I got lost looking for the bathroom in Mad Mex in a recent voyage out into the tundra of humankind.
Dave and I decided to have a date at a local favorite of ours – a Mexican-Southeast-Asian-Spanish-American foodstuffs joint. One of its claims to fame is the Gobblerito – each Thanksgiving season they’ll stuff a burrito with an entire Thanksgiving dinner for the citizens of Pittsburgh. It’s an act of patriotism if you ask me. Anyway, this place has a few locations around the city and we ventured out to a new one.
You should know somewhere, here, at the beginning of this long, humiliating story that I have a sort of disconnect in my brain with navigation. From time to time, I will exit a store and go the opposite of the way I intend because my brain throws away important notes too soon. This difficulty getting from here to there has some funny side effects. For example, on occasion, I have a great deal of anxiety in a public place trying to find a restroom that is not clearly marked.
Dave, however, has no problem at all with tedious unknowns such as these. He’s bold – an adventurer at heart – and when we’re out in the forest of humanity, he’s happy to blaze a trail. He’ll launch down a dark hallway in a gas station in the middle of nowhere because he can sense a public restroom emanating from the corner of the establishment. He’ll get up from the dinner table at a restaurant and just follow his instinctual juices to magically locate one. He’ll boldly go in a direction until he gets what he needs, and if he can’t find it, he simply grabs a random person and asks them.
I, however, do not operate in this fashion. Over time, Dave has begun to locate bathrooms for me in advance when we appear to be in a place where they are not clearly marked. This is because he is an enchanted creature and is somehow charmed by and happy to care for my severe slights. I’m a lucky dame.
So we’re at Mad Mex. We head in, talk to the hostess, have a seat near the door. I have to pee. We do the initial sit-down things, get comfy and whatnot and I head toward what I believe to be the bathroom location – a long, dark hallway that is within my line of sight.
As I approach the long, beaded curtain that’s hanging at the front of the hall, separating it from the main restaurant area, I start to have doubts.
Man, why is that hallway so dark? You’d think they would illuminate it really well so folks have an easier time getting to the bathroom.
I notice a couple right by the hall.
Oh – maybe it’s because the hall is so close to these people eating and they’re trying to keep the light low.
I arrive at the curtain and hold out my arm to swipe the curtain aside when my hand is met with a solid metal, black door.
OH! It’s dark because it’s a door, not a hallway, Jackie.
I begin to push on the door but it won’t open because there’s a long, silver crash bar running its length that has to be pushed to open it instead. I wonder for a moment why they seat people next to this door – I’m practically in their laps just trying to get to the bathroom and I’m interrupting their dinner by accessing this back hall.
It’s then that my eyes notice the Emergency Exit sign in front of me for the first time– and the gaze of the couple who, indeed, I was virtually in the laps of. They spent the 2 minutes prior watching a restaurant patron get up from her seat, walk toward them, and proceed to paw at the emergency exit for no perceivable reason.
I’m mortified, and they know that I know they know what’s going on.
I quickly give up my endeavor and backtrack to safety by David where we were sat. I figure he’ll help me sort it out later. (Enchantment, et cetera.) But on my way back, I can’t spot him. I know I only went one straight direction to the supposed restroom hallway, but I’m searching every single face along the windows of the restaurant and none of them look even remotely like him. Given my circumstances, I did not want to make another close proximity visual mistake, so I kept walking. I walked down the length of the restaurant and arrived back at the hostess station. I stopped to think..
May I help you, Miss?
The hostess was talking to me. Tiny butterflies flapped up my stomach and fluttered in my mouth. I couldn’t ask her if she remembered where she sat us – I’d look like a moron. So I tried to think of something clever to say to explain my standing there dumbfounded, but just as I began to speak, I felt the hot hellgaze of the couple by the curtain who I just played sidedish to. They could still see me. And they knew I knew.
Desperate to release the steadily building pressure, I assured the hostess I was fine, and walked directly out of the restaurant.
