Barricaded in the Bathroom

There I was…locked in the bathroom. Why do these things always happen to me?

The Tuesday had started off normal enough: no work, no school, and a lunch date with a friend. I had arrived at the Taco Joint a few minutes early and decided to stop in the restroom before my friend arrived.

Weaving my way through the booths and tables, I asked the lady behind the cash register where the bathroom was. She pointed down a long hallway. I followed her directions and came to a door with the word “Women” on it along with a large neon orange sign:

LOCK BROKEN. KNOCK AND WAIT FOR A RESPONSE BEFORE ENTERING.

I stood there for a moment in indecision. I didn’t need to go the bathroom very badly, but I didn’t want to sit in an empty booth playing solitaire on my nearly dead cell phone either. I decided to pursue my course a bit farther and knocked. No response. I opened the door.

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Not “the” bathroom, but this is how it was set up.

The toilet was the first thing I saw. It sat directly in front of the open door. There would be none of this holding the door or pushing it closed again that one can do in a normal stall. If someone decided not to knock, the door would open and there I would be for all the world to see.

By this point, I should have just walked away. I should have turned around, went back, and sat in the booth waiting for my friend. Then the thought struck: how broken is this lock?

I stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. The same neon orange sign was on the inside. Kneeling down, I ignored the sign and examined the lock. It was a handle lock with a button that you push in to lock the door and then push down on the handle to unlock it. It looked perfectly functional. I looked over my shoulder at the toilet. It was awfully far from the door. Could I trust the bustling mass of humanity outside to knock before entering?

If it’s broken, it shouldn’t lock, right? 

Standing up, I pushed in the lock. It engaged with a click. I wiggled the handle, and the nob popped out again. I let out my breath. I had been nervous for a second there. I pushed the handle all the way down and pulled.

The door remained closed.

I wiggled the handle again and yanked. Nothing.

Panic began to set in. I was legitimately locked in the bathroom! What was I to do? I banged on the heavy oak door and yelled:

“HEY! IS ANYONE OUT THERE!”

No one answered.

Stepping back, I tried to calm myself. The stark white tile, walls, sink, and toilet didn’t help matters. I sorted through my options. Should I keep yelling? Should I just wait and see how long it would take someone to come and find me? Should I see if my phone had enough juice to make one last phone call? I didn’t have the restaurant’s number so I would have to call the police. I could just imagine it.

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pixabay.com

Police: What’s the nature of your emergency?

Me: I’m locked in the bathroom of the Taco Joint.

Police: How did that happen? 

Me: Well, there was this sign on the door saying not to engage the lock, and I did it anyway. I think you’re going to need a battering ram ’cause this door is really solid.

All the customers would look up from their tacos in amazement as a troop of policemen stalked to the back of the store and broke me out. Perhaps they would even have to bring along a crew of firemen. Ten minutes later, they would lead me through the cloud of dust and debris of what used to be the door. I would hurry out of the restaurant red-faced as the manager yelled after me, “DIDN’T YOU SEE THE SIGN!”

Facing the door again, I took a deep breath. I would try it once more. Pulling the handle down, I pulled on it with all my might. Nothing. I sighed and hit the handle. Suddenly, there was a small click. The door swung open.

I left the bathroom red-faced, but not covered in dust and debris. I survived the experience with nothing more than slight case of claustrophobia, a new appreciation for bathrooms with stalls, and a strong desire to cross out the words “lock broken” and write “lock sticks” instead.

If I ever see another neon orange sign, I might need to take it seriously.

 

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Not Cut Out to Be a Choir Director

“Three miles to the world.”

That’s a catchphrase my church likes to use. You see, Dallas is one of the main hubs where the US government likes to dump refugees. People from places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Burma, Somalia,  and many other countries (some of which I’ve never heard of) find themselves in my illustrious Southern city. The government pays their way for six months, and then they are expected to have life figured out.

One of the opportunities that this allows me is the privilege of working with an African refugee church that meets at my church on Sunday afternoons. It is made up of refugees from Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. Their services are taught in Kirundi, and the people sure know how to sing and dance and worship God! Even though I don’t speak the language of most of the adults, joy spills out no matter what language is being spoken.

Not your typical English praise song
Not your typical English praise song

Of course, since I’m typically the only white, English-speaking, American adult there and only come every other week, I don’t always know what is going on. This can create some interesting situations.

