Friday, July 10, 2009
2:52 PM | Posted by Wide Lawns | | Edit Post
For almost three years, Husband I had a long distance relationship. He lived in San Francisco and we met when he came to Florida on vacation. At first, he had a more flexible travel schedule than I did. He also had a lot of frequent flier miles that he could exchange for free flights to Florida, so he visited me three times before I was able to make it across the country to see where he lived.
When you're in a long distance relationship, you're forced into a more instant form of intimacy than you are in a traditional dating situation. When you date someone in your own proximity, you go out for a couple hours then you go home. Then you do it again. You have time to yourself. You move through the stages of dating more slowly, gradually working your way up to sleep overs, then sleep overs where you spend a good part of the next day together and then before you know it you're spending a couple days at a time together before going home which then leads up to the first big milestone in any new relationship: the weekend away. By the time you get to the weekend away, you're usually pretty well acquainted and comfortable with one another. In other words, you've come to an acceptance that the other person poops, though you're not at the stage of actually discussing it or admitting that you do it and you absolutely haven't yet farted in front of each other. That comes later, though not much later given that the weekend away goes well.
In a long distance relationship, one doesn't have the luxury of such privacy. You go to visit each other and you're stuck with the other person for the whole entire duration of the trip. At some point you're going to have to go to the bathroom. For neurotic anal retentives like me, this is cause for major anxiety.
Before I met my husband, I once spent a weekend away with a man I didn't know as well as I should have. I liked him very much and I didn't want him to know that I pooped, although he was a doctor so I'm sure he figured it out. One day I will tell you the whole story of this weekend, because lord knows, it is a story. For the entire weekend I prayed that I wouldn't have to go to the bathroom and in order to ensure that this wouldn't happen, I took what I called pre-emptive Imodium each morning when I didn't even have diarrhea. I definitely didn't have to go to the bathroom. For about three weeks after the trip had ended.
I also used to pride myself on the fact that I made it through elementary school, middle school and high school without ever going in the school bathroom. I have a colon of steel. Many a long car ride home have I suffered in order to avoid the humiliation of public restrooms. I just can't stand it.
Husband's first visits were short and miraculously I didn't have to go while he was around. Another time, he stayed longer but I was at my parents' house where there were multiple bathrooms. I would poo in brief installments in their bathroom, always using the excuse that I "had to get something" or "was looking for something." Once I used the excuse that I just had to have a shower. This always works nicely because you can run the water, poop really quickly, take a shower and by the time you're done the smell has usually dissipated. The problem is that you end up taking oddly timed showers and, if you're on the weekend away, the other person may mistake this as a romantic overture and ask to join you, which is really awkward.
I was going to San Francisco for ten days. Pre-emptive Imodium was not an option for that length of time. At the time of my first trip out there, my husband lived with two other young guys in an apartment that wasn't that big. It was really a two bedroom, but Husband turned the old-fashioned dining room, with its french doors, into his bedroom (he hung curtains over the panes). There was only one bathroom for all these boys and guess where it was? In the middle of the living room. Right there. In an old building with thin walls, a door that wouldn't close all the way, even when latched. Had I known this before arriving in San Francisco, I may not be married right now.
During the days, everyone went to work. I would pray to please, just let me have to go while they were all out. Please. But this didn't work because my body hates me. It's the Murphy's Law of Elimination. You'll always have to go at the time when it is least convenient. At home alone you can strain and strain with no results, but the second you're in the middle of an important meeting your stomach will begin to rumble. Stuck in traffic with no rest area in sight? Time to go. My biggest laxative is the lack of a bathroom.
While Husband worked, I used to entertain myself sightseeing. My first day in San Francisco, I walked a block up the hill to have tea at the Ritz Carlton, which was very posh and very lovely. Before I nibbled my cucumber sandwiches I went to the powder room to wash my hands and it was like the pearly gates of Heaven opened. I felt like Dorothy in the Emerald City. The bathroom in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton was so sumptuous, so perfect in every way that I thought the Wizard lived in one of the stalls. To call them stalls is really an insult. They were water closets. They were practically their own studio apartments. They had real doors. The walls were attached to both the ceiling and floor and were totally soundproof. Picture a toilet in an elevator and you have some clue as to the level of privacy and enclosure offered here. You could play a trumpet in one of those little closets and the person in the stall next to you wouldn't be able to hear it. But not only were these bathrooms private, they also smelled good - like tangerines and angels. There were lavish floral arrangements on the marble counters, real towels, wicker baskets, expensive soaps and hand cream that turned your skin into satin. I wanted to live in the Ritz Carlton restroom.
The next night the boys were home making dinner when nature called. Thinking fast, I told them I needed to get some fresh air. I'd take a quick walk and be right back. They needed half and half and I'd pick some up at the corner store so I could have coffee after dinner. I sprinted up Powell Street, right into the lobby of the Ritz where I headed in the bathroom of my dreams and did my business without event. I picked up the cream on the way home and was back in less than ten minutes, utterly relieved. It worked spectacularly. No one knew the difference. No one knew I was poopin' at the Ritz.
I visited the Ritz Carlton's bathroom several times during that trip. Utterly grateful for its existence, I went back over and over on my subsequent trips out to California. Pretty soon Husband and I became closer and more and more comfortable. Pretty soon he realized that I did go to the bathroom and that I was a human being with a working digestive tract. He still loved me. But this didn't help the roommate situation. I still couldn't go when they were around.
One day Husband asked me if I was leaving for these mysterious walks in order to use the bathroom.
"Yes," I confessed, "Yes I am."
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"The Ritz Carlton. I'm pooping at the Ritz Carlton. They have a really nice bathroom. Really. If you could see it, you'd understand."
By now my future husband knew I was nuts, but one day we were out on a walk and he got to see for himself. After he went he understood. After that he became my accomplice. If I had to go while his roommates were home, I'd signal to him and he'd actually go with me, just because the Ritz lobby and bathroom were that pleasant.
I visited again on New Years Eve. The roommates threw a huge party. The small apartment was filled with people who had "broken the seal." The one little bathroom in the middle of the living room had a line. Of course this was the best time for me to get diarrhea. Of course it was. I had never run up Powell Street faster. Never. When I got to the hotel, it was lit with candles and Christmas lights. It glittered. The building had never looked more regal, more imposing or grand. It was like taking a crap at the White House. No, it was like pooping at the Parthenon during the golden age of Athens. Had I not been gripped with stomach cramps, it would have taken my very breath away. Inside there was a big party with several dignitaries and who did I see but former San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown, all decked out in his tux doing a meet and greet. He came right up to me and shook my hand!
"Happy New Years, young lady," he said.
What a memory that was.
Soon Husband moved out and got his own apartment. By that point we were well past the farting in front of one another stage and I no longer needed the security of a five star hotel powder room. Still sometimes, I'd wander back because I missed it in there with that fancy soap and hand cream. It was like old times.
I haven't been back to San Francisco in almost two years, but I miss it and the next time I return, I'll stop in and see my old friend the Ritz bathroom. If you happen to be there, stop by and tell it I said hello. Once you walk through the door, you'll understand too.
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