It was one of those steaming hot summer days in the suburbs. The pavement shimmered in the heat and the local swimming pools overflowed from the impact of countless cannon balls and belly flops.
Looking forward to watching my son’s little league game that evening, I dressed in my lightest seersucker suit and spent the day in the comfort of air conditioned corporate servitude.
As five o’clock approached, the guys at the office began discussing plans for the evening, which almost invariably involved a stop at the local watering hole called Barry’s.
With the game starting at six thirty, I knew it would be a brief Barry’s stop for me but agreed to join them for a quick beer.
Now, the thing you need to understand about Barry’s was that each ‘quick beer’ was served in a frosty sixteen-ounce mug. Aside from being a bargain price-wise, this had another benefit: namely that you theoretically could look your wife square in the eye and, flaming capillaries notwithstanding, swear truthfully that you had “stopped and had A beer”. The fact that the low single digit beer count multiplied times the ounce factor could represent a couple of quarts of the stuff seemed irrelevant given the promise of wobbly integrity at home.
On this particular night even the walk to my car from the office and the few steps from the parking lot into Barry’s raised a sweat,. With one eye on the clock, I ordered A beer, a second and then a third until it was time for me to leave for the baseball fields where my wife waited with increasing irritation as game time approached.
The fields on which the games were played were quite elaborate for little league. None of the Chicago rock strewn sandlots on which I played ball as a kid, these were genuine first class baseball diamonds. There were four of them, arranged in hub and spoke fashion, with each field having its own backstops, dugouts, bleachers and other spectator seating areas.
The parking lots servicing the fields were located several hundred feet away. Hoping to reduce my sentence for having cut it so close in arriving just before ‘Play Ball’ was called, I jogged through the oppressive heat of the early evening to where my wife sat.
The jogging had two effects. First, by the time I flopped into the chaise lounge next to my wife, my suit was soaked; second, I felt a familiar pressure which I recognized resulted from my rapid departure from Barry’s without the required offering to the porcelain god and which I new would require relief soon.
I made small talk with my wife (“Hi, hon, stopped for a couple of beers at Barry’s”) as I glanced around to determine the whereabouts of the nearest rest room. To my annoyance I realized that the only facility was a Porta-Potty located far off adjacent to the parking lot. I knew that in order to keep the ‘Myth of the Single Digit Beer at Barry’s’ safe for future generations I would have to remain seated for at least the first couple of innings, so I hunkered down to tough it out.
The game started and I sat there in increasing discomfort until the third inning when I could stand it no more. I excused myself and began the long walk to the facilities. The closer I got, the faster I walked. The faster I walked in the sweltering heat, the more I perspired. By the time I made it to the portable bathroom even my socks were ringing wet.
I’m sure you know the type of comfort facility I’m talking about. It was one of those free standing structures with the spring loaded door, the tiny window for ventilation and the lock latch located on the inside. I opened the door and stepped in.
As I let go of the door the spring mechanism slammed it shut behind me with a bang. Actually, it shut with a bang and another sound – sort of a ‘klunk’. I registered the ‘klunk’ in the back of my mind as I frantically took care of business which by this time had become my sole purpose in life.
As a flood of relief swept over me my mind wandered, and I realized how really unbearably hot and ripe were my surroundings. My shirt was wringing wet, my suit was pitted out, sweat was poring from – well, from my pores – and my olfactory senses were in mega revulsion mode from the stench.
Having taken care of business as quickly as possible, I turned around, lifted the latch and pushed on the door.
It refused to budge.
I moved the latch up and down several times with no result, each time slamming my shoulder harder into the door. As I did so the meaning of the mysterious ‘klunk’ became clear. The locking mechanism had malfunctioned and I was now locked inside a human waste oven, the temperature of which was well over 100 degrees.
I normally consider myself to be pretty resourceful, however, a survey of my cell in hell offered no potential for escape. I stood on my toes and peered out the tiny ventilation window, expecting to see salvation in the form of another soul responding to nature’s call walking towards me. From my vantage point I could see clear across to the baseball diamonds and to my amazement there wasn’t a single person headed for the can.
Hoping that perhaps someone was within earshot in the parking lot I yelled, “Hey, can anybody hear me? I need help. I’m locked in the john!” As I did so, the humor of the situation struck me and I waited for a response, already thinking up clever one liners I could toss out when rescued. There was no response. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
For the next few minutes I repeated my calls until it became obvious there would be no help coming soon. I returned to the tiny window and looked again in vain for help from the direction of the ball fields.
The next twenty minutes were a lifetime. You’d have thought the kids on those ball diamonds were playing in the World Series, so intent were the parents and other fans on watching the games. Surely, I said to myself, there must be someone who has to go to the bathroom eventually.
With each passing minute, the temperature and the stench rose in parallel. I cursed my luck, I cursed my suit, the coat of which was now doing double duty as a towel to wipe the sweat out of my eyes, and I pretty much cursed everything up to and including Abner Doubleday for inventing the damn game which had brought me to such a ridiculously low place.
Finally, returning to the ventilation window, with relief I saw the figure of a seven or eight year old boy coming towards me from the ball fields. I let him approach to within twenty feet or so and hollered, “Hey kid, I’m locked in the john. Help me get out, will you?”
I instantly realized my mistake.
The boy looked up, his eyes widened in terror. He screamed and fled as fast as his little legs would carry him – straight back to the ball fields. I watched as he gesticulated to the crowd watching the games and pointed in my direction.
Like a scene out of Frankenstein the villagers rose up as one to slay the monster in the castle nee portable bathroom. These were big villagers, too, and ten or so of the macho vigilantes ran towards me. I swear I could almost see the lit torches.
Not wishing to take the chance that someone might decide to lynch the pervert in the potty or worse yet, tip the thing over, I began to yell frantically for help as soon as I thought they were in earshot. Unfortunately, like the villagers, the nearer they approached the louder were their cries of rage and demand for retribution.
Quickly the mob surrounded the facility as I stood tip toe to the window, talking a mile a minute about how I had been locked in the thing for half an hour, how I was losing weight in the putrid steam bath, and, “Honest guys, I didn’t say anything evil to that nice little kid”.
Finally, a guy who resembled a Bulgarian wrestler looked up at me and said, “Buddy, we’d better find that door locked.” He didn’t need to finish that statement and for one terrifying instant it occurred to me that perhaps I should have tried to open the door at least one more time. I heard the latch being worked from the outside and to my tremendous relief heard the words, “Damn, the door really is jammed,” and, “Wow, that poor s.o.b. in there really got the shaft!.”
When the door was finally pried open I stepped out and stood limply in front of the crowd of my would be executioners who were now staggering around convulsed in laughter.
I sloshed back to where my wife sat watching the game that by now was in the seventh inning. She barely glanced at me as I sat down.
After a couple of minutes wet reflection on the absurdity of my experience I managed to convince myself that she should somehow share in the blame. As I told her what had happened she began to chuckle. The more I told her the harder she laughed and the more indignant I became. By the time I finished the epic she was doubled over and all I could manage was a lame complaint to the effect that “I could have died in that thing and you never even would have noticed I was missing!”
I knew I was looking for sympathy in the wrong place as, wiping the tears from her eyes she smiled sweetly and said, “Don’t be silly, they clean those things out at least a couple of times a week.”
I think those are the kinds of things that have kept us together all these years.