AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: The Worst Toilet in Connecticut. DATE: 11/23/2004 11:43:00 AM ----- BODY:
and other tales of my weekend away Try not to suck any more dick on your way out to the parking lot! Guess what we did. Guess what we did! Heather took me over to the Quick-Stop convenience store where they filmed Clerks. Attempting to affect the thickest skin possible, I began taking pictures, yes, taking pictures inside the Quick-Stop, a convenience store that aside from the fact that one of the finest and funniest independent films ever was shot there, looks no different from your garden-variety, non-movie-set convenience store. And yet, there it was! The counter where Dante slouched, moaning, "I'm not even supposed to be here today," with another, different-looking guy slouching behind it; the freezer case where that slutty girlfriend ("We both eat Chinese") leaned after the, you know, bathroom door was the video store where Randall worked was (most of the time)... "Sharks in the salsa..." I muttered while locals dove out of the way, glaring at me, probably as sick to death of my ilk as I would be of them if they'd filmed Clerks in Chelmsford. Heather said the people there are really cool about the odd Clerks pilgrim that makes their way over from time to time. She says people have been known to smash eggs against one of the refrigerator cases in back or take all the milk out, just like in the movie. We talked about doing something similar, but in the end, I didn't have the guts. After I snapped a few pictures (won't look the same till I put them in black and white in Photoshop, and then it'll look like any production still you can download on the Internet, except I was there and I took these particular pictures!, which of course you'll have to take my word for, O imaginary denizens of the Internet, but...) Check it out! The roof where Randall and Dante played hockey till someone hit the ball into the next time zone! The very wall where Jay and Silent Bob stood and leaned and danced and smoked and made the Russian guy sing "Berserker!" Heather got a picture of me leaning on that wall and smoking my own butt. It will be up on the Photoblog ASAP, as well as probably in a frame at my apartment, and somewhere, Kevin Smith is chuckling to himself thinking of the poor bastards that work at this convenience store now that it's probably even weirder because of the movie than it was when it inspired the movie. But really. It was geek heaven. It was geek paradise. It was geek Mecca. I called all my friends. Seriously. Dammit, Janet It was Heather's mother's birthday Saturday, and Heather had planned to have a birthday dinner for her at her house. Heather planned to cook for three, but then her aunt and cousin announced that they were coming over. This is the story of Heather's life. She had planned to cook salmon, but now had to add London Broil (for which she used her broiler and did not, repeat, did not set her kitchen on fire). She asked me nicely to prepare the instant mashed potatoes. Having never made such a thing before, I volunteered cheerfully and set about royally fucking them up. See, I added don't give a shit, nor should you. Long story short (too late), I fucked them up. So I had to throw out a whole eight-serving batch and start over. Heather was on the phone with her mother. Her mother was steadily approaching the front door. The addition of the aunt and cousin had made it a party, and the party was supposed to be a surprise. Panicked, I ran over with a plastic measuring cup full of fucked-up potatoes and a plastic spoon to the trash can in the corner, and upended the cup, the better to let the fucked-up potatoes slide decorously into the trash can. With Janet (the only parent of a friend I've ever been perfectly comfortable calling by their first name) nearly on the doorstep, I watched the potato-muck I'd created cling steadfastly to the cup and panicked. I turned the cup over. I took the spoon. I dug it into the potato paste. I attempted to gouge the potatoes out. Ooey gooey potato mess went everywhere. I mean it was on the windows, on the rug inside the door, on the floor, inside the recycling bin, everywhere, of course, except in the fucking trash can. Ding-dong. Heather went to go retrieve her mother as I scooped up potato frantically with my hands. Aunt and Cousin crouched with birthday hats and noisemakers behind the refrigerator as Heather went to retrieve her mother, hissing to me on her way out to shut the lights off, to which I replied with a whine about the potatoes, to which she said forget about it, just hide and surprise. So we did. Heather's mother, with shorter hair and looking somewhat more frail than when I saw her last, came into the kitchen. "I think I blew a fuse in here," Heather said. Janet was literally standing right next to me without realizing I was there. I thought about the last time I had come to visit, about how Heather and I had spent an idyllic afternoon at Sandy Hook taking pictures of the then-intact skyline, how our peaceful mood had been shattered by an angry voicemail, a mix-up about the time, how Heather and I lugged a cooler full of marinated meat all over the beach club