On this particular Sunday, the church was hosting a conference. Other African churches were meeting together, and each group had brought over their choirs to join in the festivities.

For the conference, I was told that the children’s choir was going to perform one of the English songs I had taught them. The song was a lovely repeat-after-me song, and I had purposely picked out half of the kids to lead the song and the other half to repeat. I arrived when I thought I was supposed to so I could practice with my kiddos, but something was lost in translation. I was given a “Glory Choir” T-shirt and rushed into the main auditorium. A quick whispered conversation let the kids know which song we were going to do, and I took my seat with a sense that everything would be fine.

As the service progressed, I began to wonder how I was going to pull this off. The children were going to sing a couple of songs in their native language, and then we were going to close with mine. Because of the hand motions and the lack of practicing, I figured that I would do what I’ve seen my choir directors do: I would simply go to the front of the room, kneel down facing the kids, and lead the song. That way they could watch me if they forgot anything.

Things didn’t go quite as planned.

As I waited, the kids who were supposed to start the song didn’t.

Their lovely artwork
Their lovely artwork

Perhaps if I start singing, they’ll join in, I thought to myself. Taking a deep breath, I burst forth into song.

Unfortunately, instead of joining in, all of the children decided to echo.

Now, I’ll pause right here and make this confession: I am not a singer. While I may be able to hold a tune in a limited range, I’ll make my mark on the musical world playing the piano way before I win American Idol. 

So, sitting on my knees, with about a 100 African refugees staring at the back of my head, I began belting out this song while flailing about doing hand motions, desperately hoping that the children would join me rather than repeat me. After the first verse, a very friendly African fellow hunkered down beside me with a microphone. He proceeded to hold the microphone for me while I continued waving my arms and singing slightly off-key for the remainder of the song.

I don’t know what the African refugees thought of the crazy girl teaching their children that day. I’m not sure if they understood why I was sitting perched in the front of the room with my back to them. Perhaps they wondered why I was waving my arms like a wild woman at their children. But at least they had no idea what the song was supposed to sound like in the first place so perhaps they’ll think it sounded like it was supposed to.

I didn’t get any compliments on my singing that day, but I’m chalking that up the to the fact that most of the adults don’t speak English.

Working with the African church is such a fun blessing! I never know quite what to expect!

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The kids are always a lot of fun!

Best Impressions

I’ve never had a clear career plan. As I graduated with a degree in Humanities, my life was still vague and spiraling. No sudden burst of inspiration sent me running to a booth at a career fair. I could tell you what I enjoyed–reading, writing, organizing my closet–but nothing jumped out proclaiming itself “Do me and make money!”

One day I hit upon it. After spending hours a day driving to my day job as an administrative assistant, it came roaring at me.

BE A LIBRARIAN!

I guess I had never spent much time thinking about being one of those ladies at the library pushing carts around and replacing books. I hadn’t practiced looking over top of my glasses or putting my hair up in a bun. My exposure to Milton, Chaucer, and Dostoevsky was minimal at best.  Still, the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew. I supposed it was worth..investigating.

My day of detective work arrived. Putting on a professional, but not too professional, shirt, I ventured over to our local library about half an hour before closing time. I knew I was playing it tight, but I didn’t have many free hours.

Wandering through the stacks, I waited for a particular librarian to finish talking to a patron. As the minutes ticked closer to closing time, I began to get anxious. My pile of books grew, but the conversation across the room seemed to grow as well.

Finally, with fifteen minutes to spare, my path was clear. I hurried to the desk, taking a deep breath and sorting through my questions. Though this wasn’t an interview, I still wanted to make a good impression.

“Excuse me,” I began strolling up to the desk. “I was thinking about being a children’s librarian and wondered if you tell me about your experience.”  The lady launched into her career journey and what requirements libraries looked for. I tried to listen attentively. I made eye contact. I nodded appropriately and made murmurs of acknowledgment.

But my head started to hurt.

The librarian prattled on about how she began working at a library when she was four. She had studied something else in college, but ended up back at the library again.

My headache moved from the back of my head to the front. I began to see red splotches. I knew I should sit down, but there was no break in the conversation. I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt. I blinked hard, and my sight started to clear up. I remembered I should have eaten breakfast.

