Unless You’re The Fonz, Please Don’t Use A Toilet As Your Office

Once you reach a certain age, I think it’s around forty, you start to hear people talk a lot about “the old days.” Things were so much better then, according to the people who talk about it. They say things like, we didn’t come in until the streetlights came on and we had discipline and no one gave me a trophy even when I won that Presidential thing in gym class! And so on.

These people are a tiny bit obnoxious, if you want to know my opinion. I mean, times change. The world changes. Progress is made and some things get better at the same time as other things get stupider. When today’s children reach this ‘certain age,’ they’ll be saying things like, “I’m so glad there was no teleporting when was in high school,” or whatever. This is just the way it goes and on the whole, I’m sticking with the opinion that progress is inevitable and also generally good-ish.

However. There is actually one thing I really do miss about the glorious era that was the 1970’s and 80’s, which is that we did not talk on telephones while we were using a toilet. Ever. Granted, this is because the phone cord typically did not reach the bathroom, especially in office buildings, so we couldn’t. Possibly if we had the option, we too would have forgot our manners and went crazy with the freedom. Possibly. But I doubt it.

Not to brag, but I use a lot of public restrooms. This isn’t some kind of weird fetish thing. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has a job outside the home uses public restrooms on the regular. This makes it pretty difficult to avoid occasionally peeing while someone else is shouting into their cell phone like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. By the way, I really disliked that movie. I think the drug-fueled nature of the whole thing just brought me down. In the end I didn’t just want Leo DiCaprio in prison, I actually wanted to end his life with my own hands in some very gruesome manner. And I don’t mean the character he played, I mean Leo DiCaprio himself, for having accepted such a sleazy, sickening role and then making matters worse by playing it so well.

Even so, I can honestly tell you that The Wolf of Wall Street did not chill me to the core quite as thoroughly as the sound of a cell phone conversation in a public shitter. “Shitter” being what my dad would call it, not me. Seriously. I think the worst thing a person can do in life, worse even than feeling apathetic toward our current government situation or not limiting a child’s screen time, is to engage in a telephone conversation while simultaneously engaging in emptying one’s bladder (or oh God, producing a bowel movement) in a public restroom.

Just yesterday I had a quick stop in the lobby restroom of the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. While there, I got to overhear a woman discussing the promotion she recently did not get. She talked and peed as if that’s just what you’re supposed to do. It wasn’t even one of those quiet pees where the stream hits the side of the bowl very delicately and then goes gently off into that good night, or whatever the quote is. This was full-volume, waterfall pee. Then she flushed. There is no quiet flushing no matter what kind of high-tech plumbing you’ve invested in. The woman was confused about why she hadn’t gotten the promotion. I was not.

None of this is to say that all of this is A-OK if done in the privacy of one’s home; it’s really sort of unacceptable no matter where you are. The only reason I can give you a pass when you’re at home is because at least then, I don’t have to witness it. Assuming I am not the unlucky person on the other end of the line.

To sum up: I think the rules are pretty simple in life. Be kind. Don’t text and drive. Don’t talk and excrete waste from your body. I wish we could make this a law but I’m pretty sure it would never fly. The best I can do is what I’m doing here: asking the 7 or 8 people who read what I write to set an example. Be silent types in the women’s or men’s rooms. We’ll be starting small, but progress is progress and eventually I bet we can change the world.

Because, as I mentioned, change is good. Ish.


It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t Tell Daddy That Mom Is Dead.

I made the executive decision, back when my mom died in December. “We’re not telling him,” I said, regarding my dad. Some people thought that was weird. They weren’t divorced, or estranged, or anything that might explain why a man wouldn’t need to know that his partner of 53 years was gone. That he was now a widower. My parents were still married. He still liked her. He still asks for her, sometimes.

“She’s sleeping,” is what I tell him, every time.

During the funeral, I kept thinking of him, sitting there in a nursing home, completely unaware of the death of his wife. Of the fact that we were sitting in a church, crying as the priest said nice words about her. Of the fact that his daughters had lost their mother. Of anything. Maybe that’s a good thing about Alzheimer’s Disease – you can let them believe whatever seems best.

“Mummy’s sleeping,” I say.

The other day, I was sitting with him in the dementia unit lounge and he said to me, “Where’s Mummy? Is she still sleeping? Wake her up, she was supposed to bring me something to eat.”

I said, “Oh, let’s let her sleep. She’s tired. Your lunch will be here soon.”

I wasn’t lying about the lunch. It was there, within minutes. He ate most of it, and did not ask about Mummy again.


This Mother’s Day, I wonder what she would think of all this. If there’s one thing I know about my mother, it’s that she sometimes enjoyed seeing people suffer. She loved the show American Ninja Warrior and one of my kids once said, “That’s because she likes to see people get hurt.” We had a good laugh about that. I even told it to my mother, and she laughed about it, too. Now, when it rains, we say that Grandma is in Heaven competing on the show. And just fell in the pool because obviously, you never make it through the course on your first try.

I don’t think she’d want us to cry and sob and be overwhelmed by grief forever, about her death. I do, however, believe she’d want the full impact of it to be felt. Especially by her spouse, who by rights should miss her at least as much as the rest of us do.

Instead, where Daddy is concerned, her death was a non-event. Nothing to see here. Mummy’s sleeping.

So on that note, I’m composing a little note to her, to take the place of the Hallmark card I’d have normally given her for Mother’s Day. Here it is.

Dear Mom:

First of all, happy Mother’s Day. You did a good job. I learned from the things you did wrong, and the things you did right were so eerily, perfectly right that I still can’t quite get my head around how you did it. Allowing me to read at the dinner table, for example, my book propped up around my plate and maybe even hiding half my face, when I was younger. This is a habit that has served me well, particularly when I choose to eat alone in public with my book propped up around my plate. Not many mothers would permit this type of behavior. You told me you figured that at least I wasn’t doing drugs at the dinner table. This is a logical leap that I still can’t follow, but thank you for it, and for all the other exactly right mothering you did.

Second: no. We have not told Daddy about you and we’re not going to. But the nurses have said they think he knows, anyway. He gets teary-eyed when he hears certain songs, and when he asks, “Where’s Mummy?” you can see a little more than just your average-level curiosity in his face. Also, the fact that he asks “Where’s Mummy?” at all is a pretty good testament to your legacy. He doesn’t ask about anyone else. He still expects you to deliver his meals. I like to think you are still taking care of him, from wherever you are, and so I let him think it, too.

Also, I like to imagine the reunion, when he joins you in the afterlife. “Jesus Christ, Maureen,” he’ll say. “When did you die?” And then you’ll laugh, and tell him how it happened, and then he’ll say, “But why didn’t those assholes tell me?”

Then you will both laugh, and then you’ll probably go to get him something to eat.

The only bad news is that I’m pretty sure he will beat you at American Ninja Warrior. But on the bright side, no one ever completes the course on their first try, so surely you’ll get to see him fall a few times. That will be fun.

Third: I love you. We all do. Rest in peace.

And happy Mother’s Day.