I distinctly recall having a moment here where I was a little in awe at the depths I will go to in order to handle a social awkwardness that perhaps only I sense. And nonetheless, I’m passing the hostess, leaving Dave in the restaurant, and headed to God-knows-where. I’m not really in control at this point. The story has been written and I have to stay on the path to completion.
I’m hyper aware of the low patron base in the restaurant at this time and the clear view through the large windows that the hostess still has of me as she wonders why I’m already leaving when we haven’t yet been served. It occurs to me that I should just pretend to get something out of the van that I need, so I decide to do that and move toward the van with intention. Once there, I realize that I don’t have the keys. Convincing myself that the hostess is still watching my every move, I play the narrative through and pretend to just look through the windows and into the van for what I need, then gesture to myself that I don’t know where it is with a hearty shrug, and head back to the restaurant in the hopes that I can locate Dave if I have a nice, fresh start.
I head back in after my own personal Mr. Bean impression in the parking lot and see Dave sitting just a few tables in on my right. I glance to see if the Hellgazers are still at the end of the row. They are.
Dave’s mouth is ajar as I return to our table and he asks me where I went. He was sitting there, I got up, pawed at a door, and walked directly past him and out of the restaurant. I got him all caught up on the vast narrative that was building inside my head.
You still haven’t peed?!
It had been about 10 minutes at this point. And no, I hadn’t. I tried to find the restroom but I failed in public and the hot breeze of Hellgazers were preventing me from exploring again. I had resolved to hold it.
Dave, incredulous, assured me that if I turned left at the end of the row, the bathrooms were clearly marked ahead. I told him I was going to wait until the couple cleared. He encouraged me, and I took off toward the second supposed restroom.
Mad Mex does this thing with their bathroom doors that some companies like to do where they indicate the sex assignment of the restroom with an artistic mural. Worried about adding to Hellgazers’ comedic narrative of their evening, I decided to make a quick decision – one of the bathroom doors was clearly ajar and I gravitated toward it. Relieved to see bathroom tile and stalls, I stepped inside and looked up to see the shining white butt cheeks of a gentleman who was relieving himself at the urinals. I went to the wrong restroom.
I excused and ejected myself into the hallway to return to the gaze of the couple and quickly pawed at the women’s restroom door. After fumbling for and failing to find a knob or handle, I gave it a heavy push. I jolted inside the empty ladies room and breathed a sigh of relief. I had escaped the gazers, and if I stayed in the restroom long enough, I was pretty sure they would leave before I had to go back out.
I did my business and washed my hands and suddenly considered how long Dave had been sitting, reading the menu, waiting, and wondering whether I ended up wandering on the highway outside somehow. I resolved to go back to my seat, Hellgazers or no. I wasn’t going to be a bad date, dammit.
I made it back to Dave without trouble this time, though he lets out a little yip as I approach to make sure I don’t mess up again and spontaneously combust from the insufferable pain of humiliation.
As I was in the midst of regaling Dave with the various narratives inside my head from my journey, the server approached to take our order. I caught us back up to speed by just ordering my usual fare. Dave places his order and when the server asks if there’s anything else, he inquires as to where the restrooms were. She instructs him toward the location of my near self-immolation – down the row and to the left until you see the painted doors. I shoot him a confused look.
Oh. He says. You know it kind of looks like that door there is a hallway and the bathrooms are down there. Maybe there should be better signs to help with that.
She smiles. Yeah. Actually that happens a lot – but no, they’re to the left.
He thanks her and takes a sip of his water, all casual like, and shoots me a half-grin. I look to my left to check the status of the Hellgazers only to find that they’ve left during the time I’ve been in the radius of Dave’s safety. He truly is enchanted. ♣
This is just one such story of my adventures in society trying perform this basic, human task while in public. And so I shall declare and dub my lost-while-bathrooming saga The Restroom Chronicles. This is Part One. Long may the Chronicles reign, lest the day come that I do finally light myself on fire.