Flying over I-40 S. With Lav #2.

Who’s the guy in the photo? No idea. Loved the shot, it goes up.

Does he resemble him? No. Hair color? No. Glasses? Hmmm, black frames, but not the polaroids. Body frame? Close. So what’s the connection? For some inexplicable reason, Tattoo runs up shouting “Ze plane! Ze plane!” to announce the arrival of a new set of guests to Fantasy Island. Not “ze plane” – “ze cane Boss“, “ze cane.”

I’ve been in here, this same room, a hundred times, maybe more. Always early morning, and an hour before boarding. The first flight from LaGuardia to Dallas.

Yes, we’re back talking about Lavs, after Lav #1 earlier in the week, and Lav Doors a while back. It’s the Men’s restroom at the American Airlines Admirals Club. Here, there are three certainties when you enter: (1) the smell of clean, before hundreds soil the floor with urine and slop the countertops with water and soap suds, (2) Musak pumping Chill music through the ceiling speakers and (3) Chill, like Arctic air, that triggers goose bumps on your skin…get dancing!

It’s July, 82° F, and he’s wearing a blue windbreaker.  Navy blue slacks. A baseball cap. 5’4″ tops, if stretched out from his stoop. Glasses, black frames; lenses…coke bottles. Age? ~ mid 80’s.

He’s standing at the urinal to my left. His cane, hard wood, weathered, has a silver wrapper for a handle. It leans against the wall, waiting.

There’s a long sigh, followed by a soft grunt. I glance down and to my right. His pants have fallen to the floor. His forehead leans flush against the wall. His eyes are closed. He’s re-grouping.

I finish up, and step to the wash basin where I watch him behind me in the mirror. White underwear hang loosely on his frame. Briefs so white, they’re a beacon for others who come in and can’t help but stare. All middle aged men, empathy switch on and then off in seconds…averting their eyes…not me, not me, not me, not yet.

He reaches down for his pants, but struggles to raise them. He stops, straightens and rests. Half of me whispers to me: help him, damn it. Sister Chân Không tries a more subtle approach: “remove the suffering of one person in the morning. That’s enough. That is the secret. Start right now.”

I think about it while watching him in the mirror. He’s reaching down again, the waist line of his navy Dockers just short of his fingertips. Are you kidding? It’s the Men’s Restroom. There are rules. No eye contact. No conversation. And certainly no touching…or offering to help another pull up their pants.

I watch him shuffle towards the elevator. His shoes scuff the marble floor. His cane steadies him. My right foot twitches, there you are, walking in his shoes now, ever so slowly, one foot in front of the other. 

And there it is, between my breast bone, it beats. Lub dub. Lub dub. Lub dub. Lub dub.

And they are, as I grab my bag to head to the gate, slow and measured, short puffs of air.

One-two. One-two. One-Two.

 


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: Things once done easily, even blithely, suddenly require taking second thought. Coming down a staircase, I seek the banister. Walking on slightly uneven pavement, I remind myself to lift my feet. Don’t drive too slowly, I say to myself. The safety bar in the shower is there for a reason. Put on sunscreen. Virtue consists of ordering a salad for lunch; disappointment, in eating it. ~ Joseph Epstein, from “Old Age & Other Laughs” in The Ideal of Culture: Essays
  • Photograph: Mahesh Balasubramanian with “the walking stick
  • Commuting Series

Comments

  1. And in that beating of hearts, rests the awareness of commonality-mens’ room deal not withstanding

    Liked by 3 people

  2. WMS….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was caught up in the moment, wondering what you would do. I could just picture it – you standing behind him helping to pull up his pants – you’re halfway up when someone comes into the washroom. After that it’s a Lose-Lose situation. There would be nothing you could say to defend yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. …don’t know what to say…with you and the imagined scenarios and reasonings. …and, women are so different….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So, I read this early this morning but feared reading it all the way to the end that I might find out you didn’t help him pull his pants up. I’m on my lunch break now and read it twice a d my brain blurs near the end.
    Did you, or did you not pull his pants up for him?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Christie says:

    With each breath, we all age and we are thankful for each breath. No matter one’s age at times or unfortunately daily some, we or others need a helping hand (I, myself really appreciate the help with my shoes, socks and tying of shoes due to damage from an accident, some days I can manage it myself but not if I am wearing my tight jeans, ha) I am thankful to have a functional walk!!…I keep thinking no one walking into the restroom would have given the situation a second thought if he was your Dad and you we conversing with him while you were helping him, hold on Dad…I know that human nature in some causes many to assume and mostly they assume incorrectly…I try really hard not to assume and at times I know others are making assumptions as to why I am not moving as fast as they would like and they are walking behind me – so they are a bit impatient…and at times rude. So I just know that I can’t worry about what another assumes when someone sees me help another or being impatient cause I at times walk slower…When I do help others they thank me and I say You’re welcome…I am sure the older gent, in dapper attire would have either declined help or said thank you that would be a help, this aging can be a challenge… /// Musak is a company that I’ve followed for a few years – at one point they relocated to Seattle and the I think they were bought out and their warehouse was relocated to Austin, Tx and then that company that operated their holdings filed bankruptcy…think they reorganized since I hear the precanceled tracks in public places…they “Musak” used to negotiate not just with the record companies that hold the rights to songs but also independent singer -songwriters. Musak’s holdings go back many, many decades their inventory holds the sound tracks of our lives…Back as far as the old gent in the Lav…you may even share some of the same tasted in music or reading material…engagement with others in a short conversation can unlock a world wonder, a world of accomplishment, a personal history that can makes us all humbled, perhaps honored, perhaps grateful, hopefully enriched…everyone has so many hidden treasures…as Mr Rogers says “Won’t You Be My Neighbor – we are all Neighbors…and if we need help look for the helpers…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the answer to every problem is not to ‘think’ about it for too long ha! If I see something that needs fixing I go do it and usually it’s all sorted quickly, but as soon as I let that mind in on it… Bam!! it all goes south for the winter 😩 ✈️✈️✈️

    Liked by 3 people

  8. i tend to act from instinct, especially the older it get, and as a woman, i know that generally one would help the other in this situation, without regard for what is ‘correct.’ i know when entering a man’s realm, the rules may be different- hands-off, as little contact as possible, safe distances, etc. it’s hard to know when to step in and when to keep the space between, but my answer is to always act from the heart. i love the ‘remove the suffering of one person in the morning’ quote.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Post Inspiration hit home with me!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Must be a hard experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hmmm. Maybe next time, the rules be damned. At least you’re self reflective. Which is a good thing. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

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