Okay, kids, I’m being haunted. By a living person - at least I hope she’s still living and if she isn’t, I don’t want to know about it - and I need to unload.

For my last dinner meal in Yankee To-own my mother took us (moi, Little Sister, Bro-in-Law and the Little Chirrens) to dinner at a pretty nice, new chop house.

In case you are unfamiliar with Carl Sandburg, Studs Terkel or the joy of unmitigated carnivore-ality, a chop house is Midwest-speak for a steak house.

Dinner is almost over, and Niece Child has to use the Little Cowgirl’s Room. Auntie City Girl to the rescue!
(Now that NC is out of diapers, of course.)

Niece Child and I arrive at said ladies room and are greeted with sobs. Coming out from behind a stall door. Not just sobbing, but wailing. Moaning Myrtle-caliber, can’t-catch-your-breath bawling. So we just stand there, shuffling our feet, desperately trying to use whatever tiny bit of telepathy humans have to hurry along the occupants of the other stalls.

Usually, Niece Child would look at me and ask, “Who is crying Auntie City Girl? WHY she crying? Is she HURT?” Fortunately, even a five-year-old knew instinctively in this situation to just count floor tiles and keep quiet.

After a few minutes the bathroom cleared and it was down to Niece Child in the handicapped stall quietly struggling to mount that enormous potty, Moaning Myrtle – who’d stopped sobbing – and me.

Then Myrtle emerged, bless her heart, washed her hands and tried to clean up her makeup. She held it together for about 90 seconds until she broke down again. Literally fell against the bathroom wall and just lost it. I felt so bad. I asked her if I could get her a glass of water. Couldn’t answer, just shook her head. So instead I went into the stall she’d occupied, gathered up a wad of clean tissue, put it in her hand and liberated the useless sopping gob of paper from her other hand, throwing it away.

By then Niece Child was done, we quickly washed hands and left the room. Got back to the table and told Little Sister what we’d witnessed.

We agreed that Myrtle had just been asked for a divorce or informed that her husband was sleeping with her sister/his secretary/their neighbor. Could not possibly have been anything else. The SOB did it in public to save himself a scene at home. Even a cell phone call informing this poor soul that her dog was dead could not have elicited that kind of public restroom my-world-just-fell-apart guttural wailing.

Asked my sister if she thought it would be totally inappropriate to bring the poor woman a glass of wine. I mean, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and upon reflection alcohol in the bathroom would have been greatly welcomed. But that's not my world anymore and I hesitated.

LS reminded me that in Yankee To-own, as in other major cities, you really don’t insert yourself into the situations of strangers unless you are willing to accept the potentially angry/painful/fatal consequences.

So I didn’t do it. We left the restaurant and presumably left her with the porcelain for company. And I’ve hated myself ever since.


alejna said…
It's so awful when we witness a stranger's pain, and feel powerless to help because it's not our place.

I recently (well, months ago) saw a woman standing in the parking lot of our grocery store. She was standing at the back of her car with the trunk open, and shoveling food into her mouth from a variety of bags. Taking big mouthfuls of an oversized cookie from one hand, big scooping handfuls of frosted bakery cake from the other, and reaching her hands into the bags for I don't even know what else. It could have been funny if I didn't know that this behavior meant she was suffering. Probably hating herself for eating that way, standing alone but publicly in a parking lot.

I knew that she needed help, but I didn't think I was the one to do it. Didn't even know what I could do. I just walked on past to my own car. But I did think of her for days afterwards.

I understand how you feel.
Country Girl said…
Honey, you are half-redneck and just haven't realized it. I'm with you...I'd have marched in there with alcohol, a hug and a bunch of pats. Anything. Just let me fix it, honey. Like there was anything you could do.

We were in Cincinnati several years ago and after the second day my husband told me, "You are going to get my ass kicked. STOP TALKING to strangers. They don't do that here."

So LS was probably right. For the situation. And the dry toilet paper said a lot. Or as much as you COULD say. I guess.
City Girl said…
Hell, if that'd happened here in everybody-knows-everybody else rural America, I'd have bought the wine, drug a chair into the bathroom, sat her down and offered to go out and buy her a new mascara, all the while leaving poor, long-suffering Hubster to finish dinner by himself.

As much as I am truly unhappy here sometimes, that's one nice thing about the country. Nobody is going to cuss you or shoot you for trying to comfort their upset wife or child.
Tom said…
Not that anyone asked, but I think finding out where the woman was sitting and having one delivered to her table OR the restroom even would've been acceptable. Asking her if there was anything you could get her (water,etc.) was also a nice touch.
I'm from a small city in Iowa and we do things like that here. If Country Girl is right and that's redneck, then everybody could use a little redneck.
(I'm not goin there, you go there in your OWN head.)
Comet Girl said…
You have a heart of gold and no change in your regional status can change that.
fatboyfat said…
Same here, although it might well have been a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

A nice cup of tea and a biscuit (and, preferably, a sit down) always does the trick, in my opinion.
melissa said…
Wow. Poor thing. But I'm always at a loss as to what to do in those sort of situations. I'm sure what you did do was really appreciated.
Lumpy said…
You are becoming more Southern every day missy! I would have done the same, and probably offered to kick the cheating husband/boyfriend's ass (if that be the case).