Sunday, November 15, 2009


So my friend Kat is visiting from Florida. It's incredibly exciting, and we're going gallivanting about Scotland and Ireland starting Tuesday.

That is, of course, if I don't die of residual embarrassment first, courtesy of an ill-timed trip to a train toilet.

In the interest of full disclosure -- or just the opportunity for people to make fun of me just a little bit more -- I should say that several months ago I used a train toilet, but neglected to push the lock button, something I realised at exactly the moment someone else pushed the open button from outside.

Pushing the open button causes the door to slide open very, very slowly. It's like being on a game show, except the prize reveal -- well, let's just say it would be difficult to underbid the value.

We decided to go to London on Saturday, despite the weather being awful even by English standards -- wind, rain, etc. And as you do, I needed to go to the toilet.

Making my way to the nearest one, I found it occupied, so I proceeded to the next carriage, where I saw that the ring of lights around the open button was on and concluded it was empty. And though the door didn't open the first time I pushed the button, I assumed that was a mere technical error and tried again.

It was that exact moment that one of the gentlemen sitting near the bathroom decided to say, 'hey, there's someone in there.' And there was. A young lady of about 25, looking rather flustered and appearing as though she wished the floor would open up and drop her onto the tracks. Understandable. I know how she feels.

Making a hasty retreat, I decided I really didn't have to go that badly and returned to my seat, sharing only the briefest of details with Kat and figuring that would be the end of it.

It wasn't, though. It never is, is it?

A few minutes later, the doors to our carriage opened, and who should walk through but that same young lady. I turned immediately to the window, hoping that if I did my best to avoid being seen, she wouldn't even notice me, a strategy that was remarkably effective.

Far. Too. Remarkably. Effective.

Why? Because she sat down in the seat opposite us. And started telling the story to a friend on the phone. I stared out the window, now myself wishing the floor would open and drop me onto the tracks. Kat and I exchanged occasional furtive glances, smirking all the while.

She noticed that, of course, and apologised after she got off the phone, then started retelling the story. I tried to subtly identify myself, but to no avail, so eventually I just had to tell her. Several more phone calls followed, in which her level of bemused embarrassment had understandably risen, and the remainder of the train journey took, oh, I don't know, 47 hours. (Actually, she was rather nice, and we chatted for several minutes.)

Finally, we got to London, she fleeing for the door, an awaiting cab and a stiff drink.

But a story with only one Billy Mays moment just isn't good enough. Oh no.

For when we got up, I was most surprised to hear someone say my name. Maybe because I know so few people here, relatively speaking, or maybe because I was just willing it to be for someone else, I tried to ignore it. But it continued. Of course.

Sitting directly opposite us, for most of the journey, had been a longtime friend of my father's and his wife, people I have met before. And yes, they'd heard just about everything.

I think I stopped blushing a little while ago. I hate train bathrooms.