Skip to My Loo

Earlier this week, I visited a distribution center in Boise. After a meeting in a makeshift boardroom and before a tour of the warehouse, I made a quick visit to the washroom. The men’s washroom was pretty basic but had all the necessities, including soap, a roll of paper towels and a Rubbermaid waste basket. The women’s washroom was an upgrade with an actual towel dispenser and a waste basket in blue and cream, with lilies and a lid. Oh, and there was also a mouse trap, indiscreetly placed just inside the door.

It startled me to see it and it startled me to see that it was just like the old, very crude, very nasty wooden snap traps they had when we were kids. Did people still use those things? Fear is indeed the parent of cruelty. The only difference that I could see with this variant is that the snap bar was at a 90-degree angle instead of 180 degrees. This way, I imagine, it closes much faster, so that the kill is quicker and, in a perverse sort of way, more humane after all.

Five little mice came out to play
Gathering crumbs along the way.
Out came pussycat sleek and fat
Four little mice go scampering back.

What would they do with the little nibbler if they actually caught it?

Understand that this is not some dingy by the docks brick warehouse with rats and drug deals going down after dark. This is a modern, factory-built construct with bright lights, temperature controls, phone and computer hook-ups, slick if not swanky offices, a lounge, and a fully equipped kitchenette. It is only normal then that the casual visitor would be surprised to find this low-lying, low-tech terminator underfoot. Of course, there are quiet corners and half-eaten lunches left in open trash cans, so this Small Office branch might well be open for an after-hour nosh.

The trap business left me thinking. What would they do with the little nibbler if they actually caught it? I imagine the sight of a dead… uhh… disconnected mouse – a snout here, a tuft there – would be more horrifying than a live one and would elicit higher decibel screams. It could be, however, that the trap has been there for some time, almost as a deterrent, while the clever mouse, its whiskers quavering at the insult of it all, is having nothing to do with the nasty snapadoodle. And, I wondered, if there were to be a breach in security, would sitting put you in a compromising position with no defense or escape possible?

Finally, you have to ask yourself why there is the trap in the women’s washroom only. Is that where they found the droppings? Did one inconvenienced and shaken female patron see a furry little bugger disappearing behind the toilet? Were the men just more willing to look the other way or, in the words of writer and clergyman Ralph Connor, would they be more the cowards but for the shame of it?

I wondered about all these things with one eye scanning the obvious hiding spots.

Four little mice came out to play
Gathering crumbs along the way.
Out came pussycat sleek and fat
Three little mice go scampering back.

Balancing Act

“But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.” – J. C. Squire, from the Ballade of Soporific Absorption

Manny B. was my first boss. He was always good to me. I learned years later that he would give me full credit for things we had done together, setting me up nicely for the next steps in my career. He was a bit rough around the edges, though, and, as such, not everyone’s cup of tea. He looked like Brezhnev, heavy set with bushy eyebrows and slicked back hair. He was a gruff and manly thing and would come out with rather ghastly expressions like “well, it’s better than bear shit in the buckwheat!” He accused his boss of changing his mind more often than a whore changes pants. Once, when he was swamped, he exclaimed, “why don’t they stick a broom up my butt and I could sweep the floor at the same time!” He did not abide Mondays and, most annoying, he had the ability to postpone eating until he was through at least two martinis. I’ve personally seen him break two teeth on olive pits. He was with martinis a bit like Winston Churchill was with whiskey; through diligent effort, he learned to like it.

He teetered and tottered, falling this way and that.

So when, at the end of a long afternoon, he was seen lurching to his car in the parking lot, the assumption was that he was drunk. A colleague helped steady him and texted me to get over there right away. Which I did.

I’ve seen Manny after a few too many. He was always a happy drunk, laughing easily if a tad too loud. But Manny was not laughing now. On the contrary, he was clearly distressed. He teetered and tottered, falling this way and that. I piled him into my car and took him home. It was an effort for me and his wife to get him down the walk and into the safety of his living room.

When I got back to the office the next day, there was a buzz about Manny, that he was falling down drunk at work and that we practically had to scrape him off the parking lot. At the Small Office, being drunk on the job is cause for dismissal.

Manny didn’t show up that day. Late in the afternoon, his wife Claire phoned me to say that he was in the hospital. It turns out that he had a viral infection of the vestibular nerve in his inner ear. The result was severe vertigo. Drink had nothing to do with any of it.

Dean Martin was quoted as saying you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. Turns out he was almost right.

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas

I was travelling with our usually restrained and carefully guarded CEO, the Man from Glad. He never says anything that he might regret later. He knows that people could well misinterpret his words, binding the company to a perceived benefit that he had no intention of extending, so he is well versed in the art of waffling when asked for a commitment. He is warm without being intimate, helpful without overstepping his bounds.

So it was a shock when, waiting for a taxi at the airport, I heard him on his cell cooing to an albeit important client, “I love you Hans”. Hans is a million dollar customer and knows it. He is an old style Prussian with little patience for the niceties of relationship building.

I bravely queried our otherwise punctilious leader.

I have to admit to being really uncomfortable with the terms of endearment and, after he hung up, I bravely queried our otherwise punctilious leader.

“Excuse me? I love you Hans? Really?”

My travelling partner looked at me quizzically. “What?”

“I heard you talking to Hans. You said…”

“I was talking to my wife”, he interjected. “I said, ‘I love you Hon.’ What is wrong with you?”

“Oh,” I said, staring off into the distance, admiring a fluffy cloud that looked ever so much like a cow. “I knew that.”

Chowderhead

Kyle C. is a no-nonsense Yankee clipper who grew up in a small fishing village in northern Maine. He laughs easily, is hospitable in the way of small town folk and way too sensitive. He can be, by his own assessment, rude and ignorant, especially when he feels wronged. But he is honest and has a big heart – for this reason above all, customers up north love him to bits.

Kyle was helping man a booth at a trade show in Boston. He wasn’t feeling well and, at the advice of colleagues, left the venue and went to a nearby hospital. It became pretty clear that the clam chowder he had at lunch had become unsettled. He thought at the time that it tasted a bit sour, but figured there was sour cream or something of the sort in the mix. He was wrong.

His stomach was now churning, his lunch, breakfast, dinner the night before, perhaps one from a week ago when he was in Milwaukee, were returning to the scene of the crime.

He thought at the time that it tasted a bit sour.

Well he pitched and he spewed and he cast out the chyme and the chyle of his innards along with, he was certain, whole chunks of his thorax. His bowels disgorged all the evils in the world in a chum like sauce. He groaned and he grimaced at the sight of his soiled gown.

And then, as he looked up, to his horror and dismay, in walked one of the dealers he knew. And then another. One by one. Then two by two, like his room was Noah’s Ark. Word had spread at the show that Kyle had fallen ill. Well they loved him to bits after all and they all felt the need to offer their support and best wishes for a speedy recovery. In person.

Kyle covered his face with a pillow, groaned again, then pulling the pillow away began to laugh. He laughed in the way of small town folk.