It began innocently enough. A rainy Labor Day had my family trapped inside our home. Until, that is, general fussiness compelled us to brave the elements al a the divide-and-conquer method. Our oldest was invited to see a movie with a friend, so she was all set. My wife then announced that she would take our infant boy and toddler girl over to my mother-in-law’s place. So I followed suit by announcing that my toddler boys and I would embark upon a “guys outing.”
So, again, we’ve got some serious rain to deal with, what with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee making its way up from the Gulf, so in planning our “guys outing,” staying dry was a must. Which is why I decided we’d make our manly way to the… mall. I know. Totally testicular. But, hey, they’ve got a parking garage and the kids love the food court, so there you go.
Turns out my idea was anything but original. The rainy holiday had everyone on the same page, as the mall was nothing short of Christmas-crowded. Even so, my boys were excited at the prospect of a mall-meal with Daddy and I was fired up to be with them, too. We set off for Sbarro as we’re big fans — especially Sam and Jack — plus, we wanna do whatever we can what with the whole bankruptcy deal and all.
Anyway, the line was preposterous, but once we got through it, we were the proud owners of giant grease-laden triangles of dough topped with gobs of cheese and pepperoni slices. Two milks, a water and a shit-ton (it’s metric) of napkins completed our order, at which point I was chartered with the unenviable task of finding an open table. The initial circle yielded not a one, but eventually a family of three got up and abandoned their spot — the end table of a giant conglomeration of 10 four-tops strung together in the middle of all the mayhem.
So at this point, the manly outing, you know, at the food court in the mall, was going pretty well. The boys were eating their pizzas and even drinking their milks. And other than the fact that I was kinda freaked out by the sheer volume of people surrounding me, I was extremely content.
Until nature reared its head, that is.
As in Mother Nature, when Sammy announced (mid-meal, mind you) that he had to use the bathroom. Numero dos, thank you very much. At which point I found myself faced with a multiple-choice question of sorts. But before I get to that question, please allow me to first address all y’all who are knowingly (if not condescendingly) shaking your head — those of you who are thinking:
What a rookie. Why didn’t he take them to the bathroom before they ate?
The answer? A calculated gamble, my friends. And if you’d seen how crowded the food court was, as well how long the lines outside the nearby bathrooms were, I dare say you might have made the same calculated gamble. Especially if you’d ever been privy to (any) one of the triplets’ DEFCON 1, hunger-induced meltdowns. It was lunchtime, and a decision was made.
No need to dwell.
In any event, there I was, faced with the most perplexing of parental quandaries. So, dear friends, should I have (A) taken yet another calculated gamble and hoped that Sammy could tough it out until we had finished lunch? Or (B) asked one of the strangers sitting next to me to watch our food while we headed off to the latrine? Or (C) thrown the half-eaten food away and gone to the little boys’ room knowing that this choice would likely have required me to purchase one more slice of pizza to tide everyone over once we had completed our mission? Or (D) taken the meal with us, thereby allowing us to resume eating once we had handled any and all scatalogical transactions?
I ruled out option A because I was already 0 for 1 on the whole calculated gambling deal. And B? I can’t even bring myself to stop for directions when I’m lost. Do you really think I’m gonna ask a stranger to watch our food? With regard to C — it just seemed so wasteful. Which left…the unpleasant prospect of D.
Incidentally, now feels like a splendid time to tell y’all that I’m a germaphobe of sorts and that not only do I abhor public restrooms, but I also find the very concept of bringing food into any bathroom (much less a public one) to be a vile one. Yet, still, a prospect that wouldn’t have required me to ask anything of a total stranger, waste money, or clean shit out of my child’s undergarment.
So the germaphobe combined all of the food onto one plate and placed another plate on top, thus making a sanitary-bubble / flying-saucer type dealio, one which I hoped would protect the pizza therein as we entered this vile, commonly used and filth-ridden environment.
Have you ever shared a stall with two 3-year-old boys and a flying saucer of pizza? Not fun, folks. Especially when the toilet paper holder is forced to double as a food-baring surface as you tend to the glamorous duty of wiping. Hang on second.
Okay, sweet. I just puked. But I’m back.
SO, Sammy rocked the deuce, Jack chilled out and I tried not to hyperventilate, all of which went as smoothly as could have been expected and before long, we had washed our hands of the entire mess, both figuratively and literally, and were finally able to make our way back to the overcrowded food court.
Where, sadly, there wasn’t a table to be found, forcing us, along with our flying saucer of food, to orbit about, if you will, until one finally freed up. At which point, my boys gleefully resumed their meal.
A feel good moment, to be sure, or so I assumed when Sammy made a rare gesture of the sharing variety to his dear, old dad.
“Daddy, wanna bite?” he asked as he offered up the very pizza that mere moments ago hat sat atop a toilet paper holder inside a public bathroom stall which had likely been used by, say, 75 people. That hour.
“No thank you, son,” I answered as I discreetly hurled into my napkin. “I’m all set.”
So, what would you have done?
Image: avlxyz‘s photostream via Creative Commons