Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Full Service Stop

Full Service Stop
by Jesse Brodkey

You walk into the car dealership asking to use the restroom. You’ve got to go bad. The Dealer says, Of course. They grab the key and you follow, but on the way they ask if you’d like to take a look at this new model Charger RT in candy-apple-red.
            It’s beautiful, you say. I’d love to sit inside, get a feel, maybe take it for a spin. But could I use the bathroom first?
            Of course, the Dealer says and they lead you through the showroom, past a family-model sedan in tan. Safe for the kids, they say. Good for the environment, they add.
            You nod. You cross your legs, casually, and shift your weight just so from one foot to the other. Maybe we could look over the sticker, you say. The gas mileage and performance packages and luxury options and such. I’d be very interested, after I wash up.
            Of course, the Dealer says and now you’re heading toward the Service Department where you’re introduced to Ted. Ted here just purchased one of our best selling pick-up trucks, they tell you. And wouldn’t you like to know what Ted thinks.
            It’s just fantastic, Ted says. Best pick-up truck I’ve ever had. The kids say it’s cool, and even the wife thinks it’s perfect.
            Really? you ask.
            Scout’s honor.
            Even the wife?
            And then the Dealer unlocks the bathroom door, opens it wide, inviting. You’re all set to go, but you’d like to hear more from Ted. You’ve always kind of wanted a pick-up truck and just like Ted with a wife and kids—but why are you even considering a pick-up truck right now when you’ve really got to take a leak? You choose to piss, smart choice, and slip into the bathroom while Ted goes on about his wife, his kids, his new pick-up truck. You can still hear Ted speaking. This is because the Dealer’s holding open the bathroom door.
            Thank you, you say. I can take it from here, you say. You can let go of the door, you say.
            No bother, the Dealer replies.
            Please, you say. I’d like some privacy.
            Let me check if that’s possible, and then they hand the door to Ted and you watch, dumbfounded, as the Dealer heads back through the showroom.
            Ted tells you, Wife says I look real manly in the pick-up truck.
            Just who is this Ted guy anyway? you ask yourself. What right does Ted have to keep you and your bladder on hold? He’s just taking up space, dead weight, oblivious, and doesn’t Ted have anywhere better to be? Wouldn’t Ted like to take his wife and kids for a drive in that new pick-up truck right about now?
            The Dealer returns with another man, or woman, you really can’t tell. It shouldn’t matter to you, it doesn’t matter to you, except that they take the door from Ted and now they want to talk, too. You don’t want to talk. You want the door closed so you can do your business and that’s when you realize you’ve got to take a shit.
            We’d be happy to close the door for you, this Dealer-Friend says. But first we must ask that you sign our agreement.
            What kind of agreement?
            It’s pretty standard fare, the Dealer-Friend replies.
            I have to sign an agreement just to use the bathroom?
            No, the Dealer-Friend says. You need only sign the agreement if you choose to use the lavatory in private.
            You know, you eek out between clamped teeth. I’m not so sure it’s okay for you to require that I sign any kind of agreement about the bathroom. Isn’t that kind of, I don’t know, unethical?
            We’re not forcing you to use our lavatory, they say.
            I realize this, but there’s kind of a moral dilemma here, don’t you think? I mean, allowing me to use your bathroom, but then keeping the door open…it’s all about necessity. You see what I mean?
            I agree.
            Good, you say. I’m glad we’re on the same page here. And best of all, closing the door doesn’t cost you a thing.
            You mean, free?
            No, the Dealer-Friend says. Modern plumbing does not come free. Modern plumbing may appear invisible, but it is actually a prime service, a network of services, in fact, that perform out of sight, in the background, unseen. But just because you don’t see it at work, doesn’t mean it comes free. No. And wouldn’t you agree that modern plumbing is one of the most, if not the most, necessary of services? A necessity which allows us to coexist in harmony, a society comfortable, at peace, at rest. And at such a low cost to you. You must admit, our lavatory may be the best value in town. And all we ask, for such a marvelous bargain, is that your sign our agreement before we close the door.
