Dear John

Nature rarely calls at opportune moments. More so than death or taxes, I know that the moment I near the head of the DMV line, comfortably settle into a chair, or quiet an anxious sibling to sleep nature will call me to the porcelain throne. Tuesday night on the way home from school was no exception. Typically after a long evening of classes, my mind settles down for a long drive home flipping through radio stations for songs, staring out the window, and occasionally avoiding other vehicles. Yet after passing closed department stores or sketchy gas stations, my body begins to feel mild irritation, much like a castle wall immersed in Greek fire. A half-hour of this, my face beading with sweat and my leg bounces up and down like a happy dog being scratched behind the ears. Reluctantly I pull into a gas station and casually . . . ok, frantically run for the stalls while throwing a half-hearted wave to the gas station attendant, who clearly believes I’m up to no good. This belief is further confirmed when I happily leave the bathroom full of relief smiling ear to ear and desiring munchies.

Now most restaurants or well-bred establishments uphold the rule that only paying customers may use the restrooms. This halts the formation of long lines, excessive cleaning, and the strong odor of many D.C. parking garages.* Most gas stations not being well-bred or well-cleaned, the post-peed patrons refuse to consider any toll. Not me. Guilt typically sets in after a visit, coercing me to buy . . . well something. A soda. Slim Jim. WD-40 . . . anything. To me, it’s like tipping your waiter. The door to the bathroom was open, well-lit and free of significant slime; therefore, I will ensure that your business will flourish for another day. I buy $1.45 worth of pretzels and leave, free of bodily pain, giddy with generosity, and anxious to munch on salty dried bread.

*Fun Fact: In truth, many stairwells at D.C. parking garages once existed as lavatories, their signs still etched into the doors but fading and hidden by metallic paint. These new renovations apparently are lost on many members of the commuting populace, who frequently leave watermarks at every corner and terrace after a night of rigorous libations. Cleaning crews of course scour every inch with antiseptic but never truly exorcise the winding stairs from the haunting musk; the result is that most parking garages smell more like a bathroom than many home toilets, which thanks to scented fresheners more typically reek of peppermint and sugar cookies.

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