As the little old lady and I stood next to each other at the sinks washing our hands and avoiding eye contact in the mirror, I wondered when she would start to scream. Instead, there was just an awkward silence that seemed to last forever.
Of course, the absence of a urinal should have clued me in that this was the lady’s room. However, it was a Chinese restaurant and I thought I read somewhere that the Chinese hadn’t invented the urinal yet.
What really threw me off was that, as I was heading for the facility, the door was wide open and a middle age man with two male children was leaving. He even held the door for me, thus preventing me from seeing the handsome bronze plaque that announced “Women.” One of the children was screaming his head off complaining of an injured finger.
Why the male delegation was using the lady’s room when in fact there was a men’s room next door, we will never know. Why the dad didn’t give me a heads-up, so to speak, also remains a mystery. I can only think the old lady was part of their group and was forgotten about in the injured finger ruckus. Who coldly offers up granny to a stranger of the opposite sex?
After I noted the absence of a urinal, I proceeded to the first of the two stalls. I attempted to enter but the door did not yield. Assuming it was stuck, I pushed a little harder. Suddenly, the occupant cried out: “go away!” I assumed it was another of the children who was still finishing his business, when in fact it was the little old woman.
She must have been terrified to see my large sneaker clad feet looming under her stall door. And since they are overly conscientious about refilling your water glass at Chinese restaurants, her worst fears must have been confirmed when she heard me strafing the toilet with a loud and long leak from the stall next door.
Of course, her fear was nothing compared to my chagrin when she suddenly appeared beside me at the sinks. It instantly became obvious where I was. I am thinking arrest and public humiliation. I am thinking front page of the New York Post, but I am also thinking nonchalanting it out. I decide that if she asks why I am here, I will respond with the punch line from the old joke about a cuckolded husband who discovers his wife’s naked lover in the closet: Everybody’s gotta be someplace.
But she slowly and quietly scrubs away seemingly unconcerned about her proximity to a potential sex fiend. I get a terrifying vision that she might not be a little old lady after all, but a homicidal transvestite dwarf like the one in the Daphne DuMaurier movie who wanders around Venice slaughtering innocent men with a butcher knife.
In the end, nothing was said and we both silently left the room.
When I got back to our table, I told Kathie what had happened. Without looking up from her menu she said: “I’m sure you left the seat up.”