            You have to ask, What difference will closing the door make to you?
            Why, if the door were closed, then how could we be certain just what’s going on inside?
            Your jaw drops.
            What I’m doing inside the bathroom is my business, you tell this Dealer-Friend. Then your voice rises a notch, child-like, I can’t believe I’m actually having this conversation with you.
            The Dealer-Friend doesn’t blink. They are stone. We already have a fairly good idea what you’re going to do in there, they say. Really, there are only a few choices you might make including one of two deliveries. Then the Dealer-Friend pauses, thinking, looking like they might speak at any moment, For this we provide eco-friendly toilet paper and toilet seat binkies, antibacterial soap, and electric-no-touch-hand-dryers.
            Toilet seat binkies?
            Binkies are remarkable, the Dealer-Friend says. A commodity both valueless and valuable at the same time. Truly remarkable. But binkie-usage is not our current concern. Our concern here is whether you might take your contributions with you.
            Excuse me?! you ask, you say, you demand.
            The Dealer-Friend explains, It should go without saying that whatever you leave behind, would in turn become our property. And we wouldn’t want you running off with our property, now would we?
            Let me get this straight, you say clearly. Enunciating slowly so there can be absolutely no misunderstanding, You actually want my shit?
            Call it what you want, it’s still just shit.
            And one can tell a great deal about someone from their remainders, the Dealer-Friend says.
            You chuckle, It’s remainders now?
            Do you give this runaround to everyone asking to use the bathroom?
            You want to believe you are unique.
            We’re not really seeing eye to eye here anymore, you say. So, I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible. This—you point to your groin—has become a situation. A dangerous situation. I can’t hold it in any more. Something’s got to give. So if you won’t close the door, then I might have to let loose right here. Right out in the open. Or maybe you’d rather I drop what I got on the showroom floor? Or what about right on Ted’s shoes, would you like it if I took a shit right on Ted’s shoes?
            Well, the Dealer-Friend says. We certainly encourage you to “let loose” and “drop what you got.” Only please give us some advanced notice so that we may alert our Service Department and let them know when to be expecting you.
            Our Service Department is very thorough.
            In doing just what, exactly?
            Preserving the moment, of course. For posterity. Documentation’s the key, because what good would it do anybody if you were to relieve yourself and nobody was there to bear witness? The tree falling in the woods and all that.
            No, you shout. This is not a tree in the woods thing. This is about me having to take a leak and a shit and now!
            Then simply sign the agreement.
            I don’t sign things if I don’t know what they say.
            Then the Dealer-Friend pulls the thinnest, most pure and delicate, pair of wire-frame reading glasses from what seems like thin air. They clear their throat, Let me begin at the beginning; And during the reading of the agreement, spoken both clearly and steadily in a very monotonous tone, you can almost taste your digestive system churning. You can feel the machine that is your body folding in on itself. Reversing the flow. You ache, from your teeth to your toes, and you try and swallow that ache, and begin to believe you just might burst a seam. Possibly explode. If not literally, then there’s sure to be some dire breakdown, and still this Dealer-Friend is yammering away. So slow, so painstakingly accurate, and they’re barely on the second page now, just getting warmed up, and how many pages are there to this agreement?
            Look, damn it! you shout. This has become a certified emergency. I’m talking public health violation, here. This is now a life and death thing we got here.
            The Dealer-Friend opens the bathroom door even wider, Be our guest.
            Close the door.
            Sign the agreement.
            Then there’s really nothing else we can do for you.
            Listen, asshole. I’m not kidding around here. Fun’s over. I got to go, and the fact that you’re holding me back has got to be a crime. Some sort of law is being broken here. And no matter how badly I can taste this piss and shit, right now I don’t got time to read or hear your stupid little agreement. So if you don’t let me go to the bathroom with the door closed—are you even listening?
