One of the more terrifying aspects of modern society is the feeling of helplessness, of a loss of control. Sure, in decades past it may have been a Russian nuclear warhead pointed directly at the White House, or perhaps a seemingly random attack by a Muslim fundamentalist or Patty Hearst. But absolutely nothing—nothing—compares to the unheeded peril of walking into an airport restroom while in the presence of a senator.
The most tragic thing about the Larry Craig scandal—I mean, besides his family being forever embarrassed, the loss of prestige of the normally staid Senate, and the misdirection of attention to other more compelling public policy issues, such as the subprime mortgage collapse and Lindsay Lohan being barely dressed on the cover of Maxim magazine—is that I am now officially scared of using the men’s room.
Now, granted, there’s always been a little bit of trepidation in going into any public restroom. There’s no surprise that many citizens avoid them at all costs, including but not limited to taking a leak in the empty Dairy Queen cup you found on the floor of the back seat while driving down the interstate instead of setting foot one into the Quick-N-Go john. Public restrooms, much like the refrigerators at work and the city park after Saturday night, are all the proof that anyone will ever need that communism is a failed ideology. There are so many variables that can affect your bathroom experience, and a large portion of those variables are inherently disgusting.
I’m going to pause right now and advise all my readers that the scenarios I am describing are largely male-specific. Thankfully, I have very little experience in going into the women’s restroom. Now some of you may have risen their eyebrows at the phrase “little experience,” no doubt prompting the thought “that pervert should have no experience with female toiletries.” I regret to say that this is false. For a summer I worked at a rather large retail department store known for their blue décor and lackadaisical attitude towards health care and Chinese quality control procedures, and part of my job description was to “maintain” the restrooms. Now, thankfully, “maintaining” and “cleaning” are two different things; all I had to do was make sure there were enough soap and towels, and reports any gushing streams of rancid water to the proper authorities, which was the 22-year-old community college communications major they installed as the night manager. But I had to maintain both genders’ worth of restrooms, and let me simply state that I would rather watch Faces of Death repeatedly for the remainder of my life than ever take a job that requires me to witness the horrifying things I’ve seen in the better half’s bathroom ever again.
Anyway, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho has introduced a scary element into an already scary activity. There is, apparently, a remarkably elaborate and menacingly simple set of nonverbal cues that has evolved by those who are interested in engaging in non-digestive-related activities in the restroom. Toe tapping, hand waving, and strategically placed luggage all seem to indicate to otherwise casual observers that you want more than a handful of Charmin and last week’s Saturday Evening Post to pass the time while you do your business.
And that’s why I’m concerned. Who knows what happens when I go in there? What if I sneeze at the wrong time? What if I hear “Afternoon Delight” over the muzak speaker and accidentally tap my shoes to the beat one too many times? I would normally dismiss it and state that this is something one wouldn’t have to worry about unless you were at a historically seedy location such as a bus terminal or a check-cashing establishment, but I always assumed that the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport would have met and exceeded that particular threshold.
This isn’t Craig’s first accusation of impropriety. Way back in the early 80’s, he was involved in the congressional having-sex-with-pages scandal, otherwise known as “Lucky Bastardgate.” And congressional Republicans have had to fend of a series of embarrassing scandals, from Mark Foley’s clumsy propositioning of male pages to Ted Stevens’s apparent lack of ability in participating in any form of public policy debate without handing a sackful of cash to oil company executives, an action of dubious constitutionality if not for the fact that petroleum extraction is one of the three branches of the Alaskan government.
Craig has since resigned, apparently in response to him losing the chairmanship of the Creepy Bathroom Sex Solicitor Caucus. His political future is in doubt, as elective office now seems out of place and a career as the more glam half of a mid-80’s pop duo is unlikely. My personal suspicion is that he will appear as one of those “security consultants” on daytime talk shows about how to prevent your children from triggering some hidden bathroom sex code every time they have to go pee at the Decatur IHOP.