Monday, September 10, 2007

Boy's bathroom

"Senator Craig stepped into that bathroom to perform a perfectly legal function." Billy Martin, counsel to Senator Craig.

If you count washing your hands, and I hope that you do, there are three perfectly legal functions which are performed daily at any public restroom. As mentioned last week, Senator Craig got caught up in some ambiguities pursuant to his performance of one of those functions, which landed him in some hot water.

All of this brought back to my mind the terror of the boy's restroom at my elementary school. Very few of the normal functions went on in that boy's room. It was a place to let off steam and to run wild a little bit while out of adult presence. Bathroom breaks at Richmond Elementary School were allowed in the mornings and afternoons and took maybe five minutes. It was amazing the amount of trouble that could be instigated in five minutes.The trouble often ended with a teacher screaming in through the door, "I'm coming in there if you don't settle down." The threat was almost never carried out as no teacher in her right mind would have willingly walked into that restroom. Fights would break out, games were played, including urination games, cheat notes were written on your hands and arms, or washed off.Now and then a firecracker was set off. The best bathroom break I ever took involved a Fizzy.

Fizzies were little round tablets that, when dropped in water, turned your simple glass of water into a soda pop treat. Sort of. The fizzies were bland, when not bitter. It was a bit like drinking flavored Alka Seltzer. It had the same fizz. So bad were the Fizzy drinks, that many kids took to saving them and sucking on them during class. The problem with this was that the little pill would interact with your saliva, turning your lips the color of whichever flavored tablet you happened to be sucking on. It was a dead give away, especially if you had chosen cherry.

One day at lunch, my friend Mark Roland hit on the brillant idea of stopping up the large urinal in the boy's bathroom, filling it with water, and dropping Fizzies into it.The idea being, to turn a large filled urinal bright red. We planned this escapade for some days before we had the nerve to pull it off. It was not hard. The poorly maintained urinal seldom drained well anyway and once we had covered the drain with about half a dozen paper towels, it began to back up almost immediatly. Still, it takes a lot of flushing to backfill a urinalwhich was designed for six fifth graders to use simultaneously. We had to use the whole bathroom break doing the filling, and were getting pressure from the teacher to get out (and allow the next class in) before we were ready.

Despite the pressure, Mark Roland and most of the rest of the boys, everyone, probably, except Tracy Davenport, the little snitch, stood their ground until the urinal was full. At this point Roland removed two red Fizzy tablets from their plastic packaging and tossed them in. The immediate fizzing set off such howls of laughter that the teacher burst in to see what was going on. She found maybe fifteen boys standing around what was starting to look like a blood soaked urinal, each of us in a state of high hilarity.

Unfortunatly for us, the caper lead into a general investigation of boy's bathroom practices. and landed us all, even Tracy Davenport, in front of the Principal to explain ourselves. I'd like to say that we all toughed it out, but the truth of the matter is that under the withering gaze of our Principal, Mrs Macnamara (who had buried at least three husbands) most of us cracked. We told stories and pointed fingers and, in general acted about how you would expect a bunch of ten year olds to act in the presence of such evil. Collective punishment was quite severe and amounted to great losses of playground time over the next two weeks.In certain cases (Mark Roland) specific fact findings were made and notes were sent home.

All of this was a long time ago. 1963 to be exact. Still, to this day I recall the supreme moment of seeing those two Fizzies, bubbling at the surface of that urinal, floating aimlessly around and spreading their red dye throughout, until we witnessed an entire tub of red liquid. I never had a moment where something which was really so ineveitable seemed so surprising. Five or six years later, Fizzies were remved from the market for causing cancer in rats.

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