Ruby Tuesday, again? (sigh) What can I do though? This is Long Island, land of chain restaurants and strip malls. I would prefer my unique hole-in-the-wall Thai joint but then most of the group will complain. "Thai food? Like, from Thai Land?" (sigh) And so Ruby Tuesday it is. It's the only place we'll agree on. I won't complain. A rack of spicy ribs always suits me fine and I'll do some serious damage at that salad bar. I've already hungrily spied a bucket of tri-color noodle salad.
An aloof, teen-aged hostess seats us and then we are greeted by "Marc with a C" who will be "taking care of us this evening". He pulls up a chair and giggles today's "featured items". That's annoying. Don't sit. Don't force your funny on me. Don't perk it up. Keep it simple and friendly. Just give me competent, prompt, professional service and I guarantee you I'm your best tip of the night. Lose the shtick. We send Marc-with-a-C off to fetch us some Oniony appetizers and two-for-one margaritas.
Uh oh. Something is happening in my gastrointestinal tract. Something bad. Is it my system protesting the vast amounts of grease I'm about to ingest? Or maybe it's the funky sushi I had for lunch. Whatever it is, it's going to need to be dealt with stat. I excuse myself and head to the head.
Discomfort builds as I trot toward the restroom. My pace quickens with each step. Pain is coming in waves now. Mentally, I'm timing the contractions and trying to avoid any other analogies to childbirth like "crowning" or worse: "my water broke".
I burst into the bathroom. Empty. Ah, excellent. I'm going to need privacy for this. In a frenzy, I dive into the farthest stall and quickly scope things out. Pretty damn clean in here. The toilet seat is uncharacteristically devoid of typical male splatter and other repugnancies. Smells nice, too. Good, good, good.
I start unraveling toilet paper by the foot. Once I have enough slack, I wrap it around my hand over and over and over again. I create a quilted cushiony catcher's mitt. I give the seat a quick wipe. Just in case.
Next, more TP. Hand over hand, I unroll about, oh, three mummies worth. I place it on the seat, covering all plastic. This is our "packed base". I'm working quickly now. Danger lingers. Disaster imminent. Then, a few paper toilet seat covers. Five, actually. Faster, faster. Feeling beads of sweat forming on my forehead, I crisscross the paper seat covers on top the TP base creating soft sanitary strata.
My body is READY. Let's do this! Hurry! Belt. Pants. Down. Sit!
Ahhh. Sweet release. WHEW. While I completely defile the throne, I am pleased that this was a freak incident and I'll be able to enjoy my meal without worry of a messy encore. Good. Noodle salad, here I come.
Then, I hear the door creak open. Damn it. I almost got out of here without -- wait a minute. I hear "clop, clop, clop" across the bathroom floor. Puzzled, I angle my head to get a closer look under the stall:
Please, oh PLEASE God let her have wandered into the wrong bathroom. Please, I swear that I'll never ask another -- The door creaks again. Is she leaving?? NO! Someone's coming in. Then I hear it: two women having a conversation.
I feel my face flush then I courtesy flush.
I'm in the bloody ladies room! At Ruby Tuesday! On Saturday night!
My world swirls before me as I try to stave off the panic welling up inside. Now there's a flurry of activity in the restroom. The clatter of ladies shoes on porcelain. They chatter about … well, I don't know. Lady things, I guess.
I quietly finish up my business and - wait.
The conversation disappears out the creaking door. Am I alone?
I stand completely still and listen.
Time to move.
I reach for the handle of my stall to unlock it, and then suddenly someone tugs from the other side! Crap!
"Hello?" asks an older lady's voice. "Is someone in there?"
WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo?
I know! I flush again.
"Oh, sorry" she says and enters another stall. This is my moment. The eye of the storm.
I explode out of the stall and make for the door. I reach out for the handle - and freeze. I look to my right and sigh. I have to wash my hands. I don't WANT to. I *HAVE* to. Moments ago I fouled that toilet so badly that mid-evacuation I offered it an apology. I must wash.
I pump a squirt of soap, flip the faucet and quickly wash. I spin on my heel toward freedom.
The door opens with that familiar creak and as I pass through, I hold it open for *another* lady walking in. She says "thank you" and eyes me suspiciously.
I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE. NOW.
I take one step away from the Ladies Room and - BAM.
My brother Gino, standing before me.
He instantly recognizes the panic in my ashen face. I'm frozen in place. He considers me for a long, uncomfortable moment. Then he looks at the sign on the door behind me. Then back at me with a raised eyebrow.
"Again?" he asks.
I hang my head in shame and reply, "again".