All I know is karma’s a bitch. And never cop an attitude with an usher when you’re dragging toilet paper on your shoe.
Last year, my mother braved Midwest blizzards, traffic and the airport to visit my family of four for Christmas in California. Our fun-filled week consisted of spiked eggnog, story telling, old movies and the mandatory trip to San Francisco.
A commercial break during “A Christmas Story” advertised Riverdance, the popular Irish stepdancing group. Redheaded lads and lassies clicked across the stage.
“Forget about seeing the Christmas Carol or the Nutcracker, can we see Riverdance?” asked my mom.
I wanted to make her visit as memorable as possible and sprung for the good seats at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. On Christmas Eve, we bundled up in long woolen coats, lined gloves and scarves and loaded into our van, but before long traffic ground to a snarl.
“Gosh, we’re going to be late.” I said to my husband.
“No worries,” Mike said glancing at the dashboard clock. “We have an hour to park the car and find our seats. Relax.”
We zoomed into the parking garage and hustled across the street to the theater, fifteen minutes to spare. Crowds clogged the lobby like stuffed animals on the shelf at Target. We shouldered to get to the ticket collector at the sold-out event.
“Tickets, please,” said the tall, dark-haired gentleman.
“I’m so excited, “ I said, holding out my ticket.
“Ten minutes ‘til curtain time,” he droned with a sigh. “Better grab your seat lady.”
We raced to the mezzanine level on the second floor. “I’ll meet you inside,” I said to my hubby. “Going to use the restroom.” He gave me my ticket, grabbed the kids’ hands and entered, my mother racing to keep up.
A sign pointed downward for “Mademoiselle.” “You’ve got to be kidding?” I mumbled to myself. The bathroom, located down two flights of stairs in a dreary sub-basement, had a line that coiled around the staircase like a serpent.
“Excuse me,” I asked a buxom gal with dangly earrings. “Is this for the ladies’ room?”
“Yep, only three stalls,” she said with a shake of her head.
Gotta go. Too late to turn back.
The five-minute bell tolled and concerned faces stared back at me. Oh crap, I thought, I’ll never make it now.
The line unexpectedly opened up. I dashed in and out then scooted past the panicky crowd to the second floor.
Outside the mezzanine entrance, I spotted the usher, a pie-faced older woman with limp, mousey hair and beady eyes. Wearing tight khaki pants, a navy blazer and low-heeled pumps, she cut off my entrance with her meaty arm.
“Sorry, doors closed,” she said with a sneer, holding a flashlight. “You’ll have to wait for a break before you can enter.”
“Oh, you don’t understand,” I whined. “It wasn’t my fault. The bathroom line was too long.”
“Rules are rules. You. Must. Wait.”
I peered past her shoulder pads and caught a flash of tartan and black tap shoes.
“Try and stop me,” I warned and pushed her aside with my forearm like an NFL linebacker. Her flashlight clattered down the hallway. The darkness absorbed me as I groped my way to Row B.
“You almost missed the beginning,” said my guy as I plopped down on my seat. He grabbed my clammy hand. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” I said.
If you consider assault and battery no big deal.
After two and half hours of rapid-fire footwork from mini-skirted girls and leather-panted boys, the crowd stood on their feet for the final bravo.
We squeezed out the exit and I spotted a vacant handicapped restroom on the main level. I knew I shouldn’t have ordered a large double cappuccino at intermission. The drive home was over an hour. Hubby took one look at my face and said, “No way. We’re in a hurry. Want to beat the crowd.”
Despite his protests, I lurched inside the tiny bathroom. I finished as fast as an Irish jig, swished my hands under the water, yanked down a paper towel and rushed out the doorway. Standing a few feet from the bathroom exit was Pie Face. With her flash light. She glared at me and then her mouth curled into a smirk.
What’s so funny, Shoulder Pads?
She aimed the heavy duty LED Maglite at my shoes and then my face. Through the light, I could barely make out my family leaning against the wall. My daughter was doubled over in laughter. “Oh. My. God,” she said. “Look down.”
Stuck to the bottom of my shoe was a five-foot toilet paper trail, double ply. My family watched in horror and delight as I bent to yank it off. I brushed my skirt smooth and felt the slight crinkle of tissue paper. “For God’s sake. Let me help you,” said my mother. She reached around my body to pluck off a toilet seat cover from the back of my skirt.
I pulled my coat over my head and bolted into the crowd toward the exit doors.
“Come back soon,” said Pie-Face with a wide grin.
— Stacey Gustafson
Stacey Gustafson is an author, humor columnist and blogger who has experienced the horrors of being trapped inside a pair of SPANX. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Not Your Mother’s Books, Midlife Boulevard, More Magazine, Better After 50, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Lost in Suburbia and on her daughter’s bulletin board. She lives in California with her husband and two teenagers who provide an endless supply of inspiration. Her book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives, was released September 2014, available on Amazon. Visit Stacey at StaceyGustafson.com or follow her on Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.