Last winter. It’s a frigid New York evening. I’m traipsing the streets in between shows, in desperate need of a public restroom.
I walk by venue after venue, looking for just the right spot. I was like a dog, sniffing and circling (only I’d get much different looks for lifting my leg over a tree). Finally I look into the window of a restaurant. I look straight back, and past the bar and tables, I see a visible bathroom. Without thinking, I dart right on in to make myself at home. I don’t know what the restaurant’s name is, but it may as well be Olive Garden, because I’m about to be family.
In my rush for relief, I miss the phalanx of uniformed servers who descend upon me as if to say, “Not so fast my friend.” I wasn’t dressed shabbily, but I was wearing a backpack. No one entering a semi-fancy restaurant with a backpack is coming in to sample wines. Before I can get to the restroom, the lead dog holds a hand up, shaking his head. He knows what I’m doing.
“Can I help you?” He asks it in what can only be described as the world’s least helpful tone. “Can I help you?” The only help he offers is surely to tell me which direction the door is.
Despite my surprising shock at his presence, my years of dealing with rowdy audience members onstage have granted me a quick wit in situations like these. I immediately snap back, “I’m meeting some friends here,” then head to the bathroom as he grimaces and says nothing in response.
Once in the restroom, I went about doing my dirty, sinful business (number one if you’re curious, you sicko.) While peeing, I realized I had to re-enter that hornet’s nest. I’m positive he was about to tell me the bathroom was for customer’s only. At this point, it’s clear I’m not a customer. Hell, I doubt he ever believed my garbled, “I’m meeting friends here hey is this the bathroom?” excuse. What would I tell him when I walked back out there? Would I sit down at the bar and order a drink to smooth things over? My mind raced as I considered the possibilities.
After a moment of consideration, I settled on making a beeline for the door and getting the hell out of there.
As I washed my hands, my heart skipped a beat for some reason. I don’t know why, but this was one of the most exciting moments of my life. If I got out of there without being chastised or penalized (what could they do at this point? Put the pee back?) I would have successfully executed a perfect restroom heist.
So gathering all my courage, I burst through the doors and without making eye contact with anyone, walked straight out the door. For me it was like cheating at poker, pulling off a bank job, and being an IOC member all rolled into one criminally exciting enterprise.
Remember in the Godfather, when Michael Corleone executes Sollozzo and the police captain? Remember how he walks out, quickly but not too quickly, in something of a daze? That was exactly how I felt. I don’t know if restaurants usually call the cops on restroom users who don’t buy anything, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to stick around to find out. I walked straight out the door and back into the cold.
You could argue that lying to a business just to use their restroom is something a piece of shit would do. Maybe you’re right. Maybe for those few minutes I was a piece of shit. But I tell you what: those 3-5 seconds between me leaving the bathroom and smelling the sweet cold air? Most alive I’ve ever felt.
If you sign up for my email list I can’t tell you a list of the best public restrooms to use in New York, but I CAN tell you how to convincingly look at a Starbucks’ menu for a second before heading to their bathroom to drop a deuce.