No, it wasn’t earlier this year. It was not last year. It was not Gina who entered the women’s bathroom in a major hospital. It was Greg, and it was 1999.
I was at my first call after graduating from seminary in 1996, one small congregation each in Guttenberg and McGregor, Iowa. Guttenberg, where we lived, is about the same size as my hometown of Montague—2,000 plus—and has a small hospital, but all major cases were sent to Dubuque, or Waterloo, or Rochester, MN, or LaCrosse, WI. When you are a small town pastor, you do a lot of driving to see members in the hospital.
The day of my gaffe, I was at one of the two Dubuque hospitals, Mercy Medical Center. I had finished my visit and was ready to head out for the nearly hour-long drive home.
I needed to pee.
I had been on this floor several times. I knew exactly where the bathrooms were, around the corner from the elevator. I made my way down the hall, turned the corner, pushed open the door and entered.
“Hmm, where’s the urinal? There’s always a urinal.” Here’s how smart I am. It did not dawn on me that seeing no urinal meant that I was in the wrong bathroom.
It was a small bathroom. I proceeded to one of the two stalls. There should have been one urinal and one stall. I knew this. It still didn’t dawn on me.
I took my seat and proceeded with my business. The restroom door opened. The shoes on the tile did not sound right. They were clicking. Like high heels.
“You’re in the wrong bathroom, you idiot.” Thankfully, this was me speaking. Even more thankfully, I did not say it out loud.
I finished peeing. I waited for her to get into the other stall and get settled. I remembered that women always use tissue, even when they pee, so I tore off a square so that she would hear me do this, because, of course, she would be suspecting a man in the other stall, right? Of course not. Besides, I put my feet close together so she could not see my shoes from her side of the why-don’t-these-walls-go-to-the-floor stall wall.
I flushed and exited the stall. I wanted to get out fast, but I didn’t want her to not hear me use the faucet—why was I concerned about this? It’s not like she was going to ID me in a police line: “There the man. There’s the one who didn’t wash his hands after peeing!”—so, heart beating out of my chest, I quickly washed my hands. Now, I had to get out of there with no one seeing me.
I opened the door. Whew, no one was entering.
I stepped out of the restroom. Whew, no one was walking down the hall.
I walked the few steps to the elevator and punched the button. Whew, no one came up to wait beside me. If they had, they probably would have shown concern: “I’m sorry. Is a loved one not doing well. You look like you are under a great deal of stress.”
You don’t know the stress I’m under, friend. And you’ll never know.
Whodathunk that, sixteen years later, I would be deliberately entering women’s restrooms as if I belong in them. Indeed, I do. You sure aren’t going to catch me entering a men’s room these days.
Well, not on purpose anyway.
“Hmm, what are those urinals doing in here?”