Some time back I wallowed in the wonderful blogging of Alan Burnett of News From Nowhere (http://newsfromnowhere1948.blogspot.com) in which he described a very funny incident at friend's World Cup TV Bash where he managed to get himself locked into the bathroom. I was so smitten I even made note to thank Alan for reminding me of a similar adventure of my own and to tell my own Locked-in-the-Bathroom story on my own blog someday.
Now, I don't know whether or not this has happened to nearly everyone at some time or other and is so ordinary and boring as to be hardly worth mentioning, but I do know it happened to me about 60 or so years ago and (now that Alan has reminded me) I remember it like it was yesterday and it seemed anything but ordinary to me.. It all began innocently enough with a little party my friend, Stel's parents gave for her when, having finally realized that there was no place in the eating, carousing, rent-paying Business world for a History Major, she went back to school to get a MS in Library Science. The festivities were to celebrate her being awarded the Degree and the house overflowed with old friends, relatives and endless amounts of booze and edibles.
Since she was one of my dearest friends and knowing that this would be the case, (not being such a big drinker but being a masterful nosher) I made it point to arrive early. No sooner had I set foot inside the door than her Father gave me a hug and pressed a huge tumbler of some brown liquid into my hand. "Here", he beamed, "this'll get you started........you'll like it." and and off he wandered to attend to the next not-yet-intoxicated person. It happens that at that time I was woefully naive and inexperienced for my age. Having gone to college with the mistaken idea that I was supposed to get an education I spent 4 years working my ass off studying and hardly got any instruction or practice in the arts of boozing and carousing. (I found out later that it was just as well, but that will be another blog) So up to this point my most memorable toot had been achieved by guzzling Manischevitz wine one Passover when I was clearing the table and found just a few inches left in the bottle. Wheeeee....that was great! But the contents of the tumbler I was clutching was a different color and different scent than Manischevitz....... I cautiously tasted it and found that it was pleasantly sweet and seemed almost harmlesss so how dangerous could it be?
This I found out a while later after I had guzzled the entire glassful and found myself reeling pleasantly around the room, feet not quite touching the floor, but finding all of the furniture and most of the party-goers bumping into me most rudely. But nothing could dampen my elated state and (forgive me) high spirits and I went in search of more of that wonderful stuff which it turned out was called Southern Comfort. (Research reveals that the stuff is a fruit, spice and herb flavored whiskey which can be anywhere from 70 to 100 proof. It absolutely did not taste lethal is all I can say.)
By the time I had lapped a few glugs of the new portion I found that, through my dimmed senses, I was aware that I had to go to the potty and, knowing this house almost as well as my own, I knew that the line to the upstairs potty would be long (yes, folks, in those days a 4 BR, 1 Ba home was the norm and families did not complain because they loved having inside plumbing) while most of the party people did not know that in the basement was a teeny little closet with a toilet where there was bound to be no line at all. How I managed to stagger down the basement stairs without disaster I will never know, but obviously God was on my side that day. I made it to the bottom and into the little cubbyhole safely, shot home the bolt that kept the door shut, took care of my business and attempted clumsily to unlatch the door and leave. Nothin'. I tried again and again without being able to budge that damned bolt but even tho I was drunk as a skunk and my fingers were useless, my little grey cells were still working. This closet had a tiny window up at ceiling height (which was only about 6 or 7 feet up) and said window had a ledge which could be reached by standing on the toilet seat. A simple hook latch held it shut and outside of the window was ground level freedom. I must admit I cannot recall what party dress I was wearing that day....I just hope that it did not have a white skirt because in a twinkling I was up on the ledge unhooking the window and squeezing my bod through the miniscule opening out onto the planting bed at the side of the house falling into the petunias in a dusty, panting lump. My exit did not do the petunias any good, nor did they do much for my party condition, but I managed to pull myself to my feet (only falling down two or three times) and composing myself as much as possible did the Pretending-you-are-not drunk Walk down the side of the house to the front and up the steps to ring the doorbell once again. My friend's father peered at me in puzzlement for a moment as if being nudged by some far off memory, then shrugged at the impossibility of his thought, smiled broadly, hugged me and thrust a full tumbler into my hands with the words, "Dammit, honey, you are late and way behind.....this'll help you catch up"
As soon as his back was turned I poured the contents into a nearby Aspidistra plant and headed a bit unsteadily but purposefully for the Nosh table. To this day not a drop of Southern Comfort has ever passed these ruby lips.
I DO wonder sometimes about how they got the basement potty door open or what convoluted thoughts they may have had about how it got locked from the inside in the first place..........Only the Shadow and I know and I'll never tell.............
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1968
6 hours ago