I learned the truth at 17, and all the ages in between.
If men all saw what women see, then there would be equality.
Age 11—I must endure boys at school feeling privileged to touch my body without asking. They run up behind me between every class to rub their hands down my back.
“CARPENTER’S DREAM!” they shout: Flat as a board, easy to screw.
Run away, laughing. The back-rubbing is to see if they can yet feel a bra-strap–which they cannot.
This sexist shaming by boys of pre-teen girls helps drive demand for an unnecessary new product called “junior bras”:
Cup-less flat elastic bands that fasten in the back like a bra, junior bras simultaneously represent the sexualization of female children, and their subordination.
Innocent Age 11. This LITTLE GIRL Was Shamed For Not Having Breasts!?
Age 13—My father’s friend Mr. B.—the same man who kindly carried me home once when I was hurt—is at a party thrown by my parents. He comes into my bedroom. Says “Bite the other end.”.
Leans in, inches from my face, a tiny cocktail weiner now poking out between his teeth. I back away in horror.
This is the first time any male has tried to kiss me.
Age 14—6:00pm. Summer. My friend Vicky and I are sitting on the grass in my front yard, chatting. A car slowly drives by, pulls up to the curb. A boy yells out: “Hey, you want to go to a party?” We assume it’s someone we know—the sun is in our eyes—but we decline.
Two boys, about 16, get out, run over, leap on top of us, and start tearing away at our clothes. On my front lawn, within sight of anyone who might go by. Or come out of my house. It is still light out.
Vicky and I each try, silently, to fight off our separate attackers. I now learn boys are far stronger than girls.
Across the street, Mr. G. comes out on his front porch. He is a New York City detective. He turns to go back inside.
Don’t you SEE us, Mr. G.? What’s WRONG with you?!
[*To be clear, he DIDN’T see us.]
(Why didn’t I scream? Was I breathing? I remember the boy’s fingers over my open mouth part of the time. Was everything happening so fast I was in shock? It was very fast.)
The boy atop me gets frustrated at how effectively I am resisting, so he stands up and JERKS down on my ankles, throwing my arms up over my head. That lets him leap at me long enough to tear open the buttons on my summer blouse. I am so embarrassed.
This is the first time any male has seen my breasts.
And now I am getting very scared, and I am trying to hurt the boy. So is Vicky. The boy raping her decides maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. He calls to the boy raping me, and they run back to their car, which has other boys in it. I guess they were the audience. The car drives off. Vicky and I run inside my house, fixing our clothes. We don’t tell anyone what happened.
It is interesting that the boys were eager until we grew more violently fearful. Based on my own experience working with rape survivors, terrified resistance will not normally save you.
Had these boys thought their manliness would overwhelm our femininity and we would just spread our legs and welcome them while they raped us? Could they have believed the myth that we would LIKE it?
Happy Age 12: One Year From a Pedophile, Two From Rapists.
Age 15—I am standing at the end of a school hallway and overhear two boys, approaching, discussing me. They don’t know I can hear them. One says:
“Hey! That’s B. Outlier! She puts out!” The other boy says “Eww!! I wouldn’t do it with HER!!”
I have never even kissed a boy at a party.
Age 16–I am given my first-ever compliment from any man or boy:
“Your *ss is your best feature. You should back up to people to be introduced.”
Age 16, still—A knock at the front door. It is the boyfriend of my older sister Macy. When I open the door, he begins to yell at me furiously.
I don’t understand. What have I done to him? He is not my boyfriend. I have nothing to do with him!
He is from Italy. He is an oldest son dating an oldest daughter. That makes him responsible for the behavior of all of her siblings. And he has heard about me:
I am sleeping around. A slut. Everyone knows it. It is such common knowledge, so talked about, that word has spread from our highschool over to this man’s nearby place of work.
Even though I have still never even kissed anyone.
Exactly why does my sister’s boyfriend—or any man other than my lover or gynecologist–think it is his right to have anything to do with my vagina? Why does my entire school—and town, apparently—want to criticize what my vagina has been up to?
Whose penises are they criticizing?
Age 17–I go to Spain with the Spanish Club. Our teacher tells us ahead of time that we girls must wear only skirts. Pants will make us appear “loose” to Spaniards.
