Richard strolled into Dyetrine Industries feeling refreshed after a three day weekend. His face glowed with the results of an extra day of rest and relaxation, and a smile graced his lips. In his hand his briefcase, normally a ball and chain, swung freely with his arm as he walked past his coworkers’s cubicles. “Good morning, Darla,” he nodded and smiled.
“Richard,” she called back. “You handsome son-of-a-bitch!”
“Careful … sexual harassment,” Richard warned and continued his walk through the maze of boxes with no tops, adorned with personal touches to make the computers seem more like TVs than work stations made to efficiently transfer information from one company to the next.
“Hold up!” she said. She bolted from her little enclosure like a bronco at opening gate and came up alongside of him while he continued to walk. “You missed an important meeting,” she said.
“Yeah, it was a doozy!” she responded. Her business-casual attire consisted of tan khakis and a white button up tailored blouse. Her tan was meant to try to hide her age of forty-two, but the laugh lines and creases around her mouth from sucking on smokes when she drank after work revealed what little good the tan did. Her teeth were unnaturally white and glowed when she smiled.
“Well … what is it, then? Or did you want me to guess?” Richard asked, annoyed. He stopped walking and stared at Darla.
Darla whispered, “Come in here closer.” She moved into the shoulder of his gray suit and sniffed lightly when she reached his neck.
Richard heard the sniff and looked down at her. “C’mon Darla!”
“Okay, okay,” she conceded. “They’re going to start tracking our bathroom breaks.”
“What? Seriously, are you shitting me?”
“Ha … yeah, you don’t know how bad I wish I was. It’s such a pain in the ass.” Darla put her hand up to her mouth, covering her smile from her “ass” comment. Recovering her composure she continued, “they claim it’s because of the global market … you know … being competitive.”
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Richard stated.
“Well, it kind of does when you factor in that the Chinese don’t take bathroom breaks anymore,” she shook her head and closed her eyes as if this movement alone would tell Richard what she was saying was the God’s honest truth.
“What? That’s impossible … they don’t even take breaks … how can they not go to the bathroom during work hours? Is this some joke all of you have planned?” Richard looked around the cubicles like he was expecting Jerry and Susan to pop up laughing, but no one appeared from their spaces.
“Oh God … now I know you’re shitting me.”
She grinned broadly, again. “Alright Richard … just go in the bathroom if you don’t believe me, but make damn sure you bring your ID badge and have some time … like don’t already have to go bad when you get in there.” She turned and walked back to her office space leaving Richard standing in his disbelief.
“The world is going to shit in a hand-basket,” he said under his breath. He walked to his cubicle still muttering “his” and “hellos” to coworkers until he finally had crossed the room and laid down his briefcase on his desk.
It wasn’t until after lunch at Taco Bell that Richard thought of his conversation with Darla again. A churning in his stomach, followed by a pressure in his lower extremities, made Richard look up from his computer screen and across the room to the bathroom door. Darla’s words echoed in his mind: “have your ID badge and some time.”
Well, I have one of those, Richard thought as he grabbed his identification and headed for the maroon door next to the water fountain.
At noon, on his way to lunch, Richard had removed his suit coat and now wore only his light sage long-sleeved dress shirt and tie. He loosened his tie as he stood up and began walking, a light sweat broke out on his upper lip despite the cool temperature in the office.
Once inside the room, he relaxed at the sight of the familiar oak doors that graced the roomy stalls and the light beige and sea blue décor that always made him feel comfortable. The big wicker basket still held the white hand-towels rolled into puffy bulbs of luxury wipes that he loved to dry his hands with after washing them in the soap that dispensed from the wall by merely putting his hands underneath the spout.
All these things were still here, Darla couldn’t be right, Richard thought. But as he neared the stall door he noticed something that did not belong in the room; card scanners were situated at the top of the door handles and now resembled hotel security key slots. A red dot showed next to the black slot that had a picture next to it showing a card, magnetic strip out. Richard grabbed his ID card and turned it so his strip was in the same position as the example. His stomach rumbled and made him insert and remove the card quicker.
“Please insert card as shown,” a pleasant electronic female voice prompted.
Richard once again inserted the card and removed it from the slot, more deliberate this time. A turtling effect was beginning to happen with his bowel movement, a type of peek-a-boo, where he felt the waste come close to his sphincter and then retreat by the clamping together of his butt cheeks.
“Please insert card as shown,” the voice urged.
