Carlton A Singer Jr: Popcorn, Soda, and a Hepatitis B Shot
There comes a time in every parent’s existence where you want to start testing the waters with your children. You slowly begin to nudge them into activities for which they would have previously be considered “too young.” These activities include concerts (which I cannot wait for...), museums (which I also cannot wait for...), and, as sort of a set of training wheels for future outings, the movie theater. We did this over the weekend.
Now, being frugally minded, I quickly realized that I could very easily walk into a theater, spend $60 on tickets, popcorn, candy, and the like. Only to experience an unexpected meltdown of epic proportions within minutes of our arrival, thus putting an immediate end to our outing, and sending me toward the exit with a screaming child under one arm and dragging another crying child with the other. This would result in me apologizing to every person giving me an awkward stare as I passed them walking up the aisle saying, “Sorry. So sorry. They never, ever act like this...I promise. Sorry. Do you have a PayPal account? I’d like to refund the price of your admission. No? Okay. Enjoy your movie.”
At this point I had paid $60 for something I could have easily gotten for free at home. Oddly enough, I have used this same analogy before in regards to hookers (Weird, right?). After considering this scenario and its possible financial repercussions, I opted for the dollar theater. Fiscal responsibility is a must for a father of three, a fiance, and someone who works a few side jobs to provide for his family .
The kids were golden through the entire showing of Rio. The movie was good, but my focus remained on the behavior of my children. Luckily, there were just enough inside jokes for grown-ups to keep me laughing. That being said, this story isn’t about my experience in the theater. It is about my experience in the theater’s bathroom.
Just as I was getting as comfortable as one could be in the dollar theater seats, my youngest son said, “Daddy, I gotta go pee.”
Now, knowing full well that this was a dollar theater, and that a dollar doesn’t go very far these days, I should have at least had an idea of what kind of sanitation level to expect on the other side of the poorly painted particle board door that swung laboriously below the seventies-era Men's room sign. Yet still, I marched past it, determined and unaware with two children in tow.
Once we passed the threshold, we were greeted with such unsightly horror that I shouted, “Oh my Christ, DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!”
My immediate assumption was that, due to certain budgetary constraints resulting from running a dollar theater, certain aspects of restroom maintenance were considered a luxury service, and had been struck from the work instructions. These services include, but are not limited to, the following:
1) Pubic hair removal. (“Dada, what are those?” “Those are pubic hairs.” “What’s a pooby hair?” “Never mind, PUT YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS!“)
2) Shit-covered toilet seat cleaning. (Trust me: in a place like this, the gross factor of what they keep out in the open, pales in comparison to what they hide behind closed doors.)
3) Overflowing urinal repair. (“Look Daddy! A waterfall!” “Oh my dear God. PUT YOUR HANDS BACK IN YOUR POCKETS!”)
4) The cleaning of hacked-up phlegm from the hand sinks. (The multitude of colors displayed in these basins makes me concerned that this theater’s demographic may be experiencing some never-before-seen health conditions. Perhaps I should write the CDC.)
After making these observations, I focused on safely allowing my kids to relieve themselves. This was comically accomplished through some clever thinking on my part, and as I stood there, holding Ben around his chest over a yellow-stained urinal, his pants around his ankles and me helping him aim, I thought some things to myself:
“Am I being completely over-protective here? Am I overreacting? People come here every day...what would they think if they walked in and saw this? Is this what I’ve been reduced to? When I was younger, I would have no problem just thoroughly wiping the seat and doing my business. Have I lost my edge? Was that ever considered an edge? Am I truly just another paranoid suburban father, living in fear of germs and grime, never allowing my kids’ immune systems to fully develop and do their jobs? WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?”
And as I stood there, now with Jack in the same position, Ben with both hands in my pockets, me fully aware of my growing “wussitude” towards public sanitation, a large, gangsta-looking chap entered the restroom with his two kids. Crap. We'd been found out.
He looked at us. We looked at him. He scanned the restroom and said to his kids, “Holy shit. Listen, kids...DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!”
We exited immediately thereafter, since I wanted to allow G-Dad some amount of privacy to attend to his kids in whatever way he saw fit. As I knelt in the lobby, giving the boys each a sanitary-wipe bath, I felt secure in my paranoia and had a feeling rush over me that, awkward as it had been, I had done exactly the right thing. Of course, we’re never leaving home again, but hey...that’s the price of being a Dad.
Now...if you’ll excuse me, I’m pretty sure Ben just picked up a dog turd. Doodie calls.