In Madrid, in the subway and in the public market, the crowds are so thick that you are pressed on all sides, unable at times to move. I cannot escape the horror when male strangers behind me choose to reach up under my skirts, push aside my underwear, and insert their filthy fingers inside my vagina.
This is the first time any male has touched me between the legs.
Age 17, still—I now have a boyfriend. After some time, I decide to have sex. But I pretend to get carried away in the heat of passion, because good girls don’t want to have sex before marriage.
Age 17, still–I summer job-seek, as do my friends. The guys are offered high-paying factory jobs, or jobs with the county. They tell of days spent goofing off. We gals hear “Guys need the work more.” or “The work’s too hard for women.” We can get only low-paid work: Chambermaids, telephone solicitors. No goofing.
Age 17, still–I tell my boyfriend I am breaking up with him. He rapes me, to try to win me back. (It doesn’t work.)
Experienced Age 17–Quite the Year.
Age 17–Yearbook Photo. ZERO Makeup.
Age 18—My sister Macy is marrying. I am the Maid of Honor. I meet the Best Man for the first time at the rehearsal. Quietly, so that no one can hear, using many different adjectives, he tells me throughout the rehearsal how extremely ugly and offensive I am.
I am stunned, and devastated. I have always known I was extremely ugly [abusive childhood], but a freedom to despise me for it is heartbreaking. I go home that night and weep. I can tell no one. The man is a beloved friend of the entire wedding party.
He continues his secretive abusive behavior at the rehearsal dinner, and the day of the wedding.
Age 19—I have purchased my first long dress: A spaghetti-strap gown at a thrift store. It’s bronze satin, fitted at the top, sweetheart neckline, flowing skirt, with a pattern of cherry blossoms.
I model it for my friend Maria, walking across the dorm lounge to her room. On the way, a male I barely know volunteers his opinion:
“You should never wear dresses that expose your shoulders. They’re far too bony.”
I never forget his remark, and never bare my shoulders again.
Age 20—Two good-looking, intelligent men want to date me. After I choose one, the other begins to publicly insult my looks and abilities.
If a woman openly and repeatedly yelled insults about a man across lounges and volleyball courts, men and women would think her odd: Overly angry, perhaps mentally ill. I think they would start to avoid her if she persisted.
This man’s friendships with both genders continue uninterrupted. As far as I know (my friend is his friend), no one remarks on his inappropriate behavior.
Age 21—I am hit on by my 50-odd-year-old boss. (Find a young woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed at work.)
Age 22—I am hit on by my 40-odd-year-old boss. I am sickened that he had also hit on my predecessor—a 16 year-old.
Age 22—I swore I would never be a secretary. I am an Executive Secretary, serving as sole business and personal secretary for a Vice-President, and to his 45-person staff, doing all filing, supplies ordering, business typing, and maintaining of frequent updates to company and technical manuals.
A few of the males I serve never bother to learn my first or last name. One day, one of that group is standing nearby when he overhears that I have a degree in Linguistics and Literature. He says “I didn’t know you had a degree!”, and immediately tries flirting.
I tell him that I don’t respect the attitude that people who have attended college are more worthy than those who haven’t. He never quits flirting. His little brain must not have earned its degree.
Age 24–As I run or bicycle next to public roads, young men in cars yell whatever they feel like at me. Sometimes, a car swerves at me so closely it scares me half to death. Sometimes, a cup of soda with ice hits my back. More than once, while biking, I am slammed with a hand, hard, on the rear, bringing me close to crashing.
Age 25—I think I have been hired by an exciting, dynamic firm based on my stellar accomplishments in computing. I attend my first company party, where I and another female are literally cornered by the 50-plus-year-old company president and a visiting Board member.
I learn I was hired because it was assumed I will be the company Party Girl: Give a laugh and spread my legs eagerly for any male employee who wishes it.
Age 30—I am promoted to Director. A pr*ck working beneath me—M., a transfer from the user side of the house—begins spreading poisonous lies over on the user side of the house about, not only me, but our entire operation. My boss calls me in:
“What do you think we should do?”
“Well, J., here’s the problem,” I say.
“M. has been trying to get into my pants for a year, and I’m not interested. He is seriously p*ssed, and even MORE so since I started dating someone else. Now, you’ve promoted the woman who rejected him to be his boss. He will destroy this entire operation rather than report to me.”
