I'm all the way across the building, cause this is the only open restroom at this time of day, and am looking forward to this little activity the same way those guys in "Cocktail" must have looked forward to tossing full tequila bottles in the air all night. This is something I'm good at, but it's also just a means to an end. Efficient and showy.
I pull out the tampon from my pocket and squeeze the end. It doesn't really give, so I flip it around, knowing I'll need to unwrap the squishier end first. In a move practiced yet somehow instinctual, I pop open and peel back the wrapping like a monkey getting into a banana.
As I grab for the end with the hand that just deftly dropped the outer paper in that maddeningly hard to clean mini-can attached to the wall, something goes awry. I'm not sure what. But the next thing I know, my only tampon is flying across the room and bouncing around in the fruit fly inhabited shower stall.
Even as I watch, lip pulled back in a disgusted sneer, the thought flashes through my mind for an instant: "Should I still use that?"
The correct answer is no. But the thought of having to wad up a bunch of scratchy government issue toilet paper and jam it in my crotch, hobble back to my office to try and extract a tampon from one of my colleagues is exhausting.
I wish there was some way to make a tourniquet in situations like this, but other than duct taping my legs together at the hip hinge, I can't think of anything that might work.
I hem and haw for a minute and then do exactly what I have done many times since 8th grade: thank god that I am wearing black underwear.
I dash in and out of my cube. Make it back to find the room unoccupied. Crisis averted.
But this has made me think of adventures from the past:
Working in rural MN in a greasy spoon after school until 8:30 serving endless pots of Farmer's Bros coffee to groups of upstanding citizens attending court-mandated AA meetings.
It's January, which means the temperature is about 12 below the donut. My bag is in my car because it is the only way I'll be able to carry it around at school the next day without it smelling like a bowling alley.
As I'm running yet another order of fries to the back room where the smoke and heat make it seem like a low class vision quest, I get "the feeling." Right after "the feeling" I get another feeling, which is my stomach sinking into my pelvic floor. My bag, which is in the car, has essentially been in a deep freeze all day.
I'm one of two kids working, and my boss is glued to the TV in the kitchen because COPS is on FOX. I have to make arrangements for my surly waitstaff partner to watch my tables and not steal my tips and then duck out into the parking lot and pry open my door, grab my bag and haul ass to the ladies room, where I roll a Tampax Popsicle in my hands like how kids make Playdoh snakes. I think it has warmed up to room temperature, and I can hear the alcoholics getting restless for me to dump their ashtrays into the gallon ice cream bucket I carry in there for that purpose, and banging their cups on the table nervously for more coffee, always more coffee.
I breathe deep and impale myself with a skinny fist of cotton that feels cool at first, which is okay, but then a basic law of thermodynamics proves to me in a demonstration more gripping than any 5th period science class lab ever will that two objects at varying temperatures will seek common ground, making me double over in what can't really be called pain, but can be categorized more as blinding discomfort.
I recovered, of course. The AA people got their new ashtrays and coffee, my coworker was scowly because my tips weren't worth his trouble to pilfer, and my boss got to watch an entire episode of COPS without us hitting the bell on the heat-lamp warmed pick-up counter and screaming "Order in!"