24 June 2014

You Don't Wanna Be That Guy Pissing in the Corner of the Bookstore


“I’ve learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.” - Homer J Simpson

You don't wanna be that guy pissing in the corner of the bookstore.

There was one once. At least one that I know of. There could have been people pissing in corners of bookstores for centuries all over the world for all I know. Hell it could be an everyday occurrence now.

My first job — I was a junior in high school at the time— was working in a bookstore. One day I overheard a story about how someone had recently been caught peeing in the corner. I never saw the aftermath and don’t know any other details. All I know was what I heard which — again — is that a guy pissed in the corner of a bookstore. When you’re 16 years old working in your first job and surrounded by people two, three times your age you don’t ask a lot of questions aside from those necessary to do your job right.

But imagine the trajectory of a life that leads you to peeing in a bookstore. Somewhere along the line your brain had to have gone haywire or you had just gotten unimaginably drunk. My freshman year in college in the dorm there was the story that this girl had slept with some guy in said dorm and in the middle of the night he awoke to see her squatting over the floor just a few feet from the bed peeing. The bathroom was only a few feet further away. But when you’re that drunk --maybe especially if you’re 18 or whatever….

Many BART stations have areas that positively reek of piss. These are, one imagines, the result of drunks who can’t find a bathroom or the homeless. I’ve seen homeless women peeing in the street and on an outdoor BART platform. Men of course will piss anywhere. Just the other day in broad daylight there was a guy peeing in the parking lot of an Assembly of God church. The thing about it was that he seemed for all appearances to be part of a crew that was doing some work there. The idiot just couldn’t be bothered going inside or finding a secluded spot. Maybe he had prayed to god to make him invisible while he pissed and it didn’t take.

But still the notion of a guy pissing in the corner of a bookstore is something I’ve never been able to shake several decades on. That seems especially egregious. For one thing books are sacred. I don’t know that he peed on books but just the idea that he was peeing right near them is sacrilegious. About the only worse place to take a whizz would be in a grocery store or in a crowded place like a theater.

I always imagined the guy as being fairly old and someone who’d been jacked around by life and couldn’t handle misfortune and so he went screwy. It happens. Some people can’t take a punch in life. One bad break and they snap. I’ve had some tough blows but somehow am resilient or stupid enough to just get back in the game. Ya know how many matches I missed in my soccer career through injury? Zero. I generally miss about as many days of work. I just show up. Around where I work people are always sending out mass emails asking for someone to cover a class. Flu. Cold. Friend in town. Fishing trip. Hangnail. Bad dream. Any excuse not to show up. Me, I like the work and believe in doing what I’m hired to do. It’s not in my job description to not come in because I had a crappy night. Vacations are another matter. I’ll take what’s coming to me.

Anyway I got sidetracked again. It's weird how some things stick in our minds for dozens of years. Too often it can be something said to us out of anger or insensitivity or ignorance. It can be hard to shake resentments once they fossilize. But there are also images that stay with us from what we see or --  like in the case of the peeing man -- something we hear. I can see some of the details of things my dad told me about as if I had been there. The question is why some things stick.

I guess a guy peeing in a bookstore is evocative. For me of course its not only the picture of him in flagrante delicto but as I said earlier who the poor sap was. To get to that point in your life....Like the guy on the BART train yesterday walking through the cars angrily calling out Curtis. He was wearing tattered clothes that along with his misplaced threats to an absent opponent suggested a sad story.

Maybe its just not worth thinking about. Either you can do something to help people who pee in bookstores or people who yell on subway trains or you can help the mentally ill in general or you just have to put your head down and plow forward with life. What you want to do for sure is to be thankful that you aren't relieving yourself in public and make sure there's nothing that will send you down that road. Many of us are more vulnerable to mental and emotional issues than we realize or care to acknowledge. In fact a sure sign of a loon is the conviction that there's nothing wrong. My mom went off her nut and there was no convincing her that she was anything but fine. I've always been saner than I thought forever expecting to be found certifiable when I've actually been managing just fine (or so I'm told).

Odds are I'll never piss in the corner of a bookstore. You probably won't either. But if you do maybe its time to see a doctor.

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