“But you’re absolutely the best person to run the show–and we need you to get this project done!”
“I agree. But it can’t work this way, and we both know the politics: M. has to stay involved, given his connections to the upper echelons. The only way this can work is if I report to M. Then his f*cking oversized ego can stay satisfied.”
I resign as Director, accepting an invented title to keep my salary. M. is named Director and boss of me, and becomes sweetness and light.
Age 35–Looking to change companies. My I.T. skills and experience should net me six figures. Nothing. A headhunter explains:
“Erase some work history, get some plastic surgery. Pass for 25.”
Is THIS Young Enough?!
. Age 50–The first time any woman tells me I look nice or am pretty. Age 57–The first time any man tells me I look nice or am pretty.
Age 58–Do You Like Me NOW?
. I’ll be 60 soon, but the picture was too good to waste.
I took my liddle wagon,
I pumped it very hard,
And then my tail was draggin’,
‘Cause handcar work is hard.
My Uncle Bill helped start the first train museum in Illinois. He loved trains, and so do I.
I remember my first train ride, when I was two. The clackety-clack sounds and the rocking motion were so relaxing. I saw an elevated subway train out the window of our real train that day, and was amazed that another train could be up so high in the air.
Imagine If I’d Seen THIS That Day (In 1960, This One Oopsed and Hit a Building)
Do children still put pennies on train tracks to see them get squished?
One time we got to ride back from Chicago in a Pullman: A sleeper car. We kids loved it. We each had a tiny bed with a curtain. The porter kept pulling on our curtains to ask if we were all right, but really he just liked kids, and was making us laugh.
My parents didn’t like the ride so much. If you have never seen an old-style Pullman, the beds are really tiny. A grownup would have had to keep their knees bent all night.
Pullman Blanket–See the Adult’s Feet At Top Left? Tiny Blanket, Tiny Beds.
The best train-y thing that ever happened to me is when my sisters and brother and I got to ride on a real handcar: One of those little cars you push up and down on a handle to make go (they’re also called Kalamazoos–did you know that?).
How It Looked At Day’s Start
After WE Got Through With It
Someone we visited had an old length of abandoned track behind their property, and there was an abandoned Kalamazoo, too.
I had always wanted to use one–Didn’t you, when you saw them in the cartoons and movies? They look so fun!
They are! It was hard work, but we kids did have tremendous fun pumping our way up and down that short piece of track.
The funniest thing that ever happened to me on a train happened at my uncle’s train museum. We were touring a very posh velvet-seated private car.
My brother was still little, and when he saw the handsome mahogany toilet, all he could think about was wondering what happened to the “stuff” when you flushed. (He didn’t remember that Pullman ride.) I was more than happy to educate him:
“It falls right down under the train onto the tracks, where it sits all STINKY!“ (A small preview of my future teaching strengths!)
Paul thought I was pulling his leg–possibly, despite his tender age, I had already been guilty of doing so repeatedly. He wanted to look for himself.
Macy Girl lifted the beautiful golden lid. Our three older heads of molasses, cinnamon, and shiny butter leaned over Paul’s smaller sugar-white one as we all four stared down.
At the bottom of that fancy toilet, the museum people had thoughtfully placed an official museum label card with one neatly-typed word at its very center:
All these decades since that Pullman ride when I was a single digit old, I had remembered our funny porter’s name: George.
But I recently learned, to my dismay:
ALL train porters were named George. Porters, all black men, were required to set aside their own identities while on the job and answer as one to “George”. One, big, happy interchangeable set of Steppin Fetchits[think Jar-Jar Binks], as far as white people at the time were concerned.
When railroads first began using porters, they didn’t even pay them–it was tips only.
White bosses were so convinced that blacks were “no-account” that they tried entrapment: Female “passengers”–disguised railroad employees–tried to seduce porters, or “accidentally” left expensive jewelry behind to tempt black maids and waitresses to steal.
I learned this and other really interesting-to-nerds train facts from The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad, by Christian Wolmar.
Trains were first drawn by horses.
I’d known mine-mules drew mine cars, but hadn’t known about full-sized above-ground horsey-trains, on tracks, with freight or passengers. Had you? ALL of Austria’s trains were originally horse-drawn.
How did the horses manage walking over the spaced-out ties (the wooden boards) without stumbles? Was the distance between ties decided only by rail support, or by fewest hoof-trips per train-trip?
Germany’s first railroad existed because of classism and racism.
For centuries, Nurenberg, in Hitler’s homeland, Bavaria, had not allowed mere laborers or foreigners to live inside the town. Such lower forms of life had to commute from a town miles away. A train in 1835 finally cut their commute time.
The Jews had to buy TICKETS to ride the trains carrying them to their deaths. (I was unable to type that without crying.) And this was a major source of revenue for the Nazis. It generated around 240 million Reutchmarks–201 million dollars.
I wonder, seriously, if the humorous expression “It’s like buying a ticket to your own funeral.” originated from knowledge of this horrible fact.
Using trucks would have “damaged the German war effort”. I guess trucks were needed for moving battle materiel and troops.
I’m also guessing that masses of stumbling women, children, and elderly travelling along open roads would have let the walking dead cats out of the bag. Possibly made killing them harder, although Armenians might disagree. So trains fit the tic…you know.
In the 21st century, several railroads have apologized.
Just like with the internet, the freedoms offered by railroads brought out Government Overlord syndrome. No one-way tickets were sold–you had to buy return tickets. Children under twelve (12) were not allowed to travel. All passengers were locked inside their compartments.
Governments wanted you to come home again–They didn’t want their citizens leaving permanently for greener stations in other nations.
“If He Asks Me One More Time Where His Socks Are…”
The locked-compartment policy changed after some horrific collision accidents in which entire trainloads of passengers, unable to leave their locked compartments, were suffocated or incinerated inside tunnel fires.
India and Russia protected their nations by train track widths. The world eventually settled down to tracks (rails) the same width apart–the same “gauge” [rhymes with cage]–4′ 8″. India and Russia, though, chose 5′ apart. They thought they’d be harder to invade if outsiders’ trains couldn’t cross their borders.
Prussian Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck quietly bought up shares in the railroads he was about to have nationalized. Tsk! Not what he Otto have done.
There was a Railroad Robin Hood!, Redpath (so aptly and artfully appelled! [named]) stole beaucoup [boo-coo–lots of] bucks from the railroads while he worked for them, by, for example, just adding the digit 1 in front of the amount on stock certificates (to increase their value).
Record Title: “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad–And Robin Hood”–Ha ha ha! And Redpath!
Redpath lived very well, but he also donated very well to the poor. These are his words in a ballad sung about him after his death:
I have one consolation, perhaps I’ve more,
All the days of my life / ne’er injured the poor.
I procured for the widow and orphan their bread,
The naked I clothed, and the hungry I fed…
Leopold (for that was his disappointingly non-alliterative first name) was finally caught and banished to a penal colony. Some of you Aussie readers may be descendants of this pioneering economist-slash-socialist who devised his own 1%-to-99% trickle-down distribution system. Be proud!
Thomas the Tank Engine not only WAS real–he still IS!
Say Hello to Thomas 🙂
The Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway (DHR) is a specially-built narrow gauge (skinny track) railway made smaller to allow it to make smaller, tighter turns so that it can climb around and around the mountains it travels. The DHR’s tracks are only two feet wide, and they make tight loops for climbing.
The DHR’s Loops Are Teensy-Weensier
It is a very famous train line, traversing difficult, crumbling passes, and most of its engines from 1881 are still in use today (!). The Toy Train puffs and toots and thinks it can, and it does.
Am I Not a Thing of Beauty? Do You Not Wish You Could Ride Me Right Now?
1%-ers have disdained we lesser folk from WAY back. During World War II, railroads had gained expertise in rapid movement of people and materials. They learned that moving freight yielded more profit than people.
As soon as the war was over, they RUSHED to close most passenger routes–even in the middle of a day. Passengers who’d travelled 400 miles by train in the morning were left stranded 400 miles from home with no way to return that night. Niiiice.
If you are an absolute handcar NUT, you will love this fellow’s post, in which he shows an actual for really-real handcar he built as a KID, back in 1958!
He Did This Wooden Center With Hand Tools! (and…weeks… of… pa…tience…)
and another he built more recently.
Do You Feel Like a Slacker? Or Do You Think SOMEone Still Has Too Much Time On His Hands?
