When the Bathroom Crime was committed
The year was 2009. The United States inaugurated its first African American to be President, President Barack Obama. The Big Three US Car Companies were in dire financial straits. “Slumdog Millionaire” had edged out “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Milk,” “The Reader” and “Frost/Nixon” for the Best Picture Oscar. “30 Rock” was voted Best TV Comedy and “Mad Men” the Best TV Drama. Pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger safely crash-landed a U.S Airways jetliner into New York’s Hudson River after striking a bird during take-off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. All 155 people on board were saved. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals by the score of 27–23 to win the NFL’s Super Bowl and the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, four games to two, to win the franchise’s 27th World Series championship. I was up to 198 hospitalizations and 17 major surgeries and possibly positioned for more of both, because my Crohn’s Disease was active, intense and unpredictable.
The Scene of the Crime – Beverly Hills, CA
I remember it as a typical April, Los Angeles, California day. The weather was terminally beautiful and young movie mogul, “Lew Wasserman” “wannabes” took up every seat at Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee shops using them as “virtual offices” and purposely talking loud on their cellphones as if the fate of the entertainment industry rested on their every word. “New Media” was the talk of the town and for the first time in many years, I was actually in the right industry, at the right time. My days were jam-packed with as many meetings as Los Angeles traffic would permit. I loved every minute of it. So, in my “Business Affairs” uniform of neat jeans, a collared shirt, sports jacket, shoes and personality-hiding sunglasses, I left my apartment in Santa Monica at 11:00 AM for a 12:30 PM “coffee meeting” in Beverly Hills. This was normally a 20-minute drive but I couldn’t rely upon anything as Crohn’s Disease was making my life as predictable as the career of comedian Artie Lange.
I Can’t Shit where I Eat
When this happened in the past, I made sure I arrived at the general area of the meeting’s location early enough so I wouldn’t have to literally “shit where I eat.” Since Hollywood and the entertainment industry are built on illusion, perception and deception, I knew I had to maintain a healthy persona regardless of the pervasive effects of my Crohn’s Disease and I just tried to minimize how my problems affected other people. But because of the aforementioned reasonable mantra of wanting to separate various aspects of my life, “casualties” were unavoidable and they usually came in the form of “destroyed” bathrooms. Rock-n-roll acts destroy hotel rooms; Crohn’s diseased executives in Hollywood destroy bathrooms. On this late April day, that casualty was to be an innocent top-notch dining establishment in Beverly Hills whose only fault was that it was just situated in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Tom Petty – “Runnin’ Down a Dream”
As I drove down Wilshire Boulevard in my friend’s convertible, for which I was Custodian due to his constant travel schedule, and which I saved for beautiful days like this, beautiful even by Los Angeles cynical standards, I sang along with Tom Petty on the radio. At that moment, it felt like “anything was possible” and I wished I would have “hit cruise control” ‘cause I “rubbed my eyes” as the trees went by in the rear view mirror. I was “Runnin’ Down a Dream” with each business meeting and couldn’t have felt more alive. As I got closer to Beverly Hills, I started wondering where Tom Petty was when he wrote that song because it so perfectly captured the feeling I was experiencing at the moment. But, the reality of looking for a convenient parking spot set in and I had to leave my fascination with the creative process for another time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the parking spot I pulled into was more convenient than I would have ever imagined. That’s probably what songwriters say when something they write simply to exercise their creative gifts becomes iconic and part of the soundtrack of millions of lives.
A Bowel Movement interrupts my Dream
I secured the convertible for parking and noticed that I had parked 2 stores away from one of the finest “power lunch” restaurants in Beverly Hills. I typically ate at these types of places with certain “A-list” clients but for some reason I had never been to this one and always wondered what it was like. My mind then switched back to the matter at hand as I made sure the convertible’s roof was firmly fastened. Feeling satisfied as the custodian of my buddy’s car, I took out my meeting preparation notes and began thinking about the deal structure I was going to propose at this 12:30 PM coffee meeting. It was almost noon and I was hoping to finish my preparation in time to walk around Beverly Hills and “people watch” until I felt the rumblings of a possible bowel movement. “Houston, we have a problem.”
With Crohn’s Disease, at least for me, bowel movements come with either too much notice so that you are held up by a porcelain anchor or with no notice at all so that improvising is what keeps you in the game. I couldn’t tell with this one because it felt like it was not exactly “loaded in the chamber” but I did know that I had 30 minutes to figure it out and I did not want to be surprised during my coffee business meeting. Mind you, people I encountered in Los Angeles seemed to make big deals over nothing yet they did nothing over big deals. They also focused in on a person’s “energy” the same way TV’s Cesar Millan does with aggressive dogs. Then again, these same perceptive and “accepting” Angelenos cancelled meetings with me when it rained. So, I wasn’t sure what the interpretation would be if I abruptly excused myself from a business meeting to RUN to the bathroom, but I knew it would at least be remembered and told to many people and I did not want to be remembered like that.
