Carpenters Diem

I'm afraid this isn't optional. In order to read this post, you must push play on the embedded Grooveshark player below and allow it to play while you read on.

I recently used the public restroom at my local Metro station for the first time. It was one of the more surreal things I have ever done. It can only be told in narrative form as follows:

You exit the train quickly, knowing that a restroom finally lies less than a minute away. The need is very, very urgent.

You ride an escalator downward for 30 seconds that feel like 30 minutes. Your haste clearly isn't shared by the people ahead of you.

When you hit ground level, you pivot right to see that a small light near the door glows a steady green on the outside of a self-contained, bulky stainless steel bathroom pod.

You push a discolored maroon button below the glowing light.

The door slides open and out of sight with a swish worthy of any corridor in any sci-fi starship.

You enter, noting a pervading odor that would most likely be bottled as "Ode de Porta Jaques."

The door slides shut with another push of a discolored maroon button. This one is labeled "close."

The outside world disappears. Immediately, the Carpenters' most famous song begins to play -- a muzak version, of course. (If you haven't yet, hit the play button now. Seriously.)

Taking note of your blindingly florescent-lit surroundings, you notice that the pod's interior looks as if it's made from leftover set pieces from "A Clockwork Orange." Someone has ripped the toilet seat clean from the bowl, and the tarnished, torn hinges lie motionless against the seat.

The source of the overpowering smell sits unflushed in the toilet bowl.

You notice a discolored maroon button next to the toilet labeled "Put Seat Down," and you wonder who was in such dire need of a toilet seat.

You stand in this scene, somewhere between one of Dante's circles of Hell and Capt. Picard's holodeck. The Carpenters seamlessly transition into another chorus.

"Why do birds suddenly appear ..."

Turning and running now is an option, but a bad one. Plus, you still really have to go. Without another breath, you resolve to finish what you started.

And so, you do. And the breathless moments tick away.

Starved for air, you rush to the unadorned soap/sink/dryer combo set into the wall that invites you to stick your hand into its dark crevice.

"Toilet will flush when user washes hands or leaves compartment," you read. You're not as confident in the bathroom pod's abilities as it appears to be.

Torn between breathing sooner or easing the suffering of the pod's next victim, you quickly pass your hands into the unknown.

You feel a spritz of cold water -- hopefully. You hear sound of the toilet flush.

With no time left or real desire to confirm a successful flush, you rush for the exit.

You swipe at the discolored maroon button. The door slides open with another swish and the Carpenters muzak stops abruptly.

The quiet murmur of the train station lobby returns.

Other unfortunate souls wait outside. A well groomed, middle-aged man in a suit stands a few feet from a dark-haired woman and her young son.

"You go on ahead," the woman says to the waiting man. She gestures toward the boy. "It'll take him a while."

As you rush away from the pod, you barely hear her knee-jerk altruism as you concentrate on filling your lungs with air again.

The bathroom is actually pretty slick tech. It might be impressive if it weren't smeared with excrement, you think.

But what wouldn't be, really?

You hear the familiar swish as the man enters the pod.

"Why do birds suddenly appear ..."

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I'm reading

"American Lion" by Jon Meacham
I've always liked presidential biographies, and this seemed like a good choice now that Old Hickory's portrait is hanging in the Oval Office these days. The old timey text can get dense but Meacham does a good job keeping it flowing.

I'm listening to

"What Now" by Sylvan Esso. I've slowly come around to loving this group, and the hooks are this newest album are just killer.

Other links

» "I Can Eat 50 Cadbury Eggs" — A personal photo project and fundraiser
» The CSS Zen Garden — how I taught myself Web design way back when