Here’s a little (very poor-quality) youtube of him sailing along on it with a friend:
And if you know anything about Kalamazoos, you know there’s a famous one in Michigan, made even more famous by a song:
Which Came First: The Kalamazoo, or Kalamazoo?
The handcar was named for the town. The town was named for the river. The river was PROBABLY named after an Ojibwe (Indian) word. Or phrase. But no one agrees what that is, or what it meant. Perhaps “bubbling or boiling”, perhaps “smoky or smoking”, or perhaps “runs quickly” (like a fast river).
Was the place where the who
Put the pot on to brew?
Or the Kalamazoo,
Was when smoky fires grew,
And you heard “Ah-ah-choo!”
“God bless you.”
Or the Kalamazoo,
Was the place where the crew,
Needn’t paddle canoe,
Those boats flew.
This is not a Kalamazoo. This is a Kala Mazooka:
The Hungry Half
The “Pam! Pam-Pam!” Half
GET OUT YOUR PENCILS:
If Kala fires his bazooka
at a moving handcar car,
And his marshmallow-projectiles
travel forty feet (so far)
And the handcar’s moving 20
miles an hour, pumped by bar,
If the car begins in Boise,
when will marshmallow meet car?
If a little boy in Illinois
does number two by train,
And the package sent, when it is spent,
drops down beneath the drain,
When do you think now a passing cow
will slip and ankle-sprain,
And be thus up-scooped;
Because of —,
a blameless beast is slain!
* * *
(Please don’t let it be, Themes rectally,
Have become my blog’s refrain!)
Rest assured that modern trains have modern toilets.
MY goal? To set up a meet with him. HIS goal? To phone-flirt.
I don’t have time for this! Chats and phone calls tell you nothing until AFTER you’ve met. Cut to the chase, boy!
As he’s telling me all about himself and himself, and himself, and throwing in a few questions, and sometimes waiting for part of my answers,
I have plenty of time to finish what I’ve been typing.
Suddenly, I notice my cell’s about to die–I’d better plug this puppy in!
The I-plug is in another room (I.-e. ( 😉 ) the plug with the I-cord attached to the I-jack for the rapidly-fading I-device). I stand up and take a step toward The Power of I.
I am lying full length on the floor.
I didn’t trip. After only 45 minutes at the tablet, my entire left leg has fallen entirely asleep. That CRACK was the sound of a homophone.
I have a post of limericks I wrote at work one bored day decades ago. One of them goes like this:
The woman named Barbara Taylor
Had a fling with a globe-trotting sailor,
But he nine months at sea,
And poor Barbara T.
Found her gob-stopper proven a failor.
A gob-stopper is a giant hard-candy ball. “Gob” is slang for “sailor”.
Now, that limerick has a sequel:
The woman named Barbara Taylor,
Had her dress taken out by a tailor,
But when fitting her slip,
Her foot it did slip,
Her bone that was broken’s called “talar”.
I’m lying there on my floor (across two floors, actually), staring at my now-bent glasses flung under the tree.
Actual Floors-Eye View
I’m feeling some…significant pain. Pretty certain I broke my ankle.
Tuna-Dude is still dronin’ on. We’re on speaker phone, mind you—at full I-volume.
I just CRASHED onto the floor, but this dude is acting like nothing happened.
With Herculean effort, I suppress the two words of Italian I normally resort to in these circumstances.
As is my wont [usual habit], I do not want…
Anyone to know, any pain to show…
(Typical of abused kids)
So I go on saying “Uh-huh”, and “Yuh”…
As I crawl all fours, on across two floors…
Get some ice to treat (“rattle, rattle”)…
My now-swelling feet (“ziplock bag crackle”)…
That’s because one foot,
Doesn’t rhyme so goot…
And the dude drones on. He is so, like, GONE.
Seriously. He doesn’t notice a thing as I hop down the hall to the bedroom and get into bed. I finally get off the phone with this Person I Will Never Ever EVER Date.
Two hours of ice later, a distinct-edged silver-dollar-sized swelling rising kneeward, I decide an E/R visit is in order.
I know I should put no weight on the thing, but if I call for an ambulance, protocol is to take me to the nearest facility—not the competent one.
Bugger-All Institution‘s E/R, BIER, almost killed me in 2013. (Yes, literally.) I choose instead to drive myself to Justifiably Excellent’s E/R. It saved my life in 2013. (Yes, literally.)
