P and I went to Roanoke for the 2013 Greater Roanoke Home and Garden Show on Saturday. (It was a total let-down, but that’s not the point of this story.) On the way, we stopped in Lynchburg for lunch, and after lunch I had to use the restroom before we got back on the road.
I walked into the bathroom, and it was your standard 2-stall womens’ room setup. One small stall, one larger handicap-accessible stall, 2 sinks. There was no one else in there (and only about 4 other people in the restaurant), so I went for the larger stall. I generally always go for the bigger one when possible and convenient (i.e. anytime there isn’t an actual handicapped person waiting for that stall, and no one with judgey eyes in there with me), and I usually don’t give it a second thought.
As I walked in and closed the door on this particular afternoon, I suddenly remembered the one and only time I’ve ever committed a public restroom handicapped stall faux pas. It was in Paris–specifically, in the womens’ room in the Louvre–on an afternoon after a long day of sightseeing. The line for the women’s bathroom was outrageously long, while the men seemed to be entering and exiting their restroom instantaneously. (I guess that truth is universal.) After standing in line for a good 10 minutes or so, I was next in line to enter one of the 15+ stalls in the long, narrow room.
As luck would have it, the next woman to exit a stall came out of the handicapped one on the very end. I went in and did my business, and when I came out, I kid you not, there was an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed by a much younger attendant sitting outside my stall, waiting for me. I froze in place for a second, probably with a look of shock or sheepishness on my face, before putting my head down and scurrying away. I don’t remember either of them being angry or even having anything to say to me (although the chances are good that we didn’t speak the same language anyway), but the fact that the room was chock full of international witnesses to my mannerly misstep obviously haunts me to this day.
In closing, here’s a picture of a younger version of me, standing in front of the iconic Louvre Pyramid: