’s room in New York City many years ago and noted that someone had handwritten most of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales on the tile above the sink. I may not have been able to use the mirror, but I got a quick English literature lesson, so it wasn’t a total loss.

My picture is in the newspaper. I’m sure there are a few folks who might recognize me. I am not a big-time celebrity. I am, in fact, not a celebrity at all. If you happen to see me in public, feel free to say hello.

If you are in the men’s room and recognize me, please wait until you are outside of it to approach me. And please, wash your hands.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

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