            The Dealer-Friend places their chill hand on your shoulder. They firmly grip your shoulder, authoritatively, and direct you back into the showroom. You hear the Dealer slip the key into the bathroom door lock. You hear the tumbler roll, and an echoing click.
            You’re seriously going to lock me out the bathroom?
            No, the Dealer-Friend says emphatically. You have locked yourself out of our lavatory. We offered our service, and you declined its use. Really now, shouldn’t  you take some responsibility?        
            This is a violation of my rights, you yell. This is a violation of every human’s rights. The law requires that businesses have a bathroom on the premises (though you don’t know this for sure) and this is a business here, right? You service customers in your business, right? The public are your customers and so the bathroom—
            But you are not a customer, the Dealer-Friend interrupts.
            How can you say that?
            Because you’ve told us so.
            I never said that, you shout. I just asked if I could use the bathroom. I asked the Dealer, they said yes. Then on the way to the bathroom they showed me the Charger RT in candy-apple-red and I thought to myself, That’s a fantastic car. I’d look great driving a Charger RT in candy-apple-red, or maybe one of those family-model sedans in tan, or even a pick-up truck like Ted. So I am very much a, what do you call it, a prospective customer, now aren’t I? And how can you know that when I come out of the bathroom, feeling fresh and rosy and like a million bucks, that I won’t just buy that Charger RT in candy-apple-red? How can you know that I won’t buy it outright and drive it right off the lot with a grin on my face wide as the Grand Canyon?
            Because, the Dealer-Friend tells you. You’re not the first person to want a Charger RT in candy-apple-red. You’re not the first person to ask to use the lavatory. You are not the first person to want the door closed. You are not the first person to refuse our agreement. You are not the first person to withhold your contributions from us, at great pains I might add. You’re not even the first person to suggest you might, or would, purchase that same Charger RT in candy-apple-red right after using the lavatory. No. You are not the first person at all. In fact, you are the 11,965th (and change) person under identical parameters.
            You are speechless.
            Now most people simply sign the agreement, close the door, merrily relieve themselves, and get on with their day. But you, and then the Dealer-Friend pauses again. Their mouth hangs frozen, rigid, Relevancy. The Dealer-Friend continues, There’s certain relevancy here; That customers, like yourself, work themselves into such a frenzy hoping to persuade us, rather than simply signing and moving on. All that effort could be better spent, yes?
            And just how many people are there like me? you ask.
            We’re not at liberty to divulge that information.
            Why not?
            Because, the Dealer-Friend says. We do not simply give our business away for free.
            I thought selling cars was your business?
            No. Selling cars are the Dealer’s business.
            So why am I talking to you?
            Because you are not here to buy a car. You are here to use the lavatory. And lavatory service is a small, but integral, part of our arching business strategy. I can say for certain that the Dealer understands the value of our many services, right?
            You can see the Dealer nodding merrily like a clown.
            Fuck me! you shout. Why do you care what I do in the bathroom? Who could possibly give a fuck whether I take a piss or a shit or just jack-off? Really now, who would possibly pay you to know that?
            You remember Ted, don’t you?
            You see Ted nodding energetically, just like the Dealer.
            Well, Ted’s been listening very closely to everything you’ve been saying. He’s heard every word. At first Ted was only curious as to whether you were going to urinate or defecate, and he was interested in whether your urine was going to be bright yellow (meaning you could be taking a vitamin B supplement or might have only recently eaten asparagus) and then he was wondering whether your fecal matter was going to be stiff, a hard thing, and if you were going to have trouble getting it out and whether you might be interested in trying one of Ted’s laxatives. You see, Ted sells laxatives. He also dabbles in vitamins. And Ted often buys pick-up trucks from this particular Dealer just so he can hang around and learn a thing or two about who urinates and defecates and just what comes out and just how often.
