Al Batt: Would you like some flies with your toilet paper?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Fortunately, there is an improvisation exercise using fortunately/unfortunately stories. Participants take turns articulating one sentence at a time in a build-upon story chain. Each sentence must start with either “fortunately” or “unfortunately,” and alternate between the two. In this activity, “fortunately” is used to suggest good luck for the character and “unfortunately” introduces bad luck.

Al Batt

Unfortunately, I grew up in the days when there was no air conditioning. 

Fortunately, I didn’t know any better. The job of the air conditioning was filled by screen windows with fly-sized holes in them. Family members sat around the table, each with a flyswatter. Woe betide any fly using that kitchen table as a landing strip. A single fly caused the famous flyswatter fight at the OK Table. 

Unfortunately, years later, I was driving a car that had no air conditioning.

Fortunately, it wasn’t equipped with screen windows with fly-sized holes in them.

Unfortunately, nature called as I drove far from home. Nature doesn’t need a cellphone to do that. I quickly determined I needed to undertake a petite voyage.

Fortunately, I was headed toward a tiny town divided by a rural highway.

Unfortunately, the car’s speedometer didn’t work.

Fortunately, the AM radio was a dandy.

Unfortunately, the gas gauge was unreliable and the tank was always near empty.

Fortunately, I made it to the modest city. 

Unfortunately, I found no flashing neon arrow proclaiming “Restroom!”  

Fortunately, the gas station was a ramshackle building with a large sign advertising “Gas” or it might have been “Gas for dummies.” The ugliest buildings in town were a beauty shop and the fuel’s paradise. I didn’t need gas, but I had to buy something to salve my conscience if I were going to use the toilet. Gas was cheap in those days and its prices could stay the same for a year. By the time the car had an elegant sufficiency of gasoline, only a few gallons had gone into the tank, denting my wallet slightly.

Unfortunately, I should have been there when the gas station attendant was awake.

Fortunately, he was a light sleeper and I had little difficulty waking him. I asked if I might use the facility.

Unfortunately, his deep sigh indicated he wasn’t excited about granting my wish.

Fortunately, he handed me the key to the restroom. It was attached by a chain to a 150-pound anvil. I tried to smile in appreciation. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy using a gas station restroom. Oh, wait, it was exactly that. It was with less than a modicum of gaiety that I skipped my way to the restroom while dragging a key chained to an anvil.

I unlocked the door and opened it. 

Unfortunately, my breath was taken away. The reason I saw no “clean restroom” sign was because it hadn’t been cleaned since the Watergate scandal. The bathroom was locked because the owner worried someone might break in and clean it. I held my breath so long, Jacques Cousteau would have turned green with envy.

Fortunately, there was toilet paper and a working lightbulb.

Unfortunately, there was a flypaper ribbon, a sticky tape hanging down and acting as quicksand for flies.

Fortunately, I dodged the ribbon and returned the key, chain and anvil, dragging them behind as if they were a lifetime of regret. I expressed my appreciation for the comfort station and the exercise. The guy manning the station wasn’t into chinwagging. He might have grunted his warmest personal regards, but I doubt it. He was preoccupied with looking at a map and trying to find a way out of town.

Unfortunately, I’d grown to my full height and the stars that guide our destinies can be cruel. That explains my lifetime membership in the Whoopie Cushion of the Month Club. As I hurried away, I walked face-first into a hanging fly ribbon, which stuck firmly to the side of my face. I staggered outside with a ribbon holding a fly cemetery sticking to my face. There is no point in being an idiot if you don’t flash your skills occasionally.

 Fortunately, I didn’t pay for that ribbon.

 Unfortunately, it was a participation trophy.

 Fortunately, the ribbon was supposed to catch annoying pests and it did.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.