Refried Flashback Friday: Shut the door! Originally published November 8, 2008. If you read the comments on the original post, you will notice that I accidentally conflated two childhood incidents in this flashback. The "shut the door!" part specifically didn't belong to this anecdote. But close enough.
I'm hesitant to tell today's story because by telling it, I'm admitting that it happened, and if there is any justice in the world, my little sister Teresa is in for some very embarrassing karma. But since it's Teresa and not me, I'll go ahead and risk it.
Between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, my family went on what remains my most favorite family vacation ever: a trip to Alaska. We flew to Anchorage and then rented an RV to drive around the state. After a week or so, we turned in the RV and got around by ferry. The trip held several distinctions for my 14-year-old self, including the awesomeness of visiting a town called Homer Spit (and sending my fellow Simpsons fan Kristen a postcard from there), the novelty of seeing Russian onion-dome churches on the island of Sitka, and the heartbreak of accidentally leaving behind an entire box of peanut butter Twix on a ferry.
My brothers and sister and I at a glacier in Alaska. My oldest brother was on a mission in Austria at the time.
Besides all that, there was also all the time my sister and I (and brothers, but they don't really figure in this story) spent in the RV, on the road. My parents sat up front in the driver and passenger seats, which were lower than the rest of the vehicle and separated by a few stairs. Theoretically, we kids were sitting sedately in our seats in the back, with seatbelts buckled as we drove through the most beautiful state I've ever seen.
In reality, of course, we were dancing, completely unrestrained in the aisle of the RV, to the Beach Boys tape my parents had playing on the stereo. Or stretching out on the benches or beds and taking naps or playing Thirteen. Or rummaging through the "kitchen" cupboards for snacks. Now that I think about it, I don't know if my parents knew what we were doing and didn't care, or if they really were oblivious at the time, as we kids assumed.
At night, we pulled over wherever was available and slept, and then kept going to our next destination in the morning.
One of those destinations was a big tourist spot, but I don't remember exactly where it was. There were a lot of people there and there was a nice enough visitors' facility to have lots of bathrooms available. As I remember it, instead of separate, indoor restrooms for men and women, there was just a long row of enclosed single bathrooms, each one spacious enough to be wheelchair-accessible with its own full-length door. Each room was so big, in fact, that if you were sitting on the toilet, you couldn't reach the door. Additionally, perhaps to accomodate wheelchairs, the doors swung easily outward from the bathroom instead of toward the toilet.
Teresa and I walked over to the row of bathrooms. Either I waited for her to go first, or I went and came out again. Whichever way it happened, I was there to witness what took place when Teresa chose a bathroom to go into. She tried a couple of doors, but they were locked. Finally, she found one that was open, so she pulled open the door.
That particular bathroom may have been open, but it certainly wasn't unoccupied. There was a person sitting on the toilet who, at that moment, was probably really wishing they had locked the door. As it was, they hadn't, and now they were on display for all us tourists to see.
The sensible thing to do would have been for Teresa to just close the door again. To this day, I don't know why she didn't. Maybe because she was only 10 years old and very surprised at what had just happened. Regardless, she did what any little kid in her situation might have done: she ran away. And I, her supposedly responsible older sister, ran away with her.
Behind me, all I could hear was the voice of that poor, exposed person calling out, "Shut the doooooooooor!" Meanwhile, the door of the bathroom was slowly swinging open, outwards, so that while it had never been within reach of the toilet, it was only getting farther away.
When we got back to the RV, I think we were equal parts horrified with ourselves and also about to fall over from laughing so hard. I still wonder if some other tourist took pity on the toilet-sitter and shut the door for them, or if they had to waddle, pants down, all the way out of the bathroom to reach the handle and shut it themself. We'll probably never know. At least, I hope we don't ever find out. At least not first-hand from the source. That would be awfully embarrassing. For Teresa, of course.