I had to go. There was no question about it. The situation was becoming urgent. I had just finished a cup of coffee at a hip cafe in the arts district of downtown Los Angeles. I drank my cup of fresh coffee with a slice of sourdough bread topped with sea salt, grass-fed butter, herbs and two bright white poached eggs. Birds chirped and overweight city officials dressed in not-so-flattering-uniforms issued parking citations to expensive cars parked too long on the side of the road. I watched attractive people walk past (there is no better city in the world than LA, other than possibly Rome or Barcelona, for observing attractive and well-dressed people walking around).
For a brief moment, my morning felt effortless. A day off from work. A day free of all obligations. A blue, sun filled sky. Then the pressure began. My stomach began to ache and it was then that I knew the matter was urgent. I asked the well dressed gentleman sitting beside me to please save my seat. He agreed. With my head down, I hurried my way into the back of the cafe where there was a bathroom. I told myself to breathe. I reassured myself that everything was going to work out. I would get there in time. Just breathe.
There was only a single stall inside the brightly lit, modern and minimal bathroom. Immediately I could smell the stall was occupied. A slight degree of panic and frustration set in but I told myself again to focus on my breathing. To feel my feet on the ground. I pulled on the locked stall door just to let the man inside know that someone was waiting. I then left the bathroom and waited in the hall. I reassured myself again that everything was going to work out.
I waited. And waited. And waited. Several stylish young people walked past and I got out of their way. I wondered if they knew that I was waiting to use a toilet. Why else would I be standing in the hall? I felt embarrassed and uncool. It is difficult to maintain a dignified facade of cool when you are waiting for a toilet. I paced back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. I knew that I had to remain calm. And then I walked back inside the bathroom.
The urgency that I felt was becoming emergency. I had to go. Now. I decided to make my presence known. I coughed. Turned on the faucet. Sighed loudly. Paced around. I turned the bathroom light on and off and then said, “Oh sorry.” It was difficult to endure the smell, which was the opposite of jasmine or lavender flowers. It smelled like filth and since I am sensitive to smells I had to get out of there. I went back into the hall hoping that the man on the toilet would realize that I needed to use the toilet. “I will give him two minutes,” I thought to myself as I resumed my pacing in the hallway. Two minutes.
Two minutes is two minutes too long when waiting to use a toilet. Two minutes turns into hours. Two minutes becomes an impossible goal. Especially after a strong cup of coffee. I was trying to be considerate of the man on the toilet but as hard as I tried to hold onto my patience- it was slipping from my grasp.
Before I confess to you what I did next, I must try and justify my behavior. You see, I knew that this man was intentionally taking longer than he needed to. He was messing with me because I was bothering him. I am still certain of this. Downtown Los Angeles is the manifestation of Satre’s famous philosophical dictum: Hell is other people. People in Los Angeles are as reviled as they are attracted to one another. It is mass confusion. Everyone is fascinated by the same people whom they can not stand. In Los Angeles other people are an inconvenience and an obsession. They are an obstacle to get around or ahead of. No one has any patience for anyone else even though everyone is always comparing themselves to everyone else. It is a confused relationship that people have with one another, which has created an entire city filled with people suffering from passive aggressive personality disorder.
As I stood in the hall waiting to use the toilet I realized that I was just that unlucky person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I am not a violent man but when I find myself the victim of someone else’s passive aggressive behavior I notice that my heart rate rises. My breathing becomes shallow. My hands tremble and my mind spins. I am overwhelmed with a desire to get rid of the passive by becoming aggressive.
And then it happened. The moment I heard the man singing on the toilet I was breaking the lock on the bathroom stall door with the force of my entire leg and foot. When I noticed that the stall door collapsed inward, I felt strangely detached from the situation- almost as if I was watching the scene play out on a large screen. I forgot all about the pressure, all about the emergency. I was the emergency now and the emergency was rushing straight at the terrified looking white man who was sitting on the toilet with his pants and underwear around his knees, a newspaper in his hands. His mouth dropped open and his eye were trying to say what his voice was unable to.
As I put both of my hands on to his neck I remember saying something like, “That is long enough you son of a bitch. I know what you are doing. This is a public restroom and you have taken way too long.” I then lifted him by his neck straight up into the air. He desperately tried kicking at me but the pants around his ankles denied him the freedom of movement. I felt his fists land on my sides and chest but it did not bother me. I then dropped him on his ass and dragged him out into the hall by his hair. He kept screaming out, “Hey what the fuck! What the fuck! Hey! Hey!” as I dragged him across the floor. I was unbuttoning my own pants as I left him on the floor of the hallway and yelled, “You have had enough time! Who do you think you are singing on the toilet!?!?!?”
I ran back into the bathroom. Did what I could to get the broken stall door to close so I could have some privacy. I then pulled my pants down and sat on the toilet. I did not care that I had forgotten to flush the toilet. I was absorbed in an intoxicating feeling of relief. It was the kind of relief that a person feels when walking out of an emergency room after a health scare or when a panic attack passes. My heart was racing and my entire body was pulsating. My forehead was dripping with sweat and I did not care about any of it. The toilet had set me free.
I was no longer aware of time passing. I knew that a few others were waiting for the toilet but I did not care. I felt like singing.
Again I heard the bathroom door open. I heard footsteps walking over towards the bathroom stall. Keys jangled. I heard what sounded like a voice coming through a radio device. Then I heard a knock on the broken bathroom stall door. I didn’t not respond. They would have to wait. There was a stronger more urgent knock followed by a man’s voice, “This is the Los Angeles Police Department. Please finish right now what you are doing and come out with your pants up.”
I heard what sounded like several people clapping in the hall.