The conversation had shifted to what education a librarian needed. What entry level jobs there were. What jobs this library might have opening. How to get started.

The red splotches had come back. They were slowly darkening. I knew I should sit down, but that would create a scene….

Suddenly, blackness.

My vision disappeared like a black curtain. I felt myself falling. Heard my books hit the floor. Felt my head smash into the concrete. Heard a squeak of a chair and someone rushing toward me. Felt a hand on my shoulder shaking me. Heard my name.

“Let me sleep,” my body whispered. “Yes, your head hurts, but rest awhile. Relax.”

As my body whispered, my brain kicked in. “Angela,” it whispered. “If you don’t get up, people are going to be worried.” 

With effort, I opened my eyes and sat up. The light was back. The red patches were gone. My headache had vanished. (It had been replace with a growing goose egg on the side of my forehead.) Someone rushed me a bottle of water, and I tried to stand, assuring everyone I was perfectly fine.

Then the paramedics showed up.

As the last patrons left and the library lights shut off, I got to chat with two paramedics. I got to tell them all about my health history, have my vitals taken, and assure them I didn’t need to be rushed to the ER. As they left, I was babysat by a couple of librarians who had to stay late with me until another family member could pick me up. And it didn’t help that I had started to sniffle.

After that day, my ambitions for librarianhood seemed to vanish. While I still love a good library, they don’t have the allure they used to as a place of employment. Perhaps this experience was God’s way of making it clear that libraries were not the place for me. Every time I think back to that adventure, I cringe at the lovely impression I must have made.

What about you? What was the best (or worst) impression you ever made on someone?

Taking Pity on a Good Samaritan

Have you ever paused to do a good deed and suddenly found yourself in an embarrassing predicament? I had that experience this summer. I wonder if you can relate….

As I swerved around the toppled tree the first time, I thought, “This is dangerous!”

Trip #2 merited a: “Someone should do something!”

By the third trip, I knew. If this tree was getting moved, I’d have to do it.

Last night’s storm is what did the little fellow in. The tree had fallen out of the swampy no-man’s-land that birthed it to block a particularly well-travelled portion of our dirt road. Cars continually swerved to avoid it, but only one distracted motorists was needed to create a catastrophe.

On this summer evening, I pulled my ’97 Lumina to a stop and surveyed the situation. It looked easy enough: snap off a few twigs, give a quick shove, and the obstacle would tumble into the weeds. I wondered why no other Good Samaritan had stopped.

As I got out of my vehicle and drew closer, I realized that this wasn’t just a twiggy branch that had broken from the trunk; this was an entire young tree snapped off at the root. Resolutely, I grabbed the trunk and heaved. Nothing.

With a gulp and a quick glance around to make sure I had no audience, I tried again. This time a small branch broke off in my hand. I looked back at my Lumina. It would be so easy to climb back inside, swerve around the obstruction for the fourth time, and maintain a semblance of dignity. But somebody had to move this obstacle. One-by-one, piece-by-piece, I began tearing limbs off and tossing them aside.

Suddenly, a white pickup crested the hill. With renewed vigor, I threw myself into my work. I wasn’t about to show any sign of weakness.

As the seconds passed, the crumbly crunch of gravel grew louder. Then it stopped.

“You’re going to need a chainsaw, sweetie,” a man called.

I tossed a smile over my shoulder as I glanced at the two middle-aged male occupants of the vehicle.

“Probably so,” I said as I broke off another twig. “But I’ll slim it down.” I hurled the branch into the swamp.

Crunk. Thud.

I scuttled back as the two construction worker types swaggered up to the obstruction. Exchanging a glance and a nod, the men shoved. In ten seconds, the tree slid into the weeds. Without commenting on my many words of appreciation, the two sauntered back to their truck and drove off.

My face grew warm as I scurried back to my own car and began the half mile trek home. I imagined the picture I made—the skinny, twenty-something trying to force a tree off the road. Tearing off twigs and tossing them aside like a dog flinging mud while hole-digging.

At the same time, a slow smile climbed down my throat and bubbled into a giggle. Whether these men were truly chivalrous gentlemen or simply taking pity on a dumb blonde, I’ll never know. Regardless, I had inspired them to do a good deed. My unintentional performance had provoked enough sympathy to get the job done.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your apparent stupidity accomplished something ? I’d love to hear your story!