A Test of Courage

It was barely 10:00 in the morning and here I was, faced with a serious dilemma which proves an individual’s leadership skills. Well, deciding one way or another probably won’t change earth’s axis if inclination but this was still one of those moments where you have doubts about whether or not it’s really happening.

I had to gather my thoughts on what just happened and stare up at the wall in front of me in order to not freak out again by viewing the awesome disaster which was unfolding in front of me.

Here’s the moment of truth. Do I go back to my desk, go back to work, pretend like nothing ever happened and act surprised and dumbfounded when someone eventually discovers what’s happened? Do I instead handle the matter myself, owning up to my problems and tackling them with little inhibition? This would be the kind of gusto that the hero of movies always demonstrates.

From where I am located in the building there are two bathroom options which are about the same distance away. One is what I call the executive bathroom. This bathroom’s wallpaper is a dark color. The stall walls are a fake dark marble. The sink has ornate decorations. There’s even a fan that’s always running and a can of mango-scented air freshener available. Using this bathroom is feeling like you’re important and the time you’re devoting in there is cherished.

Then there’s the other bathroom, the peon bathroom. Everything is older and slightly rundown. No dark colors anywhere; everything slightly resembles the tacky look of a dentist’s office. The sink is fully exposed and there’s no fan and mango-scented air freshener, so it typically stinks for up to several hours after it’s been used. I typically use the peon bathroom as it’s next to the break room and I can refill my mug on the way back to my desk. But on this day I decided to treat myself a bit to the executive bathroom just because I can.

So I walked in to find the bathroom empty. Score! It was going to be a mango-scented bliss to drop a few kids off at the pool.

Several minutes later and I was ready to flush away what seemed like just another session. And that’s when I encountered the first hiccup: the toilet began to back up. I stood in front of it in slight curiosity as this never happened before; the toilet and I had a pact. Luckily it didn’t overflow, probably due to the understanding we had.

I began using the industrial strength coiled plunger but it didn’t appear to be having any effect. To make matters worse, as I’m in the middle of frantically pluging the hell out of the toilet, somebody walks in.

I freeze until they leave again, lest they recognize my shoes and forever scar the image of me as that guy who clogged the toilet.

Now, I don’t recall what happened next as it all happened so fast, almost fast to enough to have my life flashing before me, but I think I flushed the toilet again thinking that I had loosened up any blockages and before I knew it the toilet which had always been good to me was overflowing and wouldn’t stop.

So there I was, not only standing in front of the toilet which had overflowed for what seemed like hours, but also standing in about half an inch of natural, crystal clear, smooth water (it was anything but natural, crystal clear or smooth but I’m leaving out the mental-picture-making details as it’s not important – it was mostly my own shit and I was standing in a crap load of it). This was the moment that I might’ve been waiting for my entire life: the moment where I make the choice to prove my courageousness, show integrity and fix the problem at hand; or, meander back to my desk to continue working like nothing ever happened. “What? The toilet in the executive bathroom overflowed and nobody said anything and now somebody’s going to have to clean up that mess? Nope – wasn’t me who did it. I had Mexican for dinner last night.”

OK, perhaps this wasn’t the moment I had been waiting for my entire life and it certainly wasn’t as character-defining as it sounds – it’s attending to an overflowing toilet – but it was such an awesome disaster that its resolution seemed pretty important.

As if deciding on combo meal number two instead of number one, I decided to clean up my mess and see it through no matter how much I later realized I didn’t want to. I needed to go through the series of steps to be rid of this problem.

“Has the toilet stopped overflowing water?” Yes, I jiggled the lever until water was blocked from coming down the tank. Next. I need a way to soak up all the mess on the floor.

“Paper towels will take ages. I need a mop bucket. I know there’s one in the break room closet but it’s locked. Dammit, I need to see Kevin to get the key.” So much for keeping this quiet. That’s going to be one person who knows too much.

So I walk out of the bathroom, stop in front of the door and check to make sure nobody’s making their way to it, otherwise I’d have to tackle them if they got too close. I walk over to Kevin’s office and ask for the key to the closet. “Nope,” he says, “Gabe is the one with that key. Let’s go see him.” Dammit, two people who know too much.

We go to Gabe’s office and get the key from him. During the walk to the closet Kevin asks, “What do you need the mop for?” Luckily a quick “Do you really want to know?” put an end to any further details leaking.

He opens the closet, tells me to close it back up when I’m done and walks away to leave me alone. Great, now if I can only get this yellow mop bucket to the bathroom I’ll be safe.

Not a chance.

Not even half way through the room and Steven walks in. “Hey, whatcha cleaning up?” Then Amanda walks out of the women’s poen bathroom, “You can come by and clean up my house after you’re done!” With each word I hear I pick up my pace, hopefully avoiding any further prodding from the now four people who know too much.

Got back to the bathroom. Put a sign on the door which read “Out of order” since I couldn’t lock the door. Started with the cleanup. At some point Gabe poked his head in and asked if I was alright. I had to admit to what had happened. “Oh… OK…,” and he slowly poked back out wishing he hadn’t asked in the first place. Three people who knew too much and now one who knew it all.

I had the entire floor spick and span again in no time without any further interruptions. Some of it required manual intervention with paper towels, but nothing enough to make me lose my lunch. The bathroom looked as good as new again, certainly nothing to give away any hints of the Desparado-like bathroom it was just hours ago (you know the one, it had a hidden door to the money counting room). I then wiped off the sweat on my brow and began on the mission to get the yellow bucket back to the closet without adding any further knows-too-much tallies – but not without first spraying some more mango on my way out.

Poked my head out of the door to make sure the coast was clear and raced back to the closet without bumping into anyone else in the breakroom. Mission accomplished.

There I sat, back at my desk again, with that feeling of an accomplishment under my belt but at the same time a kind of defeat. I thought we had a deal. I thought we had a deal.

All of the names except for the air freshener have been changed, it really was mango. And yes, it really happened to me.