            Fuck you Ted, you shout. You shout it loud, right in Ted’s face. But Ted doesn’t seem to hear you. In fact, Ted just goes on nodding, and now he’s mouthing something unintelligible. These aren’t words you’re hearing. This is music, and it’s coming right out Ted’s mouth, the radio, a pop song with a really catchy hook sung by a prepubescent girl. You peek around Ted and see a line of folks who look just like Ted leading back into the Service Department. They’re not exactly Teds, but similar enough, and they, too, are projecting catchy pop songs and appear to be curious about your piss and shit and just what you might do next.
            You know what, you say. This isn’t the only game in town. This isn’t the only shitter on the block. To be fair, cause we’re being honest here, right? I did stop in here just to use the bathroom. At first I only came in to see if I could use the bathroom, but then I thought since the Dealer was acting so polite, letting me the bathroom and all, well then I might have an honest to goodness look around the showroom. And I was really going to do just that. But now? Now that you’re making me physically sick, now that you are personally making me ill, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to walk my ass across the street to one of your competitors. Maybe they’ll have a great Charger RT, but in midnight-black because I hate candy-apple-red. And maybe they’ll let me use the bathroom without any strings attached. And maybe, after I use the bathroom and feel like myself again, maybe then I’ll test drive that midnight-black Charger RT over at your competitors and you know what? I’ll probably love that car because it’s beautiful. Fantastic car. And then I’ll buy it. And the best thing about buying the car across the street, is that fucking Ted won’t be there looking over my shoulder.
            Thank you, the Dealer-Friend says.
            For what?
            For such honest, concise, and well constructed feedback. Your opinions are invaluable to us, they say. Truly invaluable.
            You nearly plead, If you’ve gained anything here from my “truly invaluable” opinion, then how about you let me use the bathroom?
            Certainly, the Dealer-Friend says. And they hold out the agreement.
            I’m not going to sign.
            Thank you.
            Fuck you!
            Thank you, they say.
            Eat shit!
            Thank you.
            Son of a bitch! And you keep shouting this as you storm out the showroom, ass clenched, hoping now more than ever not to spill yourself right then and there because you know afterwards you’d only hear a chorus of thank-yous.
            Son of a bitch!
            Outside and it’s hot and sticky and you shuffle quickly across the street, through bustling traffic, and into another big glass showroom where the AC hits you hard in the face. You might catch a cold, you think. You might contract the flu, you believe. And who would keep a showroom so damn cold?
            May I help you? the Dealer asks.
            Please, you say in a quick breath. I’m very interested in one of your cars, but couldn’t possibly give it proper consideration without first using your bathroom.
            Of course, the Dealer says. And then they motions across the showroom floor, past the luxury-sedans and family-sedans and single-person-compacts to a beautiful Charger RT in midnight-black. Just got that beauty in, they say.
            You’re in shock.
            That’s exactly the Charger RT in midnight-black I was looking for, you say. I’m not kidding. Just a minute ago I was thinking about that very car—but listen. Right now, I really need to use the bathroom.
            Follow me, and the Dealer walks you through the showroom, past the luxury-sedans, the family-sedans, the single-person-compacts. Past the Service Department where you don’t spot any Teds and you’d like to ask the Dealer to, Pick up the pace. Get a move on. You want them to know you’re about to burst, but you don’t say a word because you’re probably a bit too polite. Or simply can’t afford to blow this chance. You truly fear for your life as the Dealer pats their pockets. They’re searching for the key. Searching, and they find the key ring and then start flipping through the dozens of keys. You want to swallow, but can’t. You believe every bit of moisture in your body’s been crammed into your bladder and not an ounce more would fit and then the Dealer holds up the key. That plain old generic-type key that looks just like any of your own keys, but it’s not. It’s glorious. The most beautiful bathroom key you’ve ever seen and the Dealer inserts the key into the lock, turns the lock, it clicks, they step back, you press full weight into the door and don’t look back as you rush inside to shut the door. You expect a foot in the door. The Dealer’s foot. But they don’t try and stop you from closing the door. You’ve done it. You’re finally alone and you’re unzipping your pants, dropping your boxers, skidding around in circles looking for the toilet stall—but there’s no stall? There are no stalls and there are no urinals. You stand like a dolt with your pants down by your ankles and your boxers bunched at your knees and you think, what kind of a bathroom is this? There’s no sink. No paper towel dispenser. No toilet seat binkies! In fact, the only thing in the voided room is an enormous mirror. You see yourself in that mirror, knees knocked, boxers pinned, pants at your ankles, hands to your mouth. You shuffle closer to that mirror and take a hard look at your yellowing face. You’re rancid. Putrid. And you press your forehead to the glass, defeated. You’ve lost. There’s no winning and you let your head fall hard into the mirror, repeatedly. Hard enough that you can hear the dull thud and slight echo coming from behind. There’s no wall behind this gigantic mirror, you realize. Behind this mirror is a hollow space, you reason. Behind this mirror is a hollow space just big enough for someone to stand comfortably and watch, you fear.