I walk down three sets of stairs to my car:
“Ow.” “Ow.” “Ow.” (Not for each set–For each step.)
I drive up to the E/R entrance. As soon as I pull up, a lone security guard turns his back on me (yes—literally). When I call out to him “Where do I park?”, he walks away.
I step down from my mini-SUV (“Ow.”), walk over through the double doors, limping badly (“Ow”, “Ow”,”Ow”…I think you’ve got it now), gimp painfully up to the desk, and say:
Me: “I think my ankle is broken. Can you tell me where to park?” Desk Dude: (pointing directly at the ceiling) “Over there.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.” Desk Dude: (pointing to a light fixture) “That way.”
Me: “Um…Can you tell me something like ‘the northwest corner of this-and-that streets’?” Desk Dude: (pointing right) “Turn left. It’s next to the bank.”
Me: “Uhhh…I don’t know where the bank is. Turn left where?” Desk Dude: (shrugging) “Park in the street.”
Me: “Are you serious?” Desk Dude: “I don’t know what else to say.”
I park a quarter-mile away.
Let’s skip the long, painful walk from my car to the E/R.
FINALLY I’m in the E/R. Let’s get me out of there quickly, too, shall we? Short version: No ice is offered, no splint is applied. I’ve already expertly Ace-bandaged myself. An X-ray is taken; I am told I have only a sprain.
DAY AFTER NEW YEAR’S DAY:
E/R: “Miss Outlier? We made an error. Your ankle IS broken.”
This time, when I pull up to the double doors, a valet is waiting to park my car. I am told that a valet always parks the cars of ALL patients self-driving to the E/R.
A plaster splint is applied to my ankle and calf, surrounded with a double layer of Ace bandages.
Tra-la, tra-lay, back home, away!
7:00 PM, THAT SAME DAY
I remove my wooden walking shoe to go to bed. The E/R’s re-wrap of my Ace bandage now looks like this:
Babe’s Blue Ox Over There Could Have Done Better
Whaaat??? The plaster splint beneath the bandage is still sopping wet. The plaster was left with too much water, and the splint must be replaced.
Tra-la, tra-lay, to the E/R, away!
As I limp through the double doors for the third time in 24 hours, another patient comes through with me. Coincidentally, she limps up to the desk and announces “I think my ankle is broken.”
SHE is seated immediately with a bag of ice.
The Weekend After New Year’s Day
Pressure, I later learn, from the-poorly-shaped second splint causes me unending…discomfort. No Disneyland.
A. and I do NOT get our Christmas or New Year’s celebration.
You people d#mn well better be thanking me NOW. By putting my best foot forward as your bad luck magnet on the very first day of this new year, I have now consecrated your entire year with whatever good fortune comes your way.
My Consecutive E/R Wristbands.
They say “Good things, they come in three”,
But you can’t prove that truth by me,
While you all seem to get good luck,
I’m ass-fault-ed by life’s dump-truck.
This post is NOT funny. I am decidedly grumpy.
I would go out and kick something, but I don’t have a leg to stand on.
But Once I Regain My Balance, Look Out!
And that, children, is how this Babe celebrated New Year’s!
It is extremely difficult to achieve a fracture of the ankle’s talar bone–a key bone which supports all your body’s weight. It is done, typically, only by male athletes at the top of their game, such as professional snowboarders, or by falling from a great height–leaping tall buildings in a single bound, or skydiving without a chute, perhaps–or by being inside an accordioned car in an accident. I fractured mine by standing up. But I like to think I stood up athletically.
The great news is that while the vast majority of talar fractures require surgery, pins, a cast, and months of recovery, mine is minor:
No cast; it’s moot:
The “break”, mere chip 🙂
For foot, a boot,
For pain, a quip.
You may not want to read this crescendo-ing post. You’ll know when you reach that point. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When I look back, the first omen was the underwear.
Don’t Laugh! Evil Comes in Many Guises.
I had gone to visit my pal, A. (no, not that A.—the other one). She’d moved to the wilds of Outer Monrovia (they keep goats there). We’d been walking down the sidewalk (ooo! they had sidewalks now!) when I reached into my purse for a Kleenex but instead pulled out a pair of lacy blue panties.
