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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The After-Hours Office Adventures

I tend to work late at the office most weeknights. Partly because there’s an awful lot to get done — that desk isn’t going to crawl into a fetal position and cry under itself all day, after all — but mostly because that’s when most people have gone home. That means nobody calling every ten minutes to harass me, or knocking on the door to serve written warnings, or yanking me out of my chair to escort me summarily out of the building. How am I supposed to get anything done between all the screaming and the fist-shaking and the ‘clean out your desk; you’re finished in this town’-ing?

All those yahoos go home at five o’clock, after a full day of flak and haranguing. So most of my real work winds up getting done after ‘normal’ business hours, when things have quieted down and the flak has settled like a fine silvery dust over the room.

Hanging out late at the office has its perks, sure. I can play music if I want, or take off my shoes.

(Not the pants, though — it tends to spook the maintenance staff. Found that out the hard way one night, and we lost an industrial floor waxer out an eighth-floor window. That was a tough one to explain the next day.

On the bright side, the parking space below the window has never looked cleaner. You try parking on it, and you sliiiiiide right through to the next one. But it shines like a diamond at high noon. Very pretty.)

Of course, there are downsides, too. Most of the negatives have to do with the company’s cost-conscious ways. They’re always looking to save a buck here and there, so the building’s amenities become a bit less, shall we say, amenable, once the overtime clock begins.

“I’m generally moving around — running, writhing, panicking, dry heaving, all the usual work stuff — so the lights stay lit. That’s not the problem.”

I can roll with most of these. I tend to like it a little cold, so when they turn the heat down at five, it doesn’t much bother me. It can be a little hard to type during the winter months, what with the shivering fingers and my breath fogging up the monitor, but I get by.

The bigger issue is the lighting situation. I’ve already mentioned the office’s move to motion-sensor light panels.

(And the sneaky ability to turn them off entirely, to prey on the psyches of unwitting rubes like me who naively expect motion sensors to sense effing motion already.)

Those sensors appear to also be programmed with some sort of power-saving mode, because after about six pm, they snap off with the slightest pause in movement. Lose yourself in thought for a second or freeze when you think someone’s coming down the hall and you might have to put your pants back on, and *bam* — lights out. You’re in the dark.

(I just hope the company’s getting a good interest rate on all the photons they’re saving. Maybe we’ll get our own spotlights some day. Or fancy high-candle-power disco balls for the conference rooms. Or they’re saving them up for a weapons-grade laser, to fry anyone who tries to escape.

Yeah. It’s probably the laser.)

It’s not the office or the hallways where the lights are a problem. I’m generally moving around — running, writhing, panicking, dry heaving, all the usual work stuff — so the lights stay lit. That’s not the problem.

The problem is the bathroom.

See, I’ve found that the motion sensor in the bathroom doesn’t ‘see’ down into the toilet stall at the end of the row. And that’s the one with all the legroom — and the mini fridge and the pool table and the high-candle-power disco ball over the dance floor — so that’s the one I seek out, when it’s available. Those little cramped johns are for suckers and temp workers. I’m looking for the wide open spaces to do my business. Oooooo-klahoma. That’s what I’m talking about.

During the day, this strategy works just fine. But after the lights switch to “midnight mode”, taking a seat on the favored throne becomes somewhat more dicey. I was in there just last week, minding my own bathroom business, when suddenly I found myself engulfed in darkness. No warning. Just the (st)inky blackness of a lonely corporate washroom.

I leaned up as far as I could and waved my hand over my head. Nothing. From my seated position, I couldn’t get tall enough to trigger the motion sensor. And now I had issues. Big issues.

At any moment, someone could walk in. There are a few other late-stayers — plus the already skittish night staff — and any (male) one of them could waltz through the door, see the lights come on, and then notice the shoes resting conspicuously in the last stall. Am I okay? Am I a dead guy? Did somebody abandon their loafers in a mad dash out of the crapper? That person wouldn’t know. So they’d have to ask. And “conversation” is on my personal Top Ten List of things to avoid when sitting on the john.

