I used to work in a large bookstore out in the suburbs. A few months ago, we were visited by the poop walker. Let me explain.
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While I’m standing at the customer service desk perfecting my point and lean in answer to “Where’s the Da Vinci Code?” a gentleman comes up to the desk and says there’s a bit of a problem in the bathroom. On a busy Saturday night, there’s pretty much always a problem with the bathroom—toilet paper’s out, someone left a dirty diaper in the middle of the floor, standard back-up. People are pigs. Working in retail, I’ve come to expect nothing more from them.
So I grab our rolling garbage can that has all sorts of nifty bathroom accessories attached to it. I’ll probably need the broom, the extra stack of paper towels will come in handy, hopefully won’t need the plunger and I roll right into the men’s bathroom.
I stop dead in my tracks. There’s a flood. Not a small puddle hovering around the floor drain, but a serious two inches of standing water that seems to be growing. The smell, oh the smell, need I describe it here? Who among us hasn’t taken the giant whiff of stagnant sewage that curls the nose hairs and clenches the throat? And yes, there are brown bits, tiny little flecks of gross bobbing along that seem to spreading from the back stall, the handicapped one.
Like any sane person only making $8.50 an hour, I begin my retreat. Carefully stepping backwards out of the door, I’m envisioning the BATHROOM CLOSED sign I’ll be handcrafting from stray markers hidden in the kid’s department desk. But then I notice I am not alone. The handicapped stall door is shut and there are feet beneath it. Bare feet. And these feet aren’t standing still in shock and horror. They seem to be splashing. Doing a sort of Irish jig mixed with pompom stomping. They seem to be blissfully unaware of me.
I, however, am a bit stupefied by these feet. I realize I should say something, but the my two days of retail training did not cover the friendly, positive, customer service centric way to handle this event. So I try “Sir, are you alright?” No answer. “Sir, is everything okay?” No answer still. Only the slap of water on tile answers and my stomach begins to retch. I realize that my training did provide me with one course of action—get the manager. I flee the encroaching sea of poop water to find Ralph, the assistant manager with the best sense of humor.
After many minutes of “What?,” “You’re shitting me,” and “What the hell . . .”, he charges into the bathroom with me in tow. After a quick inventory of the situation (the feet are still happily slashing away), Ralph tries the hard line approach: “Sir, if you don’t exit the bathroom immediately, we’ll have to call the police.” Splashing stops. We hear a sigh and the stall door opens. Out comes a completely normal looking guy. Completely normal. He’s got on khaki’s and a button down shirt, he’s maybe forty tops, his hair is trimmed and there’s absolutely nothing about him that looks crazy. Except that his khakis are rolled up just below his knees and visibly damp. And he’s holding his sock stuffed shoes in one hand. With his head bowed, he leads the way out.
As you can imagine, the story of the poop walker quickly spread among the bookstore. We found it quite funny, as well as quite gross, and both Ralph and I had retold it at least five times in the half hour after it happened. Then I got a call at the customer service desk from Pam over in music. She asked what the poop walker looked like. I described him and she asked “blue shirt?” “Why, yes,” I said. “He’s still here,” she said, “browsing the Action DVD’s.” I darted over to the music section and low and behold, there was our poop walker, reading the back of a Vin Diesel DVD. He had put his shoes on and unrolled his pants but both were still damp. He took one look at me and left the store, perhaps never to be seen again.
But I know he’s out there. I imagine he travels from big box store to big box store just waiting for an empty bathroom so that the poop dance can begin. By day he may be an accountant or an executive assistant or some sort of analyst but by night he is the poop walker. Please report any sightings.