A few years ago, our son Michael and his close friend Micah decided to invite their two families to meet each other over dinner. It was Parents' Weekend at Stanford University and we had spent the entire day taking classes specially presented to us parents. It was a very exciting day; we learned about sleep disorders, solar systems and how they measure distances between stars, dolphin language, and biochemical principles or something like that. It was great fun pretending to be college students again but a few hours after class I had forgotten most of the lectures, except maybe the sleep disorders one. That had the most practical value for me at my age and I even bought the professor's book and had him autograph it.
In the evening we all met in a downtown Palo Alto restaurant for a family style Chinese dinner. Micah's family was very nice; they had two sons the same ages as ours, they had sent both of them to Stanford just like us and soon the eight of us were laughing and sharing food and drink like we had known each other for years. We ate and drank tea, talked, laughed, ate more and drank more tea and all of a sudden it was time to leave.
As we got up and said our goodbyes, I realized I'd better use the restroom, I asked them to wait for me at the entrance and rushed to the dark hallway where I was told the restrooms were. By this time my need was urgent and the restroom signs were not the normal, clear, Men and Women signs. They were some sort of indistinguishable, androgynous looking abstract pictures which I'm sure might have had some entertaining value if one was just lingering by the doors, or even could make a good Jeopardy question. But quite faded, in the dark and in my urgent state they were of absolutely no use to me.
I thought for a minute. Logically, the ladies restroom should come first because ladies need it more and usually it's more of an emergency. Besides, there was more room in the front for a longer line, whereas the second one was crammed against the back wall. So of course, the first door had to be the ladies room.
I walked in and right in front of me saw a stall with the door half open and ran to it, closed the door and sat on the toilet. Ah.... relief. Halfway through I had a sudden thought and stopped abruptly. Why were there three sinks in this restroom but only one stall? I was sure I had seen two people washing their hands and a third unoccupied sink. Hmm. Were those people washing their hands men or women? Were they washing their hands? My face flushed and my heart skipped a beat as gradually realization sank in that maybe, perhaps, there might be a small possibility that those were not sinks. I still was not totally sure. After all, I had convinced myself the ladies room should be first in the hallway.
I rolled my eyes looking around the stall, barely breathing. The toilet was unusually high for a woman, wasn't it? My feet were touching the floor but barely. Then I noticed the door. It didn't reach all the way down to the floor or all the way up to the ceiling. It looked more like a saloon swinging door in a Western movie, except it wasn't swinging. I carefully bent down and peeked from under the door looking towards where the sinks were. I saw two pairs of shoes standing there. Oh for heaven's sake, those were men's shoes!
What to do, what to do? First, don't panic. The boys were outside and they'd come looking for me soon. I hope they don't find me dead, or even worse, molested! Wait, if I can see their shoes under the door, they'll be able to see my high heels! So I bent my knees and lifted my feet high off the floor. Now I was safe, I could think. Maybe when I hear water running outside, I'll finish what I had come in here for, and then get ready to run for my life as soon as the shoes walk out. But what if new shoes walk in?
Sure enough, new shoes kept walking in. Fancy shoes, sport shoes, flip flops, black shoes, brown shoes, even white shoes. Not in February, man; dark flip flops were ok, but not white shoes. I waited for what it seemed like an eternity or maybe seven minutes. The boys will start getting worried, I thought, it's a bit quiet now, let me look again. No luck, a pair of shoes were still standing there. But wait, they looked familiar, brown loafers, the little scratch on the side, about the right size... I knew those shoes! Sigh of relief. This was my chance, let me make a run for it. I opened the saloon door and ran, as I grabbed the main door handle I heard my husband's shocked voice: Swanny, is that you? I didn't answer, just bolted out, walked calmly through the restaurant while looking for the Purell in my purse.
I hope for another such opportunity. This time, I will just walk out with my head high, one hand on my hip, and say, Hi guys, how's it going?