(No, really, it is. Take a look:

Charlie’s Personal Top Ten List of Things to Avoid When Sitting on the John:

10. Hiccups.

9. Insects.

8. Conversation.

7. Spontaneously breaking into a Billy Joel song.

6. Overflows.

5. Sewer pipe gators.

4. Billy Joel.

3. Toilet paper emergency.

2. Prolapse.

1. Falling in.

See? Told you it was there.)

So I had two options — either sit in the dark, finish up, and feel my way through finding toilet paper, using it and redressing myself without the benefit of sight, or find some way to trigger the motion sensor. I went for the latter. There are some things I’m willing to do ‘by feel’, and some I’m not. This one is a definite not.

I tried throwing my keys in the air, up above the stall. That made an awful lot of noise — and I almost dropped them into the bowl between my legs, since I couldn’t see them coming down — but no lights came on. I figured my wallet was a little larger, so I tried it. Evidently my throw was off, and I heard it land with a soft *thwack* in the floor of the next stall. So much for easily identifying the body if I wind up dying here, I thought. Super.

My only option left was to stand, as gingerly as one can with one’s underpants hugging their ankles, and reach tippy-toed up to wave at the sensor. No dice — not tall enough. So I tippy-toed some more, without luck. In a few short seconds, I found myself hopping on one foot, stretching high to the ceiling and waving like a marooned sailor flagging down a luxury cruise liner. With trou, as mentioned, firmly dropped. Quite a tricky maneuver.

(I’d like to say at this point: ‘Don’t try this at home; I’m a trained professional.

Only I’m not. I’m just a doofus with a penny-pinching employer who sometimes has to poop in the dark. If there were an actual professional at pulling off this kind of stunt, I’d sure like to meet that guy.

But I am not going to shake his hand. Lord only knows where that thing has been.)

Eventually, I must have reached a sliver of a fingernail into the ‘sensor zone’, because the lights did, mercifully, return to working order. I took my seat again, hastily wrapped things up and put myself back together and got the hell out of the stall posthaste. It’s been almost a full week, and I haven’t dared go back. I’ve been using the skinny little sucker stalls, where you can barely breathe and you can practically wipe yourself using the roll mounted on the wall beside you. It’s savage in there.

So I’m brainstorming ways to get back to my stretch-out stall, without the potential horrors of bathroom conversation or doing the hopping pantsless-pokey to get the lights back on. After a bit of thought, I’ve come up with a plan.

I’ll take a flag with me into the bathroom after hours. There’s a U.S. flag on a pole in one of the conference rooms; I’ll just borrow it whenever I need to visit the little boy’s room in the evening. If I don’t need it, great. It’ll be there to remind me that people in some other countries don’t get to poop. Or they have their poops spread equally among the populace, or can’t vote for who’ll do their pooping, or something. I’m better at the poops than the politics.

(It’s all about the practice. Forty years in, and I don’t have a political party. But I’ve been a Repooplican for life.

Oh, that’s bad. You can edit that out, right? Before it goes live? Awesome.)

And if the lights go out, then I’ll simply raise Old Glory and wave her high and strong until they come back on. She’ll give proof, through the night, that… um, bombs are bursting, in a manner of speaking.

(Though hopefully not “in air”, or with a “rocket’s red glare”. Can that happen, even? Maybe I need to amend that Top Ten List.)

So, problem solved. The lights are no longer an issue, and I’m stalling in style again, thanks to some help from our grand old flag.

I bet Betsy Ross never saw that coming.

Permalink  |  3 Comments



3 Responses to “The After-Hours Office Adventures”

  1. LOTGK says:

    Perhaps there is a way to adjust the sensors that detect motion. Maybe aim it toward the luxury stall.

    This would also make a great setting for a horror movie. Evil beings that come to life in the dark. And you are trapped in the building until dawn.

  2. Charlie says:

    Holy crap, LOTGK, is that a real thing?! Evil beings in the office bathroom?

    Damn. Now I’m definitely updating that Top Ten List. Billy Joel just got himself bumped down a spot or two.

  3. Debbie says:

    I’m sure you made Betsy proud. She’s probably rolling over in her grave, distraught that she can’t add another star to the flag in your honor.

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