This Is Not An Exit

(originally posted on on 3/10/11)

I got a sense the other day of what it feels like to be trapped.

Not trapped emotionally, like in a bad relationship, or trapped mentally with some problem or other that seems unsolvable. No, I was trapped physically, and in a pretty disgusting place: a public bathroom.

Yeah, I managed to get myself locked inside a public bathroom.

You see, I was at an audition, and like the good student I am, when I arrived at the audition location I went directly to the bathroom before checking in, just like they taught me in grad school. Have a pee, check the hair, apply a little lipstick, you know the routine. At this particular casting location, they have a co-ed bathroom. You walk in, and there’s the sinks and a mirror and then down a short hallway are two bathroom stalls, completely enclosed with locking doors. The first time I went to this particular office, I had a moment of complete embarassment when I walked into the bathroom and was immediately confronted with a man standing there. I assumed I had walked into the men’s bathroom by mistake and was just about to make my mortified apology when a woman walked out of one of the stalls. Oh. Co-ed. How forward-thinking of them. Or cheap. The only other time I’ve been in a co-ed bathroom like this was on a party boat in Amsterdam, which was not only co-ed but had urinals to boot. What do you men do with that? How do you navigate without actually directly focusing on anything? How do you find the toilet or the sink without accidentally looking at a penis? And how do you think women feel walking into this situation, completely unprepared? Needless to say I ended up holding it all night. But I digress.

It was pretty late in the day, so the casting office was mostly cleared out. There wasn’t a soul in the bathroom, which was unusual. The Modest Mouse part of me (yes, I do have one) was thankful that I wouldn’t be running into a man in there, and that I didn’t need to rush since there was no line. I chose the first stall, painted a nauseating lime green, and noticed that, of course, the seat was up. Men! I was tempted to try the other stall, because there’s something about using a men’s bathroom that kinda skeevs me out, but I though, hey, that’s ridiculous, just get over your damn self, Amy. So into that first stall I went, closed and locked the door, and went about my business. I won’t get into those details, of course, but in no time I was finished, hands washed, and ready to have my leave of this germ-ridden toilet closet. I unlocked the handle, pushed the door and….the door wouldn’t open. Wait a minute, I thought, maybe I didn’t unlock the door all the way. So I jiggled the handle a little bit, turning the lock this was and that and tried to open the door again. Again, the door wasn’t budging. Perhaps it’s just stuck, I thought. I gave it a good shove. No dice. The door didn’t move.

At this point, my brain went into overdrive. Am I stupid? I thought. Am I missing something really obvious? If I start banging on the door to have someone let me out, am I going to embarass myself in front of everyone? This office has a distinct funereal atmosphere – there may be 50 people waiting in the lobby, but you’d still be able to hear someone fart down the street. So I paused a moment to figure out the best way to proceed. Clearly I’m stuck. I examined the door, I pulled up on the knob as I pushed the door, thinking perhaps the door is just a bit out of alignment. Nope. Still stuck. I thought about getting out my credit card to jimmy the lock open, but I could see that the plunger in the knob was turning, so that wasn’t what was keeping me trapped. Is there a door open on the other side maybe? Is that forcing my door closed? What time does this place close? Do they check the bathrooms before they leave at night? Will someone not find me until morning?

At this point, I started to feel a bit panicked. I only had a couple of minutes before my scheduled audition slot. If I was late, would they believe that I was really stuck in the bathroom? Or just chalk it up to some lame actor excuse? Suddenly this germ-infested man toilet starting feeling really small. I started imagining what it might be like to be trapped in the rubble after an earthquake. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I could imagine it! Fuck it, I thought, I’ve exhausted all my ideas for getting out of here, save breaking the door down (which probably wouldn’t have been to hard, it was a cheap hollow-core door anyway). It’s time to start knocking.

Knock, knock, knock. Nothing. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK, a little louder this time. Seriously? Is there noone out there? Or is everyone so wrapped up in prepping for their audition that noone will come save me. KNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCK!!!!!!!!!!

“Hello?” comes a voice from the other side. Finally!

“Hey, hi, um, I’m stuck in here, the door won’t open even though it’s unlocked.”

“Oh. Hmmmm. Do you want me to get someone?”

No, asshole, I want to spend the night in here. “Yes, could you please? Thank you!”

I hear the clueless guy walk away and seconds later that door magically opens, completely unhindered. On the other side is the befuddled Asian guy who found me in there and the girl from the desk.

“This happens alot” the girl said, completely deadpan.

“Oh. Hm. Well, thanks. I was starting to get a little panicky.”

The girl gives me a vague stink-eye as I high-tail it out of there. How’d the audition go? I can barely remember. As a friend suggested to me, perhaps the bathroom interlude was my audition for No Exit. Or my introduction to an existential crisis. Or just some silly story I can now entertain my friends with.

Regardless, I’m never using that stall again.