Al Batt: This is not intended for mature audiences

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


I was in LAX, a ginormous airport in Los Angeles.

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I’d just gotten off an airplane only slightly smaller than LAX. I needed to visit a men’s room and I did exactly that.

There were so many voices coming from the stalls of that restroom it sounded as if it were a call center for telemarketers. There was little resting being done in those restrooms as the world’s economy hung in the balance right next to the toilet paper.

It reminded me of something that had happened back somewhere in the mists of time. The past is where most things happened in my life. It was one of those things that I thought I’d look back upon one day and laugh. I look back, but the laughter is slow in arriving.

I’d been invited to eat at a friend’s place. His house was a dandy. He lived on the best side of the township, in the last house before the pavement began. I wore a clean shirt.

The meal consisted of generous portions of steak, baked potatoes, corn, red Jell-O with miniature marshmallows in it and lemon meringue pie.

We become gluttonous as a way of complimenting the cook. The third helping might have been a mistake.

Nature not only called, it put me on speed dial. Its ringtone was the song of a beluga whale with indigestion.

I asked to use the bathroom. After being instructed to bring the bathroom back after I was done using it, I excused myself. I soon found myself in the porcelain palace. I’ll admit, I’m far from perfect, but I didn’t snoop in the medicine cabinet. I never do.

I’ll try to be delicate here. Everything was going as it should until I flushed. Then the world became as dark and bleak as a Dickens novel. The toilet began to back up. I stared at it as if I were Nipper the RCA Dog listening to his master’s voice. I flushed a second time. Here’s a handy tip for you. Never do that. Suddenly, the water no longer fit in the bowl. Say what you will about outhouses and portable toilets, that sort of thing doesn’t happen there. The flushing flood put things in proper perspective. I went from being blissful to being highly alarmed. I no longer cared which way the toilet paper hanged. My urgent feelings had changed lanes. Had I been a politician, I’d have blamed my predecessor.

I try to make every day the best day of my life, but life presents challenges. That’s a part of its job description. I heard Johnny Cash singing, “How high’s the water, mama? Two feet high and rising. How high’s the water, papa? Two feet high and rising.”

I looked around for a grownup, but there were none available.

I looked for a plunger. Not finding one, I looked for a tire iron. I still didn’t snoop in the medicine cabinet. Maybe that’s where the plunger had been.

Studies have suggested that speaking to oneself in the third person relieves stress.

“Run, Al, run!” I told myself, but I wasn’t listening.

I tried to blend in with the bathroom curtains. Had I been wearing a hoodie, I’d have pulled the hood over my head and walked out of the house as a mysterious stranger.

Misbehaving toilets have been helping people find religion for as long as the two have been working or not working together. Plugged toilets foster prayer.

I had a bit of a think about it and decided to call someone, but who do I call? Ghostbusters? I didn’t have their number. I called my host’s number, relieved that I hadn’t dropped my phone into the toilet.

“Plunger!” I yelled into the phone.

He brought a plunger kept in a second bathroom to my location that he’d derived from the GPS app on his cellphone.

He made me use the plumber’s friend and promised not to tell anyone. Before he left, he advised, “Don’t worry, what other people think of you is none of your business.”

After a period of time even longer than the final two minutes of an NFL game, I rejoined the group. A silence greeted me, but I could tell by the stifled giggles, laughs, smiles and snorts that they had somehow learned my story. 

I stopped at a large convenience store recently. I opened the door to its men’s room and saw a plunger standing proudly next to the toilet. That was comforting.

But my cellphone was fully charged, just in case.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.