“Stop that Man with Crohn’s Disease”
Not wanting to give off the wrong “energy” (or the wrong smell!) at my 12:30 PM meeting, I figured standing up would help me determine the predicament I was in. Sure enough, before my body was even fully extended from getting out of the car, the aforementioned bowel movement was “locked and loaded.” Finding the closest, and cleanest, bathroom now became my 30-minute mission. I looked up at both sides of the street and saw a few high-end hair salons but there were just dirty images in my memory bank of typical hair salon bathrooms. With laser-like focus, I again noticed this “power lunch” restaurant and knew it was my best bet. I just had to come up with a story that would permit me to get past the absolutely gorgeous female “Hostess” to get to the bathroom location without drawing attention to myself as having crashed the joint to use it as my personal Beverly Hills bathroom. Thankfully, I had my “Business Affairs” Uniform on and it allowed me to “act as if” I was meeting a client at the restaurant. Obviously, I did not have a reservation so I had to be very careful with the words I used in communicating with the restaurant’s Hostess otherwise walking to the restaurant’s bathroom would be tantamount to going through a massively-built Bouncer at a nightclub after he clearly said, “No.” For a second or two, before I summoned up the courage to speak to the statuesque Hostess and not knowing where the bathroom was located within the restaurant, I had visions of this beautiful Hostess on a walkie-talkie saying: “Stop that Man with Crohn’s Disease. The man with Crohn’s Disease has advanced past the bar area and is headed toward the dining area. We must stop him before he gets to the bathroom. I repeat: ‘Stop that Man with Crohn’s Disease.’”
It was getting difficult to maintain my composure and not reveal my deceptive intentions but the Hostess made it easy because I guess I “looked the part.” Everyone in LA is always worried about moving up the career ladder and therefore treating someone badly who can help you is not a smart move in that regard. Also, in Los Angeles, if you wear a baseball cap and deliberately try to hide your identity with it, you are probably a celebrity. If you wear pressed jeans, a collared shirt, a sports jacket and shoes, you are likely an agent, manager or some other type of executive most likely involved with celebrities. In each of these instances, however, you can likely help advance someone’s career in the entertainment industry where “Who you know” is so much more important than “What you know.” It also didn’t hurt that I was gonna’ try to flirt with the Hostess and I knew if I soiled myself in front of her, I was not going to get her phone number.
Past the Restaurant Hostess to the Bathroom
While I’ve been told I look a little like Robert Downey Jr., I didn’t have a baseball cap handy and my Uniform seemed to be the wardrobe required to pull off my “Act as if” plan. The Hostess smiled at me and welcomed me to the restaurant. I purposely acted as if I was multi-tasking on my phone, and politely told her that a client from out of town told me to meet him outside this restaurant because he was familiar with it. But, I added, “I’m 30 minutes early and it’s hot outside. Would it be too much trouble if I used the bathroom?” She heard everything I said but was intermittently distracted by having to greet other lunch customers so I think she erred on the side of caution as per the LA career advice above in case me or my client were “power players.” She graciously invited me to wait at the small bar at the end of the dining room and to certainly feel free to use the bathroom. Then she pointed out where the bathroom was and I purposely looked at my phone as if my need to use the restaurant’s bathroom was merely incidental to preparing to meet my client and not paramount to my very existence or preventative of soiling myself any second and in front of her. Her beauty seriously helped me keep my cool in this regard.
Public Bathroom Phobias re: “Dropping a Deuce”
Having to use a public bathroom to “make a number 2” or “drop a deuce,” freaks out the bravest of souls. But when you have a chronic illness like Crohn’s Disease which makes this aspect of life a roller-coaster of fun, you learn to “embrace” the concept of public toilets and make the best of it. Embracing them, however, is a metaphor so people learn to embrace them in different ways. For me, I like space, privacy and cleanliness and therefore I am always aware of high-end restaurants and hotels because they usually meet my Zagat’s-like criteria. In that overall department, the bathroom in this Beverly Hills restaurant did not disappoint but it needed some assistance in the cleanliness area. To that end, I have become an expert at cleaning a toilet bowl seat quickly and then precisely lining it with toilet paper for double protection. In fact, my skills are so developed that I think I could get a job with the Secret Service if the President ever had to use a public toilet. That said, the degree of difficulty in cleaning toilet bowl seats is ramped up by how bad I have to use said toilet.
