Sunday, March 07, 2010

The ladies’ room: Not just for ladies anymore

“Oh, man, this is an important one,” I said as my wife Kara glared back at me.

“Ready?” she asked.

“OK, I’m ready. No, no, I’m not ready. OK, let’s do it,” I replied.

Our eyes locked like two heavyweights listening to the referee as he told us to have a clean fight.

“Here we go,” Kara said, holding up her fist between us.

“One-two-three, shoot,” I replied. In my head, I’d been planning to go with scissors all along, but my hand mutinied and went with paper instead. And there were Kara’s two fingers, outstretched, making a V for victory, a V that opened and closed as her fingers scissored through the air.

With the grim reality of Kara’s victory confronting me, I pulled the diaper bag over my shoulder and picked up our son, whose pants were filled with a grim reality of their own.

“Have fun back there,” Kara said, smiling.

We were eating lunch in a pub that had only half of its power restored after another hernia-inducing snowstorm. I pushed open the old wooden door to the men’s room, hoping to find a changing station, though guessing that I was more likely to find the entrance to Narnia. What I found was a pedestal sink, a john and a urinal crammed into a room that might have fit into a breadbox, if breadboxes still existed.

“Oh, Buddy, we’d have to plant your diaper on a flagpole in here,” I said to Evan as he stared at the candle beside the soap dispenser, the only source of light in the room. Perhaps blueprints for nuclear submarines had been drawn up in that room, or great novels written, but I can say with some degree of certainty that those walls had never seen a dirty diaper. The only viable option for changing Evan was the floor, which taught me that I actually do have some standards.

Kara and I treat our rock-paper-scissors results as binding contracts, so returning to the table as a failure was not an option. Evan and I exited the men’s room and made a U-turn, knocking with gusto on the ladies’ room door before entering.

A strange new wonderland stretched out for acres in front of us, adorned with ornate mirrors and vases full of flowers. The candlelight brought an ambience that made me check the floor for a trail of rose petals. I placed Evan on the ample countertop and began rummaging through the diaper bag, which Kara had packed as if, after lunch, we might decide to through-hike the Appalachian Trail. I started pulling everything out of the bag, burying Evan under three outfits, seven bibs, assorted bottles and medicines, and still no diapers. Finally, I found them in a secret compartment, presumably designed to foil muggers.

Evan and I emerged from the ladies’ room triumphant, though I hope he didn’t get too spoiled in there. In the Spartan future waiting for him in the men’s room, he’ll be lucky if the cruel world throws him a urinal divider.

Not every man takes his diaper-changing responsibilities so seriously. A couple of months ago, while Kara and I picked up a pizza together, our favorite pizza man said, “Angela and I raised six children together, and I never changed a single diaper.”

He said this beaming with pride, looking at me to see if I was impressed.

I glanced at Kara, whose jaw had dropped. As he continued to brag with our pizza on the counter between us, I began to worry that Kara’s gaze might burn the crust.

In the parking lot afterwards, she said, “I can’t believe that guy never changed a diaper. Seriously, I think I would kill you.”

And perhaps she would. But I think she was missing the bigger point, which is that our pizza guy must be the world’s best rock-paper-scissors player.

You can try to change Mike Todd at

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