Even without my glasses I could see that one of the bulbs in the fluorescent fixture overhead was burned out. Yes, it was sort of a blur, but I’m not entirely blind. Close, but not entirely.
So, even with the world being fuzzy around the edges, and even fuzzier in the middle, it was obvious that the bulb was not glowing as it should. In fact, it stared back at me, a dull gray-white tube with blackened ends. The companion bulb, clipped tightly into the contacts on the other side of the ballast cover, was flickering in a rapid staccato. An orange intensity was pulsing at one end, and the whole fixture hummed. A sure sign that it would soon go dark as well.
But I really wasn’t worried about that. Daylight was streaming into the high windows, and besides, this wasn’t the only light. There were several more. Not to mention, I had more important worries.
Now, I have to admit. The dead bulb in the ceiling fixture was not something I would have noticed right off. I don’t usually make a habit of staring at high ceilings for no apparent reason, but then at this particular moment I was lying on my back, which made a significant difference in my point of view. The cold, damp concrete was leeching any semblance of warmth from me, but I wasn’t in a big hurry to move. At least, not until I figured out what had just happened. So, until that answer was no longer eluding me, I decided staring at the ceiling was the appropriate thing to do.
An inventory of my senses was enough to tell me that I wasn’t severely injured. Either that, or I was dealing with a concussion and was misinterpreting the various simple aches and pains.
Just for the hell of it, I groaned.
I heard myself groan. In fact, I even heard it echo off the cinder block walls.
Apparently my ears were still working. That was a good sign.
I continued to stare at the hazy light fixture above me as it winked through its death throes, and wondered if I maybe was doing the same. Life imitating machinery and all that jazz. I decided I probably wasn’t, because I simply didn’t have time for it right now. Besides, my pajama britches were down around my ankles, and while I don’t have a very big shoe size, what endowment I did have was pretty much on display. I really wasn’t good with dying in such a state.
I muttered, “Fuck me…” in a long, drawn out breath. Then I said it again, just for good measure. Then it dawned on me that I could be inviting disaster if I wasn’t alone in here.
Fortunately, it turned out that I was. Alone, that is.
Closing my eyes I tried to remember just how it was I came to be sprawled out on the wet, concrete floor of a combination bathroom – shower house in rural, coastal Virginia.
The sharp smell of pine cleaner was carving its initials inside my nasal passages, and in a very real sense I was grateful for that. The odor combined with the dampness of the floor told me it had been mopped very recently. Given that this was a bathroom there were much worse things I could be laying in. I also happened to know from experience that the lady who cleaned the shower house was unbelievably thorough. In fact, everyone called her the Bathroom Nazi.
What seemed like a good quarter of an hour had passed by now. In reality it had been more like a quarter of a minute. Seriously. It’s utterly amazing how time slows down when you are in a bizarre situation.
I decided to go ahead and carefully push myself up, then rise to my feet. My glasses were around here somewhere, and the last thing I needed to do was crush them. The rolling about and finding footing was quite a task with my britches around my ankles, but I managed to do it without hearing the sickly crunch of $600 no-line bi-focals turning into $600 trash. I straightened and then untangled my pajamas and pulled them up. At least now that particular issue was addressed. Or, should I simply say dressed? Either way, Wee Willy Winkie and the twins were back where they belonged.
With a sigh, I turned, then reached out and pulled open the spring loaded door to the toilet stall in front of me. A familiar looking blur on the floor immediately in front of me caught my eye, so I stooped and picked up my glasses. They didn’t appear to be any worse for wear, so I slid them onto my face. Now the world came into focus.
Before me was a gleaming white porcelain throne. It had been scrubbed within an inch of its life, as had the floor. The ultra-sanitary condition of the stool was a good thing, because floating in it were my shaving kit, and a rolled wad of fabric that constituted my fresh change of clothes. My towel was dangling precipitously from the tank.
I stepped in and rescued the towel, then fished my clothing and shaving kit out. Fortunately, I had more clothing back in my camper, and the shaving kit was safely ensconced in a sealed Ziploc bag – all part of my anal retentive packing routine after having a bottle of shampoo leak all over the inside of my suitcase.
It was as I steadied myself against the tank while retrieving my soaked belongings that all of the pieces fell into place. You see, the moment I put even the slightest amount of weight against the toilet tank, it rocked backwards. Now, when I say it rocked backwards, I mean it rocked several inches backwards. The proverbial light went off over my head – no, not the actual fluorescent one, I’m talking about the figurative one. I finished pulling my things from the bowl, then pressed lightly on the seat. As it had done when I touched the tank, it rocked, but this time it rocked forward. In fact, it rocked forward twice as many inches as it had rocked backward. A second or two later it began to right itself, seeking some sort of center.
I turned in place and looked at the gap beneath the door.
Mathematical calculations rushed through my sluggish brain, trajectories drew themselves against imagined graphs, and I had my elusive answer. Upon entering I had headed for a stall to execute my daily business prior to my shower. It just happened to be stall number 2. I don’t know why… Maybe it was because I had to do number 2. But maybe not. Because I also had to do number 1, so I probably should have gone to stall number 3. But, if I had, I probably wouldn’t have this story to tell.
Anyway, upon entering the stall I had placed my folded towel, then my rolled up clothing, and then my shower kit securely and solidly upon the top of the large tank. I noticed when I did so that the toilet had a bit of a slant toward the back wall, but it wasn’t like I was going to spend much time there, so I thought nothing of it. Besides, with a backward slant, all of my stuff would be sliding AWAY from danger, not toward it, if you know what I mean.
In keeping with standard convention, I dropped my drawers, what with that being the easiest way to go about doing one’s business. I lowered myself onto the stool and felt it pitch rapidly forward like a mechanical bull in a roadhouse. Seriously.
The next thing I knew I saw the bottom of the stall door flash past my eyes as it headed in a northerly direction, or so I thought. As it turns out, it was me doing the traveling, and I was heading south. After that, the world was pretty much a blur. Well, all except for the burned out light fixture on the ceiling, and as I said, it was pretty fuzzy too.
That wasn’t the last time I appeared as an author/guest speaker at that event. It was, however, the last time I used the second stall in the men’s shower room.
More to come…