While A. laughed, I remembered that I had grabbed the panties last-minute to add to the Goodwill bag in the car because they had recently shrunk from bikini to thong-sized. Clearly, it wasn’t that something else had grown.
I started laughing, too. “I’d better get rid of these before we get to the Inn!”
That’s when we heard it: A raven on a nearby branch:
“CAW!! CAW!! CAW!!”
No–No, I’m wrong. The panties were the second omen. The first happened a week earlier. I had just told my Tons o’ Tuna blind date that A. and I were planning to visit the famous Mission Inn in Riverside for the first time, to celebrate our Christmas late by seeing its famous light display. He had recently been, himself:
“Oh, you’re gonna love it! It’s gorgeous. And the food there is world-class!”
Oddly, a chill passed through me. Then, even through the restaurant’s window, I heard it:
“CAW!! CAW!! CAW!!”
(The Tuna date radiated jolliness. I learned of his large circle of friends, three cars, perfect stock picks, many travels—all mentioned innocently, no boasts. I couldn’t help but feel pride: It was MY special life which had enabled him to enjoy such blessed good fortune.)
A. and I reached the Inn early, after passing through hideous downtown Riverside (gack.).
The Inn is a jewel. (pictures here.) I wished I’d had an entire day to wander around. These are the only pictures I took, I was so busy gawking:
At dinner, there were four choices of where to eat. Two had nothing gluten-free but lettuce. One was beyond our wallets–any meal out was a rare treat for us as it was. The fourth was Italian. Nothin’ says gluten like pasta. Worse, directly above the door, peering down at us, was another raven:
“NAW!! NAW!! NAW!!
Eat ANYWHERE but HERE!!”
I threw the panties at it. “Shoo, you!”
We were hungry!
I informed the waitress that I cannot have gluten. A. is a low-sodium vegetarian. Between salads and appetizers, though, A. and I cobbled together a decent meal. Which proceeded to unravel with the WORST service ever.
A bowl of salty seasoned bread is set down, prompting irked reminders to server and waitress.
The appetizer comes embedded with bread slices.
My salad arrives half-an-hour after A.’s.
My veggies are delivered between two slices of bread. But A.’s soup has no croutons. Because we wouldn’t want her to get any gluten.
After having to ask, A. and I finally get our coffees refilled for the first time. With lukewarm coffee.
My salmon is brulée [burnt], but my crème is not.
When my crème brulée arrives ice-cold, with barely a crust–it is the WalMart of crème brulée’s–I hesitate: What if it has gluten?
Too silly: This is the fabulous Mission Inn!
I regret the missing crunch and flavor, but the custard happily tastes quite good. A. has a small taste and agrees.
After waiting only days for the check, we depart. Despite it all, A. and I agree that we have enjoyed our meal: Good flavor, good company, quiet and comfortable surroundings.
We stroll up the outside of the mission building. As we reach the front, A. exclaims to me, “Oh, look: “They’ve turned on the lights!” I exclaim, too: “Oh, no!: I have to run to the bathroom–RIGHT NOW!” At which:
I RACE back in the Inn,
JET through the lobby,
ZOOM toward the bathroom,
Only to find that the staff has ROPED OFF ACCESS TO IT.
I give One Hard Look at the man behind the velvet rope and spit “BATHROOM!”
He immediately jumps to one side and opens the rope.
Wise decision. He will live to see tomorrow.
I push past him, run through the door, and find
THE LINE. It is a woman’s bathroom, after all, and we are, in long-established sexist practice, given half the places as men despite more than the double needed to urinate and handle periods. THANK GOD there are only two people ahead, and they immediately get in, and I get in and–
You don’t want to hear or be near what happens next.
Except for the tiniest portion, vaporized for extra atmosphere.
So there I am, in a public restroom, spilling my guts, so to speak–in a most…indiscreet way, in multiple “scentses” of the word. (Oh, dear—this is most embarrassing to write about.)
“The Professor Farting In Front of Class”, by Timothy Mooney (an old classmate). See His Coattails Fly Out? Bet HE’s Embarrassed, Too.
But NOTHING compared to being in my pants shoes then..
It gets better.
The next thing I know, I hear a mom-voice saying “Just go ahead, honey, and stand in front of that one and wait.”
