Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 12

Click Here to read this story from the beginning…

Okay, it was a slight lie that Tiffany and I bombarded the diner kitchen, demanding to speak with Mother Teresa and learn blessed baking skills. But we did think about it, which is almost as important and noteworthy, and surely credited us a few more points toward earning the Southern Baked Goods merit badge that we had been working on all week.

Culinary terrorism aside, it was time that we jet from the lovely Diner O’ Biscuits and proceed forth to our intended tour of Fort Sumter. We gathered up our 47 communication devices and paid the tab, leaving a healthy tip for Sorbonne, an overpayment that is often necessary when compensating folks for the intrusion of our clan into their environment. It’s just so much easier when things don’t escalate into a judicial matter.

Bellies full, we trotted out to the car and headed just a short way down the road, turning onto a side road that lead to the entrance of the main tour facilities. As usual for this town, the entrance was somewhat ambiguous, with discreet landscaping to camouflage the fact that apparently-offensive retail transactions actually took place in the fair city. We rounded a batch of purposely-obscuring trees, and pulled into the parking lot proper.

To discover that roughly 4,000 vehicles had rounded those same trees before we had.

I wasn’t completely surprised, I guess. After all, this was a tourist thing, and a rather famous one at that, so I should have been prepared for at least a modest influx of humanity. It’s not like the governor of the state was going to personally greet us and whisk our little entourage on a private tour. But I also wasn’t expecting the entire state of Rhode Island to show up. (Maybe they were looking for the biscuits?)

We found a spot, and trudged toward a semi-walled area that might contain official people with useful information about ticketing and such. (Why do they insist on hiding things behind other things around here? I want a big-ass sign that says “Buy tickets HERE!”) We clattered around the wall, and found ourselves in Grand Central Station.

There were people everywhere, hordes of them. The sheer number of them stunned us all for a second, then we spied an area off to the side, where people were shoving money through holes in glass windows and receiving bits of paper in return. These people were also fighting to remain upright as presumed offspring tugged them in all directions, demanding immediate satisfaction in places that were not ticket lines.

I took one look at that mess and signaled for Terry to do the necessary financial arrangements. Terry is the sociable one, with the fine and enviable ability to talk to anything with a pulse, and even a few things without one. I loathe talking to people that I don’t know, preferring instead to float facedown in a swimming pool until they go away.

Terry made his way toward the queues of hooligans, whilst Tiffany and Nina both commenced with fiddling around in their purses or some such, one of those secretive things that women do when they lean toward one another in a public setting and quietly whisper about something. This left me temporarily unsupervised, and thusly I made a poor management decision. I suddenly felt it very important that I use the facilities.

I signaled Terry again (“Gotta pee!”) and headed out on my adventure. This time, a large sign was provided, thank you. (I guess once you are inside the confines of a retail establishment, the local zoning laws change and you can go crazy with the signage.) I rounded a corner, traipsed down a long breezeway, and rounded another corner, at which point I was presented with an open doorway bearing the universal symbol for persons with penises, actual size not regulated.

It was actually kind of quiet back over here. There were a few people milling about, chattering quietly and sneaking slightly-furtive puffs on cigarettes. Most thrillingly, there was nary an urchin in sight. I relaxed and strolled into the tiled comfort station.

Things went swimmingly well for the first, oh, twenty seconds. Just long enough for me to unzip and position. At twenty-one seconds, the entire world blew up. 400 screaming boys came pouring through the door like a biblical plague, swarming all over the room with a vengeance that would startle Genghis Kahn. I became far too intimate with my urinal as I was shoved from behind by a branch of the invasion that was very invested in the far corner of the room. (Perhaps Satan was over there, beckoning?)

One of the boys was carrying a stick, which he was waving over his head. He marched right up to a metal trashcan and began to beat the hell out of it, hurling insults that meant nothing to me but were probably hip and cool to ten-year-olds these days. None of his horrid little companions looked his way or even blinked, so the assumption is that Little Anar-Kevin did such a thing quite often.

Another contingent of hooligans felt it was very important to free a soap dispenser from a wall. Not to be outdone, Squad C broke open a paper towel box and began flinging the fluttery contents from here to Jordan. To up the ante, another fool turned on a faucet, full force, and used his hand to direct the spray toward places it should never go. I believe that particular action received the most approving cries from the boys who were just standing around, too simple to think up their own vandalism.

I quietly continued with my plumbing needs, fully aware that any sudden movements might attract the attention of the many-eyed beast. As I did my part for recycling, I suddenly realized that all of the boys were wearing the same relative outfit, blue-and-white shirts with regulation-length shorts. Did they all go to a school of some kind? Were they gang members? Was this a day-trip for the residents of a youthful corrective facility?

Just then, a very haggard-looking man stumbled into the entryway, wearing a grown-up version of the little matching shirts. Instantly, the little hellions ceased all demonic activity and fell into orderly lines at the stalls and the urinals, not making a sound and staring forward. Of course, the two inches of water on the soapy floor and the remnants of the towel-fluttering belied the fact that more than just choir practice had taken place.

“Boys,” asked Haggard. “Have we been behaving?”

Silence, other than the one faucet that was still gushing, forgotten in the rush to appear angelic. Haggard walked over and slapped it off, sighing and deciding to give up any hope that his tribe had conducted themselves appropriately. “This bathroom didn’t get this way by itself.”

All eyes looked towards me.

Wait. What? Me! What the hell?

Haggard made a disgruntled sound that you know he practiced late at night, dreaming of actually dominating his charges for once. “I doubt that our friend had anything to do with this.” (Oh my GOD don’t call me a friend. I want no association with you people whatsoever.) “Let’s finish up and get back on the school bus.”

Back on the bus? They were leaving the compound. Praise Jeebus! I happily zippered up, whacked at the flush handle, raced to one of the sinks that still had a soap dispenser, washed the sins of this place off my hands, used the lone remaining paper towel, and headed toward the door.

Haggard subtly caught my attention on the way out, his eyes beseeching. Please take me with you, they said. I don’t care where you’re going, just as long as it’s not here. He even sagged his shoulders a little bit, his body language suggesting that even a simple hug would help, should I choose to give him one.

I did not. Yes, I feel tremendous empathy for any brave souls with the unenviable task of instructing and nurturing the unholy by-products of parents who stupidly believe that discipline is somehow a bad thing. But I did at least flick one of my own eyes to indicate that I was with him in silent-partner solidarity, and that I wished him the best. His eyes welled with tears and he nodded with humble gratification.

Then I got the hell out of there.

And nearly slammed into Terry, tucking the tour tickets into his pocket and headed toward the chaos whence I came. “Watch out for those boys,” I muttered.

Terry paused briefly, then shrugged his shoulders. I was always saying odd crap that didn’t make any sense. Then he turned and headed forth into the facilities.

God speed, mon amour.

Wonder if they serve any beer around here?

To Be Continued…

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