Men's Room
October, 2010

When I was a small boy, it was usually my mother who took me out on errands, or to accompany her shopping and so on. If, at some point during the outing, I needed to use a rest room, she would take me into the Ladies' Room and I'd use the toilet in there. I was sufficiently small and innocent-looking enough that nobody seemed to mind my presence. I usually was very polite and said hello to all the nice ladies who smiled at me there. They were usually putting on lipstick or fixing their hair or checking their stockings. It was very social, and I sometimes got fussed over, as I was apparently fairly cute then. (This does not work so well today. Sometimes there are complaints, accompanied by loud, screaming demands that I leave.)

On one particular weekend, I accompanied both my parents into the city, as they attended to various adult-type things-- the sort of activities that were entirely no fun for a small kid. They went here and there, talked to people, looked at things, bought something I couldn't play with, and so on. It bored me stiff. Though I don't remember many specifics about that day, I do recall a lot of walking, noticing an unusual amount of chewing gum on the pavement, hearing loud traffic noises, navigating enormous crowds of people, and being quietly cranky.

Eventually my parents decided to have some lunch, and we went into a large restaurant. I knew this meant that I had to use my "company manners" and not stare at people; to be quiet and behave myself. not to play with my food, or fidget and so on. I was pretty social-savvy for a little kid. The prospect of a restaurant meal was exciting, too. I kind of had the routine down. I was not a complete novice at this restaurant thing. Be cool, get through the meal, and wait for dessert-- possibly ice cream!

I was rather agog at the surroundings. This place was bigger than any restaurant I'd been in before. Despite the size of the dining room, and the large crowd of people eating their lunches, it was relatively quiet. Conversations were subdued, and the atmosphere of the place was fairly businesslike.

Of course, just as our food was being served, I announced that I had to go to the bathroom. My mother groaned quietly-- both at my timing, and because her feet hurt from walking, I'm sure. My father said, "You relax. I'll take him with me." We got up and threaded our way thru the tables in the dining room and headed for the rest rooms at the far end of the restaurant.

I entered the strange new territory of a public Men's Room. It was a large place, and our footsteps echoed. "HELLO! " I said, listening to my voice ring off the tiles. "SHHH!" my father warned me. "Be quiet, now. Let's get you taken care of." Pop took me over to the adult size urinal, and immediately realized that I was far, far too short to use it. He ushered me into an empty toilet stall and said "You go in here and use the toilet, and I'll use that--" indicating this oddly shaped, white, porcelain thing I'd never seen in any Ladies' Room.

This place was really different! Pop had advised me not to speak to anyone we might encounter. I found this odd, as I was fully prepared to be pleasant and sociable, just as I was used to on trips to the Ladies' Room. This Men's Room had all these new sights and sounds (and smells), and a whole different protocol. It fairly screamed "Get in, do your thing and get out!" The solitary gent washing his hands at the sink neither made eye contact nor acknowledged either of us in any way. I watched him leave, and in my stall, I noticed decorations on the walls. I could neither read nor understand any of the writing or pictures drawn there, nor would Pop explain them to me.

After finishing up, and the obligatory, thorough hand-washing, we both combed our hair in the mirror, " big boys do when they want to look nice..." we exited the exciting and magical place, and headed back across the long dining room to our table.

Filled with excitement and wonder at my new adventure and the exposure to the heretofore unknown mystery and drama of this magical place, I stopped to get my bearings about two paces outside the Men's Room door. Sighting my mother waving at me from the far end of the room, I called out to her in my clear-as-a-bell, high, thin, yet piping little boy's voice: "Mommy! MOMMY! I PEED IN THE TOILET, BUT POP PEED IN THE SINK!"

All conversation stopped; silverware clattered against dishes all over the room; waiters skidded to a halt, balancing trays of food; every head in the place turned our way. I stood there, beaming and waving at my Mom, as she hid her face in a napkin. My father, choking and spluttering, managed a strangled "Oh, for God's sake..." and took me by the collar as he propelled me briskly across the room-- which had suddenly become a hostile gauntlet of revulsion and shock.

As we passed table after table of outraged people curious to see who this barbarian was-- this ANIMAL who'd take a leak in the sink in a restaurant's public restroom (in front of his kid, no less!)-- Pop kept muttering "He's never seen a urinal before. Heh, heh..! Sorry; excuse us, please. Pardon me. Never saw a urinal before. I beg your pardon. First time in the Men's Room. Here we go. There's Mommy.... all right, now..."

All I remember afterwards was that our meal was over pretty quickly, I didn't get ice cream -- to my great dismay-- and I learned the vital differences between various kinds of bathroom fixtures. I was promised that one day, I'd be big enough to use a urinal, myself. Every time I do, these days, I have a faint smile on my face.

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