Curious Case of the Hanging Toilet Paper
I hadn’t been to the gym at my job since they closed it for a few months for remodeling. That was almost 6 months ago, I think. Within weeks of shutting down their free-to-use “employee wellness center” for the renovation, a new gym opened just a few blocks from my house. Membership’s only $10 a month, so I signed up since it’s so cheap and I’d have somewhere to exercise on the weekends without having to drive the 30 minutes to my job.
I had an oil change scheduled for today. I get my oil changes done close to where I work. I schedule it, then sit around for an hour with Rachel Ray babbling on the TV until the job’s done. Then they give me my keys and I drive the few miles to start work. But this time I fucked up and scheduled it too early, forgetting I start later than usual some Fridays. I was pissed at my mistake but needed the oil change, so I didn’t reschedule. I decided to try to make the best of the mistake. After the service I decided I’d go back to the gym at work to see how the renovation turned out. That’s how I decided to waste the time between the oil change and starting work at 5 instead of the usual 3.
I went back to the gym at my job. It’s in a building separate from the hospital where I work. We went in the gym and looked around. It was more cramped than before. It was far less spacious than before. I went into the locker room and changed into shorts and a t-shirt. I went to take a piss before working out.
I walked to the urinal. I noticed the piece of toilet tissue hanging from the top hinge of the shitter’s door. Same as before. That hadn’t changed. See, somebody takes their privacy while taking a shit very, very seriously. Well, taking a shit or something else. There’s about a half-inch gap between the door and the rest of the stall. Enough room to see inside, I suppose, if your fucking nose was only an inch from the goddamned gap. But somebody’s paranoid, so they take a string of toilet paper, stuff it through the hinge and let it hang down, covering the gap. That way, whatever he’s doing inside the stall, he can do it in clandestinely.
It’s so serious, somebody even installed a piece of plastic that fills in much of gap. But it doesn’t seal the whole gap. It leaves a foot or so still open at the top. It’s that 12 inches or so that still gets covered by the hanging toilet paper.
I hadn’t been in that gym or locker room in almost half a year. It was refreshing to see the toilet paper still drifting there. Sometimes while I’m working out, I wonder what he – whoever he is – is trying to hide inside the stall. Sometimes I wish my Sherlock Holmes skills were better. Sometimes I think about removing that length of toilet paper covering the gap. I think about removing it and watching who goes in and out of the locker room while I’m working out. That way, at the end of the workout, if the tissue’s hanging there again, I can at least narrow it down to one of the people I observed going in and out.
Then I fantasize about finally nailing who it is. I fantasize about making friends with him, only to get to the root cause of what’s causing him to cover the gap. Is he masturbating? Is he weeping or sobbing? Is he scratching off lottery tickets? Picking his toes? Maybe he’s hyper-sensitive to drafts. Is his obsession for secrecy while shitting the result of some childhood trauma? I truly wish to understand.
It’s a silly thing, I realize, to wonder this much about who’s that fucking paranoid. It’s a silly thing to wonder what type of person does that. Truly, I don’t know. But I like to imagine. I like to imagine it’s one of those assholes who doesn’t even exercise. I like to believe it’s one of those assholes who doesn’t want to be seen going into the shitter closest to his office or cubicle, then leaving with it stinking like an outhouse in summer. I like to believe it’s one of those assholes who pawns off his rancid shits to the people in the gym. One of those assholes who hasn’t earned the privilege of leaving his shits in our locker room. Hasn’t earned it through the sweat and soreness like we have.
Anyway, the toilet paper was still hanging. In its way, it was nice to see. I finished up pissing. I stepped out to the gym and got on the treadmill. Then I swung some kettlebells. I decided I didn’t like the new layout of that gym since, from nearly any direction, now I couldn’t avoid all the reflections of myself. With so much less space, I was reflected in the blank, black screens of the TVs in front of the treadmills. I was reflected in the mirrors behind. I was reflected in the wall of windows that stretch from floor to ceiling. My stupid, ugly face was even unavoidably reflected in the screen of my phone, which I needed to blare some Brant Bjork through the headphones in order to get through another mile. Somehow I’d imaged that in the months away, more had changed. But it hadn’t. I still looked like shit and there was no avoiding it. So I guess I’ll be going back to the other gym. I pay $10 a month anyway. I might as well get my money’s worth.
Maybe I’ll stick with the new gym with all its space. Then again, maybe I won’t. Cause there, there’s no mystery of who’s hanging the fucking toilet paper and why he hangs it. Hell, for all I know it’s not even the guy on the inside. It might be a guy on the outside, fearful of somebody inside the stall peeping through the crack as the unsuspecting hardbody steps out of the shower, barely covered or even naked.
The mystery continues.