The Comb in the Urinal
After drinking an overabundance of iced tea at a late dinner with friends, I almost collided with another patron leaving the men's room as I hustled into the lavatory. It was there I noticed a comb in the bottom of the urinal next to mine. The bizarre sight of this inanimate object being present in such an unusual place haunted me for the rest of the dinner and into that night. What circumstance could possibly have led to the comb in that urinal?
Charlie hangs up the phone after a pleasant conversation with Virginia. He has just invited her on their second date. He is so very anxious to see her. He feels that she was somewhat reticent to go out again, but she has accepted. He is infatuated with her and feels he has a good chance to impress her this time. The first date was not the most exciting or comfortable because Charlie, a resident physician, was called in to attend to a gunshot victim at the busy university hospital emergency room. Charlie had profusely apologized to Virginia, and he thinks she completely understands why he did not have much control over his time.
He is now off duty, and he is definitely ready to make an impression on Virginia without any outside interruptions. He was so energized by her voice and the thought of being near her that he did not realize that he had just asked her to dinner only forty-five minutes from now. They will meet at 9 p.m. at The Tivoli, his favorite restaurant, and Charlie lives almost twenty minutes from it.
He bolts from his soft, cozy couch and quickly dresses as sharply as he can for a lowly resident at the university hospital. He rips the operating room covers from his loafers, changes his underwear in the distant hope of success after their romantic dinner, and puts on his “dress pants,” the only ones he has for any and all of his “dress-up” occasions. Out the door he hurries, visualizing his being late and Virginia leaving in disgust. Should he drive or take a taxi? If he drives, he will have to park, and this certainly could cost money and time. The taxi is a better idea.
A shrill whistle blurts from his mouth half full of his fingers, a trick he learned when he was thirteen taught to him by a schoolmate. “What was that guy’s name? Livesay, that’s it! What an amazing thing the brain is! I remembered that name from how many years ago?” he exclaims to himself. A cab pulls over so quickly as to make him jump back onto the curb causing him to fall against a “No Parking” sign. He winces from the stinging pain of a protruding bolt against his shoulder, but it isn’t a problem to him. Quickly getting to Virginia’s side is. He jumps into the cab, and says, “The Tivoli!! Eighth and Madison!! Do you know it?”
“No, can’t say that I do,” says the driver.
“I have to get there pronto, my man. You do know Eighth and Madison, don’t you?” he inquires with a bit of sarcasm.
“Yeah, buddy, I been driving around here for years. Never remembers the places but the streets, no problema, mi amigo!!”
The cab bolts forward, and Charlie’s head snaps back, causing a twinge of electricity through his neck muscles, but he ignores it. Overall, he feels a calm relief. He has plenty of time to get to the restaurant and aptly impress Virginia with the smoothest line any doctor in the city could say to any young lady. She definitely will be unable to resist his charm and casual demeanor.
The cab comes to a sudden dead stop, the left blinker pulsating like a cardiac monitor. The cab is not moving, and the light is green. “What is going on?” he questions himself.
“Hey, we going turn here?” he asks.
“Sure, when the cop lets me!! Relax, mi amigo!”
Charlie leans forward, and there, in front of the cab, is a woman lying face down on the pavement. “I’m a doctor, and I have to deal with this stuff even when I am off duty,” he thinks. He pauses, hoping that the woman will get up and get out of the way, but nothing happens. Reluctantly, he opens the cab’s door, tells the cop nearby he is a doctor, and rushes over to the woman on the ground. “Good, a pulse! Not good, there IS a pulse!” thinks Charlie. A pulse means that he really is going to be late for his date. He looks and listens for breathing. “No stethoscope, of course! Who brings one of those things on a date with a beautiful woman who may well have the hots for me later tonight?” he questions himself.
“What happened here?” he yells to the police officer.
“Beats me, Doc. I already called the ambulance.”
A siren is heard faintly in the distance, giving Charlie a sense of relief that he may not be here for long. Just then the woman starts moving and thrashing about, first pushing and then pulling at Charlie. “What kind of nut is this woman? I don’t think she is hurt. Oh, great, a druggie!!” he says under his breath.
Then a sudden stinging pain on the side of his face brings him back to the reality of the situation as the woman’s fist lands against the side of his head.
“Now, that hurts! What the heck do you think you’re doing?” he screams at the flailing woman. She is now ripping at his clothes and grunting. Charlie cannot get a firm hold on this maniac. Grasping a greased pig would be easier than holding on to this woman who is now biting at his hand.