where we were supposed to have reported, according to the angry voicemail, half an hour ago, having seen her car out in the lot still, and how, still lugging the cooler, frantic, we'd gone back out in the parking lot to see the BMW fire up as soon as we came within view, and peel out past us, circling the row of cars for dramatic effect while Heather waved and shouted to stop, and how she did it on purpose, just to embarrass my best friend and roommate in front of her guest for utterly no fucking reason when it came down to it but how Heather and I went after that to some old-fashioned drive-up shack for chicken fingers and french fries in red-and-white cardboard containers and how I'd spent the rest of the night trying to find something to say that would make her feel better... And with Janet right in front of me, I thought of her house with its meticulous decorations, from the silk fruit in a bowl on the glass coffee table to the gleaming and unused baby grand piano (unused since Heather moved out at least) to even the cat, long-haired and orange and green-eyed and matching perfectly the floral bedspreads and how the house looks like a Sears showroom of a house but no one really lives there, and I thought of how many times I've wondered how that inhuman house managed to produce someone as sweet as Heather when things happen there like pink tissues folded individually to be put inside the special crystal tissue box instead of leaving them in the cardboard... And I huffed and I puffed and Aunt and Cousin and I blew our noisemakers for all they were worth right into Janet's face as Heather turned on the light. And then something very unexpected happened--rather than shriek or yell or laugh or smile or even be angry, she just went white, then sort of grey, and I actually thought, oh shit, did we give her a heart attack? and then Aunt goes, what's wrong wit you, ywoah spozta leeaugh, it wuzza surprwoise! And Janet, frail-looking Janet, had to be led over to the table to sit down... And right then, of course, and only right then, I thought of how much and how fiercely this woman loves her kids, despite all the petty little incidents that have happened, it shows in how hard she's fought for them and how well she's provided for them and how she's been able to accept their choices in life even when they've been hard for her at first, and how since the long battle over the children is finally over with them both grown and one getting married and one becoming a priest she's become more gentle, more fun, the kind of woman who brought me a sachet of rolling spices just because, and brought me and Kellie both saltwater taffy from Atlantic City, also just because we're her daughter's girlfriends and her Maid of Honor and bridesmaid, respectively, and, well, just because. And how maybe her stranger tendencies are related somehow to her stony face after the noisemakers went off and shocked her, how maybe she just doesn't like things sneaking up on her, is all, and can you really fault her for that? And I hung my head and returned to the potatoes. You can find me in the club Not that kind of club, though, the golf club, the country club, the place where Heather's father took us the next night for a sumptuous dinner in the members-only dining room. Heather's father is a gregarious, happy-seeming man who occasionally bursts into surprised and delighted laughter at something you say. He clapped his hands around the SUV's steering wheel when I quoted a DMX song to him on the ride back from the New York Sirloin and cocktails and the gorgeous stone terrace where he and Heather will dance with her a bride in April. He was not the person I had envisioned. In fact, if there's one thing this weekend reminded me, it's that you can't--and shouldn't--ever judge. So, Heather's dad smiled at her sister, who's thirteen and who will be a junior bridesmaid, across the table. She and he are clearly buddies, with the kind of father-daughter relationship that involves lots of wrinkled noses and "eww, Dad's" on her side and lots of off-key singing on his side. "Are you getting used to being a bridesmaid with these girls?" he winked. "Um..." she just looked at us. You have to admit, we are formidable. "Um..." Everyone laughed at her, but kindly. Court and Spark Kellie made her put on the gown and walk down the hall toward her mother's hardwood-floored living room, and when she came through the door even without makeup or her hair done Kellie gasped and gushed and we made her pose for about a million pictures I tried to act casual and let Kellie do the complimenting but then when she was sitting in her veil looking out the bay window with the light and the lace around her eyes I got this feeling like when I listen to a Joni Mitchell song sad and happy together And I couldn't help it I leaned over and peeled the veil back and kissed her on the cheek like I was giving her away and in some ways I am The Triumvurate Returns And we spent a glorious evening watching Heather's DVDs of Chappelle's Show and eating chocolate covered graham crackers and laughing until the bed rolled and shook like there was an earthquake. Later on the porch I said something that made Heather laugh so hard she cried a