I usually don’t eat while writing, but today merited an exception. Despite having journeyed to my favorite chain restaurant, I missed lunch. I had good reason though.
I’d made plans to meet Jimmy, Matt (a friend of Jimmy’s I’d met previously), and a friend of theirs I didn’t know. When I arrived, Jimmy and Matt were already seated. I caught Jimmy’s attention and signaled my intent to use the facilities.
Entering the men’s room, I heard a grunt from the lone stall, followed immediately by an unmistakable splash of the squirts. Judging from the sound, it must’ve been a titanic eruption – one guaranteed to spray befouled toilet water in all directions (like a chubby cannonballer leaping from a high dive). Adequate cleanup for such an extreme episode should’ve necessitated ten minutes of scrubbing with half a roll of T.P. Yet shockingly, mere seconds after a lone pull from the dispenser, the toilet flushed, and the occupant emerged.
Incredibly, an even greater shock awaited me. “Mr. Unclean” didn’t wash up! Instead, he walked past the sink and strode out the door. He didn’t notice me, but I got a look at him while turning from the urinal: overweight; bald spot; and striped, buttoned-down shirt.
I reached the table just ahead of our fourth diner. Before I could say a word, Jimmy shouted over my shoulder: “You made it, Phil!” Then he announced: “Richard, meet my friend Phil.” I turned, offering my hand for the perfunctory shake … and literally tripped over a chair in haste to avoid touching the meaty paw extended from a striped, buttoned-down shirt, by the overweight balding guy behind me.
Under the circumstances, I deemed my gashed finger a worthy price to pay. Moments later, I considered starvation and embarrassment equally worthy payments. As I finally sat, a server delivered appetizers Jimmy had taken the liberty of ordering. I couldn’t carp about his choices: a plate of hot wings; fried calamari; and nachos. Even so, I prayed Phil would approach the finger food with greater decorum than he’d displayed in the lavatory.
The dishes had barely hit the table when Phil grabbed heaping handfuls from each. Knowing his mitts’ last location, there was no way in hell I’d eat anything. I would’ve liked to warn Jimmy and Matt too; but I struggled to conceive a diplomatic way to say: “I don’t think that’s bean dip sprinkled on those nachos.” Unfortunately, while I pondered, Jimmy and Matt popped morsels into their mouths. Then Jimmy noticed my empty plate and said: “C’mon Richard, dig in. I ordered your favorites.”
Jimmy and Matt had already seen me visit the bathroom, so I offered what I thought a plausible refusal: “I can’t. My stomach’s acting up, and I’ve got a bad case of the runs.”
Inwardly horrified, I watched the others clear all three plates. Phil departed upon swallowing his last mouthful, citing work issues. No sooner did he leave than our waiter approached, only to be interrupted by a fuming customer. We all heard the man’s complaint: “Tell the manager the men’s room stall needs cleaning; somebody crapped all over, and it’s disgusting!”
I didn’t protest the disgusted sneers Jimmy and Matt leveled my way. All things considered, it seemed prudent to leave their mistaken conclusions intact, and let the true cause of their impending intestinal issues remain an unsolved mystery.