My family’s nights are always crazy, filled with baseball/basketball practices, Scouts, meetings, and homework assignments. One of the wildest was in the fall of 2007 when I dropped my oldest son, Billy, at his Calculus tutor’s house, which is on the opposite side of town about thirty minutes away. So I had to kill some time until I could go back and pick him up an hour later. My youngest son, Jason, was with me, and I’d planned to run some errands. He hadn’t been feeling all that great, though, and he ended up falling asleep in the back seat. Which was a terrific excuse not to run errands. I pulled into the parking lot of a Walgreen’s drug store, got out a book I’d been meaning to read, and settled in. Peace and quiet. Ah.
Then suddenly Jason woke up and said he had to go to the bathroom. He didn’t mean pee, either, folks. I could tell by the panic showing on his face that time was of the essence. We raced into Walgreen’s, and I steered Jason toward the restrooms in the back of the store. By this time, he was walking like a cowboy with hemorrhoids, making it very obvious just what his predicament was.
He finally reached the men's room and went to the bathroom. Again. And again. And again. It was like the Pepto Bismol commercial from hell. I wanted to take him home, but he literally could not leave the toilet. I stood guard at the door of the bathroom—there was only one stall—to tell men wanting to go in, “Don’t even think about it.” Jason was groaning like a woman in labor. He said, “I keep asking God to help, but it’s not working.” After about ten minutes, I went to the pharmacy booth only to find a long line. I grabbed some Imodium AD chewable tablets, ripped them open, and ran into the men’s bathroom. Now I am not the type to open something in a store I haven’t paid for. But that night, I didn’t think twice about ripping open the Imodium AD before paying. I think this is partly because I’d learned from experiences with my older sons that sometimes you can’t worry about playing by the rules when you’re faced with a dire situation. And this one was dire. D-I-R-E.
“Here, Jason,” I said, as I handed him a tablet under the stall door. “Take this. It should make you feel better.” He chewed it up, and I went back out to my guard post by the door. The next thing I knew, there was this noise – the unmistakable sound of barfing—from inside the stall. The wonderful, homemade macaroni and cheese I’d made for my family that night—was now on the floor of the bathroom stall. Gross, yes, I know.
And I still couldn’t get him off the toilet. I called my husband who was at David’s baseball practice, to tell him to go pick up Billy at the tutor’s house. Finally, Jason’s stomach calmed down a bit, and I cleaned him up the best I could. I felt guilty about leaving such a mess for someone else to clean up, but I had to get Jason out of there. I wanted to get him home as quickly as possible. I put my arm around Jason and walked briskly to the front of the store to the cashier, with him leaning on me.
“Excuse me,” I said to the customer the front of the line. “My son got sick in the bathroom, and I really have a problem here. Could I please go in front of you?” She was very kind and said yes. I told Jason to go stand outside the door so that I could see him because the cool air might make him feel better and I didn’t want him throwing up inside again. I never have cash, so I paid for the Imodium AD with my debit card. Then I got twenty dollars cash back and handed it to the cashier.
“What’s this for?” she asked, holding up the twenty-dollar bill.
“That’s for whoever has to clean up the bathroom,” I explained, turning to head out the door.
She protested like a good employee would. “Oh Ma’am, you don’t need to do that.”
I turned back around, peering at her through tired, groggy eyes and said, “You haven’t seen the bathroom.” She and the other people in line laughed as I turned to go out. “And you might want to put a sign on the men’s door,” I added. Hell, I thought, they’d probably cordon it off with yellow crime scene tape. We will probably be the reason new restroom policies are implemented. Can you say, “No ma’am, we have no public restrooms”?