“Don’t you hate it when your stream goes AWOL and misses the toilet entirely?” began Doyle, bursting through the door with a coffee in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other.
“I can’t relate, to be honest,” replied a very startled woman to my left, attempting to hide her distaste. As a potential customer, she represented what might be considered a “first” for the burgeoning olilolo brand: revenue.
She shook Doyle’s hand reluctantly.
“AWOL?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know – aiming without luck – and then you see it land on the floor right beneath the cubicle wall that separates the two toilets. You can hear the guy in the next one, too-”
“I don’t think that’s what AWOL-” I began.
“This is disgusting,” interjected Susan (whose name has been altered for this article due to pending litigation.)
“And you just know he can see the splash that you just made,” continued Doyle.
“Because it’s on the floor in that small region of mutual visibility?” I asked. “Between the stalls?”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Doyle. “And this dude is on the phone talking, but you hear him pause when your stream goes AWOL-”
“That’s not the right-”
“He only paused for a split-second, mind you. But I heard his voice waver. I just know he saw my splash hit the floor.”
“The nerve of him,” croaked Susan dryly, now apparently resolved to buckle down and weather through this rambling story of Doyle’s as quickly as possible. I chuckled at her naivete.
“So now I’m standing there, 50% left in the tank, panicking like a madman. Because I know that if we exit the stalls at the same time we’re going to see each other at the basin.”
“And he’ll know it was you…” I replied.
“We’d have this awkward moment, where we look at each other in the eyes – and we’d have this silent conversation where his eyes tell me that he knows that I’m the one whose pee went AWOL-”
“and he can see in my eyes that I know he knows, and that I’m ashamed.”
“Can we please get down to business?” asked Susan sharply.
“Silence, guest!” roared Doyle, hurling his paper bag at her face. A live bunny bounced out of the bag and landed with a squeak! on the desk.
“Oh, shit,” panicked Doyle. “Sorry, I meant to throw the coffee, not Gizmo.”
Susan held her face in shock. “I’ve never been so relieved by animal cruelty…” she mused, still eyeing the hot coffee in Doyle’s other hand warily.
“My point is, customers come fourth at olilolo. Right after Gizmo, but before profit.”
“Yes, well,” replied Susan, “perhaps you should focus a little more on profit because I’m here to collect last month’s rent. I’m not sure where you got the impression that I was a ‘customer’. Now will you be paying by cheque or-”
I turned to Doyle. “So what did you do?”
“Well I had to make a snap decision: either piss ferociously fast and escape before the guy came out of his toilet… or linger.”
“Yeah, you know, hang back in the cubicle and pretend you’re still going until you hear them leave. You’ve never tried to avoid someone by hiding in a toilet before?”
“I can’t say I have, Doyle.”
“Ah, then you’ve never lived!”
“It’s the rush of adrenaline you get right before you make the decision – do I sprint or do I linger? – and if you take too long to decide then your hand is forced.”
“Yep. And there’s danger in that, too: what if the person is trying to avoid you as well? And they choose to linger? Twenty minutes later and you’re both still in your cubicles, locked in a psychological game of linger chicken.”
“Did you say finger lickin’?”
“No, linger chicken. Worse yet, what if they want to speak to you, and you know they’ll spring out the moment they hear you leaving?”
“Wow,” I replied. “You, uh… really have some experience with this, huh?”
“Sure do. I once avoided speaking to my boss for 9 months by playing sprint-or-linger.”
“Ingenious. I think.”
“Can we please deal with this rent-”
“So I chose to sprint!” continued Doyle. “It’s been a while since I’ve played the old sprint-or-linger, so my skills were a little rusty… but I made the dash!”
I listened with bated breath.
“I was halfway toward the basin when I heard the flush.”
The room went suddenly silent.
“I was dead in the water. I could hear him unlocking the door. Soon he would be staring me in the eyes and I would have to face the music.”
“No…” I whispered.
“I just bolted. No time to wash my hands! I just bolted and came straight to this meeting.”
“Ugh!” spat Susan, wiping her hand on her jeans suddenly. “You didn’t wash? Before shaking my hand?”
“Well I rubbed my hands on lil Gizmo, so I reckon that transferred most of the germs away from my hands.”
Susan began to wipe her face furiously.
“Oh, right.” muttered Doyle. “Sorry about that.”
“Hey guys! Guess what I just saw happen in the loo!” exclaimed Stu, bursting through the door with a maroon satchel in one hand and a hot coffee in the other.