September 8, 2006

Got toilet paper?

On Labor Day just a few days ago, some friends of mine and I met at a local park to attend a free bluegrass music festival. The bands were entertaining, the conversation was good, and the burgers, brats, and corn were typical for festival food.

About twenty minutes prior to the start of the final set--played by a popular band that my friends wanted to stay for--I headed to the Little Ladies Room.

When I got there, a number of women were waiting (of course!). As others were heading back out, I heard more than a few of them say, "Make sure you bring your own toilet paper. Make sure you have toilet paper with you...."

Not what a woman likes to hear when she has to pee--even and especially if there are eight or ten stalls to choose from.

I checked two stalls myself. Can they be serious?!

It was true.

Then I thought I might ask to get some from the men's room nearby.

It took only about thirty seconds to realize that it's awful hard to make eye contact with a man after he's just used the can!

So I did the next best thing: I went outside to look for a park employee.

God answered my prayers--and probably the early evening prayers of dozens of women--because right away I saw a woman in a polo shirt with an embroidered Park Board logo on it, and she had a Park Board badge dangling on a lanyard around her neck.

She was also dragging two enormous bags of music festival garbage behind her.

No matter. A girl with a small bladder has to do what a girl with a small bladder has to do.

I boldly walked up to her... and instead of letting her know that the women's restroom was in dire need of t-p, which I had planned to say, these other words came out of my mouth:

Say, do you want help with that?
She looked up at me and said, "Sure!" and then added, "...Just don't let any union employees see you doing this."

We chuckled.

Then I popped the question.
Well, seeing as I have you here now, and I'm giving you a hand, can I tell you that the women's restroom is completely out of toilet paper?
She stopped for half a step, looked up at me, and said, "Are you serious?"

As if a woman would joke about a thing like that.

We double-timed getting the garbage to the dumpster and I followed her to the supply closet, which was in the direction of the restroom. Then I had the nudge to head back to the women's room and let women know that t-p was coming in another minute.

When the Park Board employee came in, she was laden with those massive rolls of toilet paper, twelve inches in diameter, three or four threaded on her left arm. Her right arm held a key, which she would use to open the large canister in each of the stalls to hold the toilet paper.

The key didn't work.

She swore and began to head out to look for another key, taking the toilet paper with her. I called out to her and said, "At least leave me with one of the rolls so I can pass out toilet paper!" Once she saw the sense of that, she gladly let me slip one of those huge paper bracelets off her arm, and I took my station at the large, open entrance to the Little Ladies Room.

I tore off a four-foot piece, called out to the woman who had just passed me by, and said, "There's no toilet paper in any of the stalls. Here ya go."

Then a woman with two tykes in tow. Several more pieces of t-p. "There's no toilet paper in any of the stalls. Someone has gone to get the key to install some in the canisters."

A threesome of friends. More toilet paper. More explanation.

It was surreal. I was given thanks, strange looks, and an occasional laugh or eye-roll. I was a human toilet-paper dispensing machine.

Is this what God had in mind when I asked how I might be of service?!?

About six minutes and twenty flushes later, the employee returned, this time with a screwdriver and six more rolls of toilet paper. She managed to get most of the rolls she had brought with her into the stalls before I approached her, with my own paper bracelet extended:
Well, I guess I'll take my turn now, and you can install this last one.
She looked up at me, surprised. "Oh, you haven't gone yet?! You've been passing out toilet paper....?! Omigosh, thank you! ....Of course, you go-- oh, and let me give you something as a thank you, Thank You so much!"

She reached into her pocket and put something in my hand. (It would turn out to be a Park Board keychain.) I looked at her, smiling over the ridiculousness of the moment. You're welcome, I said. Glad I could be of help!

When I got back outside, my friends looked up at me, their faces and upraised hands full of questions about what took me so long.

I was glad the music got started up again.

Just another classic example of the admonition, Be careful what you ask for.



Linda said...

Hi Liz,
God has a great sense of humor!
Have you read Anne Lamott's Plan B? The chapter entitled "The Ham of God" is another great example of God working in mysterious and wacky ways.

Chris M. said...

Liz, This is brilliant! Personal narrative theology at its finest. I had to cross my legs in sympathy.

-- Chris M.

Rex said...

The Mysterious Nature of Reality (God?) works in most mysterious ways great wonders to perform!
(I love your posts!)

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. This was a fun post for me to write... now that I'm on the other side of it.

Linda - I myself haven't read Lamott's Plan B, but my partner did. And I believe she read aloud to me that very chapter. I'll have to look at it again...