            You whisk up your pants and catch your boxers in the zipper, but you don’t care. You pull everything up and it bunches tight and squeezes your bladder as you race outside to find that Dealer standing guard.
            You scream full throat in the Dealer’s face!
            Let me get our Top-Person for you, the Dealer says.
            I don’t want your Top-Person, you grunt. You growl, I don’t give a shit about your Top-Person.
            We understand.
            You think I’m a fool, don’t you? You let me walk right on into that bathroom knowing damn well…and I fell for it.
            We understand.
            But you really don’t understand, you tell the Dealer. You really don’t have any idea just what I’m capable of.
            Not true, and the Top-Person appears from nowhere. They take their position beside the Dealer, a few comfortable feet from you. A cozy little buffer. We understand that #xx,xxx,965st (and change) will not sign a lavatory service agreement.
            You recognize that number. Your number.
            That #xx,xxx,965st (and change) is not a prospective customer, is prone to self-induced pain, is presumed confrontational, possibly violent when pressed, and most certainly poses a threat. Therefore, the Top-Person concludes. We really have no reason to provide any kind of service for you, do we?
            You blow a fuse!
            You know what? you say right into the Top-Person’s face. You’re right. I’m not going to sign any service agreement. Not with you. Not with…this is decency-thing here. Human decency and, humanity. And if you take away my humanity, then I really have no reason to deal with you at all, now do I? In fact, after all the crap you and your cadre of conniving little partners have put me through, a living hell, and after making me sick and giving me the runaround, I mean, all this lip service has only convinced me that I don’t even want a car. Not one of yours, and not one of theirs. In fact, I may never drive again. How do you like that? Not only won’t you sell a car to me today, but you’ve taken one more driver off the road. One more driver who doesn’t need an auto loan. One more driver who doesn’t have to pay for gas. You think Big Oil’s going to be happy knowing you’ve robbed them of a customer? You think State Farm or Farmers-whatever are going to be happy they lost a customer? Shit. You know what? All the stress and worry over a car, all that weight, it’s flying right off my shoulders. Can you see it go? I already feel a thousand times better. Lighter. I feel a thousand times lighter and better knowing you and your sick cronies aren’t going to get a thing from me.
            Thank you, the Top-Person says.
            You’re welcome, you say instinctively. Wait. Why the thank you? you ask yourself. How could this information be of any value to them? Then it hits you. They, every Dealer and Dealer’s-Friend and Top-person and even every bottom-feeder-Ted, they already know you’re never going to drive again. This is shared knowledge. This is the most reducible you and they’re using that information right at this moment to formulate a strategy.
            Damn! you shout. You’re all in cahoots.
            Not damn, the Top-Person says. And cahoots, as you call it, is a very positive relationship. Cahoots is good for everyone.
            How, in any possible way, is cahoots good for me?
            Because, cahoots helps us understand that you never really wanted to drive a Charger RT in candy-apple-red, or midnight-black. Cahoots told us that you’ve never felt okay about supporting Big Oil or Big Insurance, and in turn cahoots has allowed us to help you come to understand these qualities in yourself. This is a great gift, from us to you. You’re welcome, they say. I’m sure you can see the value here; To understand yourself better, and to know yourself nearly as well as we do.
