Broadway Bathroom Attendant, Stranger of the Week

You know how bad the lines are in women’s restrooms.  You can wait forever, wondering if someone is writing a novel (or reading one) inside the stall.

I’m a fan of everyone having as much time as they need to do everything they actually NEED to do.  I don’t mean to be miserly or dictatorial when it comes to other people’s bodily functions.

Yet I do think that many people dawdle.   Yes, there it is, my accusation: “some people do not FOCUS when they are in a public restroom.”  And I’m enough of a Type-A personality to not like dawdling, especially when I have paid money for a theater ticket and hope to accomplish a quick bathroom run during intermission, hoping that heeding nature’s call will not mean that I miss Act II.

So one night my view of lines (and my view of menial work) was changed forever when I encountered a fabulous stranger at a Broadway theater.  She was the restroom attendant.  Normally those who do that job seem to have about as much enthusiasm for it as someone would have for being a crash dummy.  And who can blame them.  Checking the cleanliness of the toilet after each flush, restocking paper towels, perhaps spraying a little ReNu… it’s not that challenging, and it’s not that appealing.

So when one woman, my featured “stranger of the week,” turned her job into theater and improv and delight, I was buoyed, impressed, heartened.  She gave pep talks to the assembled women, standing in what would have been, on any other attendant’s watch, an interminable line.  She talked to us about the joy of turning this bathroom run into a game.  She got us laughing and she got us cheering any woman who was especially speedy.  She convinced us that when we flushed the toilet, no one would be scandalized if we then finished buttoning up our 10-button fly-front pants in the common area, thus allowing the next patron entrance into the inner sanctum of the stall.  She refrained (mercifully) from shaming anyone who wasn’t fast or on task.  This was all about rewarding the speedy, those who wanted to play along.

That line was a thing of beauty, that cramped restroom had an aura of joy and laughter.  That woman deserves a medal.

Male readers may not appreciate why this is so glorious.  But then again, you’ve all waited for women who were waiting for toilets.  And thus, let’s all salute one woman, name unknown, who not only imbued her own work with honor and dignity and fun, but also stands out in my mind years later as a hero, even if in a realm that doesn’t seem earth-shattering.

Life can be mundane, or life can be glorious.  Our small acts help determine which way the bus turns.


~ by Cary on June 10, 2010.

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