little bit, something pertaining to Angie, the blind girl Heather had assisted in college who has apparently now become a Wiccan and who still emails Heather even though even a blind person should be able to see that we didn't like her much; we were remeniscing about the time Angie--and Angie was Heather's job, mind you, Heather got paid to take notes for her in class, that was all--told Heather she didn't know why she hung out with Kellie, because Kellie is loud, and what I said was, "How observant," and that touched off Heather laughing, especially when I added, "What tremendous insight." Then we moved on to making fun of Catholicism, talking about pimping out the Popemobile and blinging out his wardrobe, which I thought was funnier than the Angie thing, and I remarked on this to Heather, who said, "Well, I guess the Pope just isn't that funny to me. "But blind people," she fanned her face with one hand, "Whew!" And then we laughed so hard for so long I thought a neighbor was going to call the police. The Worst Toilet in Connecticut "'dja see the red light dere, honey?" the tollbooth guy on the GW Bridge asked, pointing to the red light above his lane that had only come into view once the semi in front of me had passed through the toll, and of course by then it was too late. "Nope, sorry," I said, holding out my six bucks (six! bucks!). He took it, rolling his eyes. "You wuh just playin folla ya leaduh, huh," he said. "Sure," I said, my turn to roll my eyes. I'd had to pee since the Jersey Turnpike, but had I found a place to pull over? Nah. I hope he got a good eyeful of the Sox paraphernalia 'tween my taillights as I drove off. Little did I know it would be Connecticut--yes, Connecticut--before I finally said the hell with it and got off the highway to find a gas station, because I had to pee so bad my thigh muscles were cramping and I was sort of whimpering to myself through gritted teeth. The sign said gas / food / lodging and also Greenwich, which made me think of Kennedy cousins, so I figured whatever convenience stores they had to offer would be lavish. Apparently I had stumbled into the "servants' quarters" side of town, because the convenience store / gas station I happened upon had only a bunch of people in line at the counter who turned their heads verrrry slowly to look at me when I poked my head in and looked back and forth for a bathroom. I was heading back to the car to keep looking for another place when I spied a little shaft of light emanating from a door at the back of the building. Worth a shot. At this point I was understanding more fully the predicament of Ewan MacGregor's character in that scene in Trainspotting. And like the junkie Mark Renton, after I stumbled, sweating, toward the bathroom, thinking like him of brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel No. 5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet-roll, but under the circumstances I'll settle for anywhere, as the door swung shut behind me, the words "The worst" and "in Connecticut" probably appeared on it around the word "Restroom." The smell. And there were terrible crusts around the toilet rim, and the floor was soggy and filled with discarded paper, some of which had a suspicious color... Meanwhile, however, my bladder had apparently developed prehensile appendages with highly sharp talons and was scraping belligerently against my abdominal walls. It felt as though it was about to burst out of my belly like Alien. I honestly did not feel I could have made it to another bathroom now that my bladder had caught sight of even this terrible-looking place of relief, even if that other bathroom had been right outside of this one. Remembering skills from having to pee in the woods in a former life as a Girl Scout, I crouched as far away from the seat as I could get, steadying myself by grasping the waistband of my pants, which I in turn was holding out as far away from the toilet as I could, trying to breathe through my mouth and not think about what the hell that was on the wall. It was horrible. It was humiliating. It even made me gag a little bit. But I must have let go about two full gallons, and the absolute certainty that my kidneys would have burst if I'd even gone to the next door over made the whole experience more bearable. I don't know why I bothered flushing the toilet, since it a)involved touching any part of it and b)anyone not in my desperate type of situation wouldn't go anywhere near it, and c)if they were in my desperate type of situation they wouldn't have cared if it was flushed or not and d) not flushing it might have been the one thing that could have prompted someone to clean it, maybe. But, grasping toilet tissue, I flushed. I contemplated using the sink, but decided it would do more harm than good. And so even though there had been first empty air and then a good-sized wad of TP between any part of my body and the Terrible Toilet the whole time, I was so preoccupied with the thought that I may have just somehow contracted syphilis just from being in that bathroom that I drove about halfway back to New York before I realized I'd gotten back on the wrong side of the highway while fleeing Greenwich. And that was the weekend.