I recently attended a high school graduation for my sister, which in and of itself was a pretty exciting event. It's not everyday your little sister graduates from high school, after all. But it's not an event that I'm rushing out to repeat either, as I suffered a rather traumatic incident in a public washroom.
The events leading up to my imprisonment were rather mundane: I had eaten dinner with my family. Before the toasts began, I decided to see a man about a horse, and I went to the ladies' room which was very, very busy. After waiting in line for a few seconds, a stall opened up. Unfortunately, the lock to this particular stall was broken and the door wouldn't stay shut. Undeterred, I forced the lock shut. I dehydrated myself quite normally, flushed the toilet and went to exit.
Now, I suppose I should confess to a particular bathroom quirk of mine: I am a slight germaphobe, so whenever I absolutely have to use a public washroom, I will flush the toilet with my foot so as to avoid touching the lever with my hands. As soon as the toilet has been flushed, I turn around as quickly as I possibly can and basically sprint out of the stall to avoid any potential spray back from the toilet. Unfortunately, my attempt to escape this particular stall was hindered by the aforementioned broken lock: in forcing it shut, I had jammed the door closed and could not for the life of me turn the lock to set myself free.
I'm not sure if you've ever been trapped inside of a washroom stall for any amount of time, and I'm not sure how you'd react if you were, but my immediate reaction was denial. If only I could jiggle the lock and taste freedom! If only I could use my super human strength to twist the lock into its previously functioning state! If only I could bash the knob off with my flip flop! If only, if only, if only!
It eventually occurred to me that I was indeed stuck in one my least favorite places in the entire world. Did I mention that I normally avoid public washrooms at all costs? I don't go through the whole "flush the toilet with my shoe routine" just for kicks! No, I need to be really desperate to seek out the washrooms in a public place, and here I was imprisoned in one!
When I finally admitted to myself that I was in fact locked into that tiny stall, I decided to re-evaluate my escape options. I thought of an article I had read in a magazine a few days prior: "How to Escape from a Shark Attack". Well, I'm probably never going to be attacked by a Great White, so I decided I would share a more pertinent experience with Whyville and thus I present to all of you, my lovely readers, an escape plan should you ever find yourself trapped in a water closet.
Now, apart from the fact that I have an irrational fear of public washrooms, I was faced with a few other problems. For one thing, I was wearing a skirt. Guys, I'm assuming you won't be wearing a skirt so consider yourselves lucky if you ever find yourself in this position. Secondly, I had waited in line for this cursed stall because the bathroom was particularly busy and I didn't want to make a scene of my rather embarrassing predicament. Also, did I mention that I have nightmares about how dirty public washrooms are?
I decided to wait until the washroom had cleared out before calling for help. After about 15 minutes of trying to force the lock open in vain, I could see a woman fixing her hair in the mirror and I thought we were alone so I said, quite loudly, "Hello? I need help!" Unfortunately, the woman chose to ignore my heartfelt plea and walked out the washroom, leaving me alone with what felt like a life sentence. I felt like Hyperbole and Half, where she is convinced she's going to die drooling on the floor of a random public washroom - but whereas she managed to escape, I actually WOULD die. And instead of thinking about my family and all my friends who would miss me, all I could think about was how I'd left my stupid cell phone at my dinner table so I couldn't even call for help! Ladies and gentlemen, I beg of you: if a stranger ever yells for help in a public washroom, please don't leave them to die alone. If you're unsure of why they need help, at least go and find a janitor or a doctor or prince charming or someone else for help!
I'm not proud to admit it, but I shed a few tears as I wondered how I would ever escape. I couldn't open the door, my attempt to call for help had been ignored and after having been trapped for almost half an hour, it seemed like no one was worried that I hadn't returned to dinner. Would anyone ever come to my rescue?
Unfortunately, desperate times call for desperate measures and so I was forced to admit that I would have to get down on the floor and crawl under the door. I thought I was alone in the washroom, so I was trying not to think of the fact that I was wearing a skirt or about how dirty the floor must be, and I slid out under the door. About way through my bid for freedom, I heard a woman's voice say "Oh my! That's an interesting move you've got there, my dear!" And a lovely lady connected to this voice helped brush off my shirt and asked me if I was alright. I said I was fine and apologized and explained that the lock was broken so I'd gotten stuck. And then I washed my hands quite thoroughly - 60 seconds with lukewarm water and soap (and I used a paper towel to open the door to the washrooms on my way out so that I would avoid touching the doorknob).
I'd like to say that winning my battle against the chokey has somehow helped me to overcome my fear of public washrooms, but sadly I have been unable to venture into a public washroom since the incident. I wouldn't want to have to repeat my escape maneuver and there's just too many risks involved. Maybe someday I will overcome my fear, but until that day, I want you to know that if you ever find yourself trapped in a washroom stall, you are not alone and there is hope that you will escape. Just remember: don't panic and disinfect yourself afterward and you'll probably survive.