“Damn it!” Richard sighed. He repeated the swiping in any combination he felt might be “right” even though it wouldn’t compare to the “right” in the picture example. Sweat was forming around his receding hairline on his forehead. Every once in a while a drop would run down his nose and he wiped at it, annoyed.
Suddenly the voice changed her tune, “Please say or type User ID.”
“Richard Black.” Richard felt back in control, confident he would soon be able to sit on the white porcelain and relax.
“Rick-ard Flack,” the voice repeated. “Is this correct? Say yes or no.”
“No,” he responded.
“O-k, I’m sorry. Please say or type User ID.”
“Rich-ard Black,” he said back to her. His voice was urgent. Goosebumps rose on his arms, and he clenched his butt cheeks tighter against the force wanting release from his bowels.
“Reech-ard Black, is this correct? Say yes or no.”
He sighed in relief, “yes.”
“Please say or type password.”
Password? Richard thought, what would be my password?
“I’m sorry, please say or type password,” the voice repeated.
Richard panicked, “no.”
“That is an incorrect password. Please say or type password.”
Richard’s legs quivered and he let some gas go past the turtle head. The result created a high pitch squeal.
“I’m sorry, I do not understand. Please say or type password.”
Richard grabbed his hair at the back of the neck and leaned back in frustration. He knew if he didn’t get into the stall soon he would face humiliation in the workplace; no more drinks after work, no more bowling league star, and more importantly he’d lose his official stud title as the “first guy to date the new girl,” at work. A title he had held for the past ten years. His eyes began to scan the room for anything that could assist him in entering the stall. He saw a wicker basket, white plush hand towels, the vanity with two sinks, and a stainless steel trash receptacle against the far wall next to the door. He remembered how happy he had been when the new longer doors were installed; they went all the way to the floor with only a small slit under them. More privacy, he had thought, for the shy pooper, something he had always struggled with since grade school when a bully had made a big deal over a stinky bowel movement he had made in the locker room, fifth grade. Now, he cursed the doors, and the greedy corporation that wanted to take his sacred bathroom moments from him.
The pain in his abdomen increased with a loud groan, and simultaneously his hair on his arms and legs rose again, his teeth chattered, and sweat drenched his hair, the overage ran down his face; Richard knew it was “go time!” Something within him, call it impulse, made him grab a white plush towel and quickly run it underneath the water. Next, he took the trash receptacle and raced across the room to the door and placed the can behind the door so it sat in the corner. With the can positioned he unbuttoned his pants and brought them down to his ankles. He pitched the can at a 90 degree angle and placed his ass so it covered the can opening holding the sides of the receptacle firmly in place behind him—and then he violently released his lunch in a fury of noise.
“Password incorrect … please say or type correct user password, Reech-ard Black.”
“Screw you, computer!” Richard responded. He used the pristine white washcloth to wipe his ass, dropped it in the trash and quickly returned the trash can to its spot next to the vanity after pulling up his trousers and adjusting his tie. The room deodorizer mounted on the wall above the mirrors sensed a strong odor and released its lavender spray into the room, further relieving Richard’s anxiety. He washed his hands and exited the restroom, relieved that no one had attempted to enter the room during his episode. Richard’s confidence was restored, but he resolved to find out his user password before leaving work that day.
Later in the day, word was generated that the head honchos were calling another meeting. The employees of Dyetrine assembled in the gray meeting room. They chatted among each other as they sat in the comfortable maroon leather chairs.
“Ok everybody settle down,” Mr. George, the Market Research guru urged. He put his hand out as he spoke like he was calming waters. “Thank you. So this is an extension of the meeting we had on Friday. We, meaning the Research team here at Dyetrine, are attempting to gather data for a research program. We told you that this data had to do with how long your breaks were in the bathroom. However, you were misinformed. What we are really trying to research is your problem solving techniques in dealing with the computer in hopes that it will improve our customer service response. It was brought to our attention by our corporate attorneys that we could not do this research without full disclosure to the participants because it involves recording.” A hum went up among the employees. “Settle down, settle down … I’m getting to it.” His hands, once again, went out like he was smoothing waves.
Richard felt a panic run through him and he was sick to his stomach, again.
“This meeting is to inform you that there are cameras in the bathroom,” a rumble ran through the room. Mr. George quickly continued over the buzz, “but before you respond, please know that they are not, I repeat not, in the stalls as we do recognize the privacy of the bathroom and our employees.” His eyes met Richards’ and he smiled.