            You don’t know me better than I do.
            Are you so sure? the Top-Person asks.
            So you figure I don’t buy a car, big whoop! But what about a motorcycle, or a scooter, did you ever think of that?
            Yes, the Top-Person replies. Though we’ve calculated that you don’t really want a motorcycle or a scooter because those still use gas and require insurance and regular maintenance. Plus they’re unsafe, and you don’t much care for helmets as you’ve passed on all the DOT approved models. See, what you really want—
            You hold your hands up to the Top-Person’s mouth and say, Don’t. You cup their mouth tight and tell them, When I know what I want, I’ll come to you.
            The Top-Person mumbles through your fingers.
            I’m not going to buy anything from you because there’s nothing you can offer that I want. Nothing I want, and nothing I need. Then you take your hand away because you are not this person. This is not you. Aggressive, confrontational, strong arming.
            We know just what you want, the Top-Person says.
            Thank you, no. Not interested.
            But this is truly fantastic. Just what you need.
            You’re not listening. At least you pretend you aren’t listening as you march through the showroom, past the luxury-sedans, the family-sedans, the single-person-compacts, and you’re definitely not looking at the Charger RT in midnight-black, that’s for sure. You’re not even going to glance over by the window where the light’s hitting it just right. Gorgeous. And you’re not thinking about a motorcycle, or a scooter, or who might sell those around here and whether you should just take a quick look because maybe one of the other Dealers will let you use the restroom—no! You are thinking about a blue 10-speed. A simple blue 10-speed bicycle and you’re sure there’s some mom-and-pop shop nearby that sells them for a reasonable price. And a mom-and-pop shop will certainly let you use the bathroom because they do good honest business, sound business. This is what you’re thinking as you head toward the exit, the Top-Person and the Dealer on your heels, and just as you reach the door, there’s Ted outside. Ted’s standing behind those big glass doors in the sunshiny day with a real pretty blue 10-speed. Ted’s just waiting there, with the blue 10-speed bicycle you were thinking about and you press your way, shove your way, past Ted as violently as you can.
            Only 99.95, Ted says.
            You can hear Ted behind, running alongside the blue 10-speed.
            You hear the gears spinning, the wheels in motion, and Ted’s hard leather shoes slapping the pavement as you fall into a cantor. You’re like a racehorse, not walking, not galloping, but in that awkward cadence and it’s got to be the most uncomfortable way to make any headway. A racehorse off the soft dirt track and you still got to piss and shit like a racehorse as you pull away from Ted, and this energizes you. You pick up speed, happy to know you are leaving Ted behind. You are dusting Ted. And you know that if he gets on the bike, rides it for even a few feet, then it becomes a used bike. Just a plain old used blue 10-speed that he can’t sell for 99.95. Ted’s going to have to drop the price, and you think to yourself how low will he go? And then you can hear Ted catching up.
            You turn the corner. Ted turns the corner. You race across the intersection. Ted races across the intersection. You turn down an alley. Ted turns down the alley. You fall into a pack of children just out from school and Ted tries to follow through the crowd, but the kids are all reaching for Ted and his blue 10-speed. They want to ride on the handlebars. They want to ride on Ted’s back, his shoulders.
            They scream, Peddle faster! Faster! Get him!
            The children are helping that bastard, Ted.
