Story Short: View from Above
Imagine walking into a public restroom, (the kind built for huge amounts of people); stall after stall after stall on the left, and the mirrors and sinks to the right. It is quiet inside with no human activity except your eyes catch movement near the ceiling, above one of the stalls. You look in the direction, look away, and immediately look back because you are unable to process what you are seeing. There is a woman balancing precariously on top of one of the stalls. Her face is flushed and sweat glistens on her skin…
This exact scenario actually happened to me, except I was the woman awkwardly hovering over a stall, and no one, thank god, walked in and discovered me before I completed my escape from a restroom at an airport in Denver.
I had just ended a long weekend visiting my friend Tricia. Admittedly, I spent the majority of my weekend intoxicated, but I firmly believe this has nothing to do with my entrapment. Prior to locating our gate, Tyler and I made our last pit stop. [Note: I’ll do everything I can to avoid using an airplane bathroom]
There was no one else in the restroom when I stepped inside. Into a middle stall I went with my purse, water bottle, and rolling carryon. Someone once told me that the “first” bathroom stall (the one closest to the entry) is typically the least used, and therefore the cleanest. Is this a fact? I have no idea, but what I do know is that I am slightly germ-a-phobic and a brief mention of such information has stuck with me ever since, valid or not. However, I am also forgetful enough that I am typically reminded only after I have made my selection, and have “settled in”. If only I had remembered this little fact this one time. Chances are the first stall would not have had a broken lock forcing its occupant to find an alternate exit.
Upon “finishing” I stepped back closer toward the toilet so I could roll my bag somewhat out of the way in order to open up the door. I reached over to release the lock from its mate on the other side, but nothing happened. It didn’t detach…not at all. I tried again and then again. And then I realized I was sweating badly and my heart was beating ridiculously fast. I started looking for other possible exits. I’m pretty sure I was in the middle of a panic attack.
The front door on the stall reached almost to the ground, maybe a foot at the most off of the floor. I thought that I could possibly squoosh myself down and slide my body across the floor and under the stall. And then I thought, “um…disgusting!” Plus when I looked down at the floor I noticed drops of blood. Double Disgusting. Well, imagining where that blood came from only confirmed that I would not be attempting to slither under the door. I acknowledged my only real remaining option, up and over. I reached up toward the top of the stall.
It was then that I noticed my hand had cuts complete with blood dripping down onto my wrist and sweatshirt sleeve. Apparently, during my manic attempts at opening the lock I’d somehow managed to cut open my hand in three different locations. I looked up and said, “Are you kidding me?” (not because I was talking to god, mostly because talking to a wall seemed weird) I was completely heating over with a mixture of panic and embarrassment. And even though I now understood the blood to be my own, I still had no desire to rub my body across the floor of a public restroom that was only inches away from an uncovered, heavy flushing toilet.
I attached my water bottle and purse onto my suitcase. I did a “test run” pushing my bag under the door to ensure that when, if, I made it over, I’d also be able to retrieve my belongings. It cleared the space, just barely. I then pulled my bag back inside because I wasn’t about to leave my purse and all just sitting out in the middle of a bathroom.
I wiped the sweat from my upper lip and forehead, stepped on the toilet, and hoped that no one would walk in as I climbed to freedom. I propped my left foot onto the toilet paper dispenser, reached up and grabbed each side of the top of the stall with my hands, and pulled myself up high enough to get my right foot up on top. At this point I was more or less squatting as inconspicuously as possible. However, looking back I’m sure that is not how it looked at all.
I crawled myself closer to the front of the stall as quickly as I could. I dropped down onto the floor and seconds later reached under the stall to pull out my bag. Holy shit! I did it! I caught my expression in the mirror- pure elation. I was very proud of myself (still am). I washed the blood off my hands and arm, and the sweat off my face. I walked out to Tyler waiting for me. Not only was my heart still beating incredibly fast, I was practically panting like I had just finished a swim. I held tissues with blood soaked through over my hand. Tyler looked at me and asked if everything was okay. I assured him I was fine, but that I had accidentally got locked in the stall and had to climb up and out.
“Are you bleeding?” he asked.