“Do I hit her or force her back to the ground? Will I be liable for any injury here? Where the heck is the cop?”
There is commotion everywhere. People are milling around on his left, bright shiny lights are on his right, and no one is attempting to help him in the midst of all of this turbulence. A siren is now blasting in his ear, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees some white coats appear. The saviors have come at last! The woman is finally subdued and sedated, placed on a gurney, strapped down, and slowly placed in the back of the emergency vehicle, but still flailing.
To Charlie, the whole ordeal seems to have taken a very long time, but then he decides it hasn’t. “Everything in slow motion, but the time span is very short. Just like they say when adrenaline is pumping in the blood stream! What’s the word for that? I knew it once. Tachypsychia, that’s it. My brain is still functioning. Damn, that blow to the side of my head really hurts.”
He places his hand to the side of his face where the pain is throbbing. A sticky fluid is felt slowly dripping down his face. He knows what he is going to find when he looks at his hand. Blood!
“That’s really great! The doctor, the Good Samaritan doctor, bleeding all over his only dress pants! Just great!”
The woman is gone now. There are on-lookers still wandering around mumbling to each other, and all are staring at Charlie as he arises from a puddle of water in which he has been kneeling. The cop has totally avoided him and is hopping on his Harley-Davidson. As Charlie stands up, he feels a water-soaked sock on his right foot, but no shoe. Searching around, he finds his shoe by the gutter, on its side and filled with water. He tips it over and watches bits and pieces of street life pour from his shoe. He is only halfway to The Tivoli.
“Get back in the cab!!” he quickly thinks.
As Charlie turns, he realizes that his cab and driver have left. “No cab to be seen or heard. Just peachy keen!! What time is it?” he asks himself.
As he rubs the clotted blood from his watch, he sees that he has exactly thirteen minutes to get to the restaurant. “I’ll wash up as soon as I get there,” he decides. With his fingers in his mouth, he sends out another shrill whistle as soon as he sees a yellow cab turn the corner up the street. Stumbling to his feet, he grabs the door handle and enters the cab.
“Hospital?” says an obviously concerned cab driver.
“No, The Tivoli, Eighth and Madison,” says Charlie.
“Looks to me you need a hospital more than a restaurant.”
“Eighth and Madison,” Charlie barks.
“Whatever,” says the cabbie, now turning his attention to the street.
As the cab finally pulls up to the restaurant, Charlie reaches into his wallet, pulls out ten-dollar bill and hands it to the cabbie without realizing that the fare is only $4.80.
“Keep the change,” he says running to the restaurant.
“Wow, thanks, man!!” replies the cabbie.
Charlie rushes into The Tivoli, disheveled and pulling up on his dress pants, searching for the men’s room. Aurelio and Franco, the owners, try to get his attention, but he is too intent on getting to the men’s room.
“I still must have some time,” he says to himself. Staring in the mirror, he sees a sad sight of a bloodied face and a ripped shirt, not to mention his drenched pants and sock. Quickly, he washes his face and then realizes there are no towels to dry his face. He looks again into the mirror.
“Terrific,” he thinks. His face is dripping soap and water, and his hair is in total disarray. He pulls a comb from his pocket and combs his hair back, picking at different areas to make him look as if he were one of those young men in the posters he has seen in the barbershops.
Charlie now feels a sudden urge to use the urinal. “I can comb and pee to save time,” he says to himself. The comb first sticks to his bloody, soapy fingertips and then falls into the urinal.
“Right, I’m going to reach in there where every Tom, Dick, and Harry has relieved himself to get the damn comb. No way! Virginia will just have to listen to me rather than look at me. I know she will feel sorry for me, and we will laugh about this evening, and maybe, I will still get lucky.” His situation now seems brighter.
“What time is it?”
He looks at his watch.
“Great, I still have 13 minutes! Oh, God, that’s the same time it was the last I looked.” Charlie shakes his wrist. The watch’s second hand doesn’t move, and the crystal is cracked. His watch has stopped at 8:47 p.m.
A waiter enters the men’s room, quickly using the urinal without noticing the comb, and then approaches the sink where Charlie now stands.
“Hey, man, what time is it?” asks Charlie in a weakened voice.
“It’s 10:58 p.m., my man, closing time coming up!!” the waiter says, punctuating the letters "p.m." as he leaves.
“Right, that figures!! I try to save a life and wind up like the comb in the urinal, wet and rejected!” Charlie mumbles to himself as he glances back at his comb and exits the lavatory, almost colliding with a patron about to enter. He doesn’t look into the restaurant to see if Virginia is still there.