Two little feet point at me under the stall door. Seconds later, a little voice says, “Mommy—there’s something WRONG.”, simultaneous with mommy’s voice gasping “Sweetheart, come away from there! Hurry, darling!”
Okay, I made up that “Hurry!” part. But not the rest of it.
Eventually, I was able to leave the stall, acting as nonchalantly as I could, given that I had to step over people passed out on the floor.
I remembered to wash my hands.
Outside, I stepped over the guard where he’d fallen at his post (what can I say? my influence was widely-felt) and said to A. “I’m sorry—I have to go to the car RIGHT NOW to get Immodium.”
I turned my back on her and raced to where we’d parked. She joined me just as I downed two pills from the travel First Aid kit. In time to hear me say:
“OH, NO! I need a bathroom again! IMMEDIATELY!! What do I do NOW!?”
Hallejujah! A. saw that we had parked directly in front of a still-open museum. I raced up the stairs, ran through the doors, and screamed at the woman at the desk:
“I’m sorry to be so crude, but I have GOT to—‘
“—use our bathroom?” inquired that blessed saint. (Hmmm…Do you think she was used to recently-fed customers of that restaurant showing up on their doorstep?)
“The downstairs one is in use [Of COURSE it was!], but we have one on the second floor.”
Past the “Staff Only” sign. Up two flights of stairs. I barely make it.
A. and I decide to enjoy the pleasures of the museum for 25 minutes until I am able take a third Immodium. By then I’m sure everything will calm down.
Twenty-five minutes and three bathroom relays later–twelve more flights up and down–the museum closing, I am worried.
Third Immodium swallowed, we debate what to do. We decide to haul my thoroughly-repugnant backside for home, swinging wildly off the freeway when needed, hoping the third Immodium has done the trick.
Here’s how THAT went:
Ten minutes later.
Scene: A Sports Chalet. Cast: A., me, and my #ss. Plus nameless extra.
“We need Women’s Winter Wear, STAT!
And where’s your bathroom, please?”
Boogie to the back, bolt ’round the Golf display, spot the bathroom door,
DISCOVER IT’S LOCKED (of course).
Knock on it, no answer, knock more loudly, no answer,
BANG ON THE DOOR!
NO ANSWER !!!
Run up to the nearest employee, make my voice very peaceful, in inverse proportion to my panic:
“Excuse me, the women’s room appears to be locked with no one in it.”
“Oh, yeah, that happens all the time.”
OF COURSE IT DOES.
And of course, of all the places next to this off-ramp, THIS is the place I chose to stop.
The Sports Spud opens the door. He starts to explain all the ins and outs of the door sticking.
I slam the door in his face. Better that than the alternative.
I’m sorry, Spuddy.
And I’m really, really, sorry, Woman Who Was Waiting to use that tiny room after me. I left no visual evidence of my passing, of course, but I swear A. and I had a tailwind all the way back.
Somehow, we did make it back: to A.’s home, and then I to mine. (Thank you, Home Depot pit stop!) Where I was deathly ill until 1:00 a.m., despite more Immodium. By this point, A. and I knew it was not an out-of-control gluten reaction, but serious food poisoning, with dizziness and disorientation. A., too, was now ill.
But of course, A. didn’t get sick until she was comfortably at home.
Friend she may be, but I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em:
Clearly cheating, A. is not pulling her full bad-luck weight on your behalves, and you-all do not need to thank her quite so much as me.
And THAT, Children, Is How This Babe Celebrated Christmas!
Congratulations to me! This post and its special content has earned me the very first ever “Bravest Blogger Award”!:
Awarded By Yours Truly
I phoned the restaurant’s manager to report the food poisoning. The Hotel was quite concerned—until they learned A. and I were not guests of the Inn. They went from “Security will call you back immediately” to “Security will call you back tomorrow morning.” to never calling back at all.
So I called the County Board of Health and reported their #sses. The Bella Trattoria at the Riverside Mission Inn was inspected that same day and it was found that their fridge was overfilled, which resulted in the foods not being kept at a low enough temperature.
Oh, but they assured the Board of Health that their foods were safe.
That makes ME feel better.
I have since learned the restaurant offers gluten-free pasta, not mentioned by our sub-regular waitress.
A. and I are going out again this weekend for a late New Year’s celebration, since I was, of course, dateless for the real event. I can’t wait to eat out again!
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