            Then just up ahead, unbelievable, one of those mom-and-pop shops. You run for it gangly and wild, and you can hear Ted huffing and gears whizzing and kids shouting and then—crash! Ted’s on the ground. Kids in tears. A heap of bodies strewn across the road and now Ted’s prying the kids off the blue 10-speed, struggling to get the bike upright, but the children are tangled in the spokes, the gears. You want to help the kids. You need to help the kids, but there’s no way you can take on Ted. He’s vicious and they’re only just kids and you feel sick because you’re a coward. A sick coward who would die if Ted got in one good body blow. Even one rabbit punch would pop your bladder and this is why you can’t help the kids. You tell yourself this is why you’re a coward, but now Ted’s stomping on little arms and legs, fingers and pinky toes, and who’s going to protect the kids from Ted? Where are their parents? you shout. Where are the parents and when did Ted become your responsibility, alone? And then the parents appear. They’re rushing in from every direction and now you know the kids will be safe. A little bruised and a little battered, but safe. You search for Ted, to witness what the parents will do with him, to him. But both Ted and his blue 10-speed are gone, vanished. You picture Ted in one of his pick-up trucks, the wife and kids tossed in the bed and holding tight to the busted blue 10-speed as they make their getaway. And only now can you breathe again. You breathe in, and remember—toilet!
            You knock on the mom-and-pop door, hard with your knuckles. A sign hangs in the window, Closed Tuesdays. What kind of a business is closed Tuesdays? you ask yourself while rattling the door. You smoosh your face to the glass and see three rows of bicycles: Men’s and Women’s and Kid’s. Some with baskets. Some with streamers. Some for racing, some for touring, some for picking up milk and eggs, and then that same blue 10-speed, the one Ted was chasing you down with, and this blue 10-speed has a hand painted sign dangling from the handlebars that reads, 130. Damn, you think to yourself. That’s 30 more than stupid Ted’s, and then you spot someone in the back of the shop. They’re looking out at you, curious. They make motions with their hands. Motions that must mean something, but you can’t understand. They realize you’re not getting the gist and come out from behind the counter, up to the glass. It’s a man. Not an old man. Not the pop in a mom-and-pop. Maybe the son, you reason as they point toward the sign. You nod your head. They nod. You both understand one another, enough. And then, then the man opens the door.
            We’re closed Tuesdays, he says.
            I see that, you say. It’s just that, well, I was admiring that blue 10-speed.
            It’ll still be here tomorrow, he says. Not going anywhere. Can you come back tomorrow?
            Probably, you say. Most likely, you say. Hopefully, you say.
            Well, the man says. Seeing as you’re here now, might as well come inside.
            I don’t want to be a bother.
            Long as you don’t mind waiting for the register to warm up. Credit machine, too.
            I can pay in cash, you say.
            That would make things easier.
            You nod in agreement while checking your wallet. Forty bucks. I don’t have enough, you say.
            We do take checks.
            You take checks?
            If they’re local.
            You search your pockets, but know damn well that you don’t have any checks. You might not even have any checks at home and when was the last time you even wrote a check?
            Actually, you say. I don’t have a check.
            Well, the man says. How about you leave me your driver’s license. If you left me your license, I could let you take the bike today. Pay me tomorrow.
            You’d trust me?
            What, you’re not trustworthy?
            No. I mean, of course I am.
            It’s just a bike, the man says. There’s a million of them. Only one of you, though. Driver’s license says so, right?
            You nod.
            Come on inside and I’ll get you written up.
            The shop’s small. A little musty, but there’s good light and as soon as the door closes, it’s quiet. Peaceful. The man slips behind the counter and pulls out a receipt book. As he writes you look around for a bathroom, nothing. You casually sneak a peek behind the counter. There’s a small workshop back there, bikes in repair. You smell chain oil and rubber and figure there must be a bathroom back there someplace, maybe, hopefully, and where does this man go? You need to ask, you must ask, but you’re afraid to ask because didn’t all your problems start when you asked to use the bathroom in the first place?
            You’re writing up the receipt for the 10-speed, double checking this guy’s driver’s license number, when you notice him shifting from one foot to the other. Heavily. Is he in some kind of a hurry? No. You know that look. It’s just funny to see it on a grown man. Sure, kids come in all the time jumpity and grabbing their crotches, and then you wonder if you ever looked so obvious holding it in. Of course you have. We all have. When you got to go, and you think this to yourself while this poor man shivers in pain, in distress, in need.
            Bathroom’s in back, you say.


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