My Ass’ Honing Device
As soon as the gorgeous Hostess said the words, “certainly feel free to use the bathroom,” my ass’ “any port in a storm” honing device sensed a resolution to its problem and the pressure to drop that deuce intensified tenfold. Then, as I walked past the Hostess toward the bathroom, I could barely avoid sprinting to the toilet but I had to maintain my poise because the bathroom door was literally within sight of the dining room and I would have been “made” had I given in to my body’s needs. I also would have blown any chance of getting her phone number. Much to the chagrin of my ass and its honing device, I finally arrived at the one (1) “open” toilet bathroom (i.e. no stalls or urinal, just a classy toilet) only to find a nasty-looking toilet seat. I quickly went into my “Hazel” mode and cleaned the seat with water and toilet paper. I also had some packaged small alcohol pads which I walked around with just for this type of emergency but they were old and devoid of alcohol when I opened them. I was also racing against the clock since this was the only men’s bathroom in the joint and it being lunch hour, someone eating at the restaurant surely had to use these facilities at any moment. People also saw me walk into the bathroom so this was not an anonymous stall situation, if you know what I mean.
Dropping the Deuce
As best I could, I cleaned the seat and the floor just in front of the toilet seat, and then quickly lined the seat with toilet paper as my ass’ honing device grew to such an intense level it almost started to vibrate. Talk about “degree of difficulty.” I sensed the time crunch and sat down and did what came natural. The relief was instantaneous and also “in-tact” but it was rather large so I was glad it wasn’t my home toilet. I flushed, cleaned myself, flushed again and then just sat there for a few more seconds in case there was “more to the situation.” My stomach had calmed down and my ass’ honing device seemed satiated so I stood up and started to pull my underwear and pants up. However, before I could get a good grip on my pants, I heard the unmistakable sound of the toilet bowl over-flowing with cascades of water hitting the floor all around me.
Post-Plunger Flushing is always Risky
To avoid being hit by these small waves of toilet bowl water, I hopped on one leg to the sink area, holding my pants and underwear up from touching the increasingly wet floor, and put myself together. As a veteran of similar situations, I was confident I could use their plunger to avert an embarrassing water disaster so I carefully walked the few feet back to the toilet to assess the situation. I used my best plunger moves to push down whatever was causing the problem, all the while making sure the water and “whatever” did not touch me or my clothes. Since you don’t really know if your efforts are successful with a plunger until you flush the toilet again, I also had to pull that lever again. But before I did, and after a few silent prayers to whomever was listening to me, I looked around the bathroom and made a mental note of my escape route, the same way I do on an airplane. Then I flushed and it quickly became apparent I had made a horrific situation, even worse. Before having to surf my way out of the bathroom, I made a bee-line for the door and with my peripheral vision I noticed the water slowly following me out into the dining room from underneath the bathroom door. Dating the Hostess was looking bleak.
Calmly Walking Away from an Over-Flowing Toilet
I still had a little bit of a walk to get to where the Hostess stood and I was just praying that nobody in the dining room noticed the water coming out from under the bathroom door. Luckily, I made it to the Hostess’s area and she just smiled and asked me if I needed anything as she was oblivious to what had happened in the bathroom. She was just kind, nice and beautiful. I thanked her profusely and then told her that I had to make a few business phone calls and didn’t want to disturb any of her patrons so I was going to wait outside for my client. She again smiled and offered to accommodate me in any way. Then I told her that I thought there was some type of problem in the Men’s Bathroom as I noticed water start to leak while I was leaving the bathroom.
In the middle of my mea culpa, she got distracted by a phone call and directed an over-compensating smile toward me and simultaneously motioned with her finger, while she mouthed the words, for me to wait “one second.” Maybe she was going to give me her number without me asking for it? I waited, hoping that the torrents of water hadn’t yet hit the shoes of some powerful Agent who would ban me from Hollywood for life. That one (1) second seemed like an eternity but she was off the phone before I started to physically shake at the thought of the industry’s magazine, “Variety,” doing a front-page story on this embarrassing mishap.
Destroying the Bathroom & Dating the Hostess
Apparently she could not hear me when I told her about the bathroom mishap, so, like the Captain of the “Titanic” telling passengers they may experience some water in their cabins over the next few hours, I repeated what I had said about the possible water leak in the Men’s Bathroom. She motioned with her hands that she was not at all worried about the situation but I tried to reiterate the possible urgency of the situation especially in light of the bathroom’s direct proximity to the dining room. She said she’d call somebody to fix it and with a genuine smile, that I needn’t worry. Then, she was again interrupted by a phone call which warranted some privacy because she had to turn her back towards me (which I didn’t particularly mind as she was a striking woman).
It was probably an A-lister representative calling seeking a reservation. I took that as my cue to leave – and to never come back. 🙂 I still think about how beautiful and kind she was and that if I hadn’t destroyed the bathroom, who knows, we may have really connected. I was just too embarrassed to wait there and ask her for her phone number just as someone from the kitchen came running out screaming about somebody who destroyed the bathroom! That’s why I can never forget this bathroom story.
By the way, I made it to my 12:30 PM coffee meeting feeling great and “Variety” never wrote a story about my Beverly Hills Bathroom Misadventure but I still feel bad about how I destroyed the restaurant’s bathroom. I also wonder what might have been with the beautiful Hostess. Hollywood and Crohn’s Disease.
If you want to share a funny Crohn’s Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Bathroom Story, please comment below. Thanks.