droplet of life – Deck the Toilet!

‘Tis the season of Christmas, so holiday decorations are everywhere, including people’s bathrooms.  Standing inside one at a client’s home, I took in my lavatorial surroundings as I slowly trickled “lighter.”  To the immediate right of the toilet, stood a butler frog (toad?) decoration, whose year-round job was to serve up the back-up TP rolls.  Strangely, I got used to seeing this subservient frog, but today, it was bearing a lit-up, red nose along with a set of reindeer antlers (what?). My eyes didn’t have to wander much farther as I noticed the current “in use” toilet paper roll, which was imprinted with nostalgic reindeer – all eight of ’em.  To my left, I saw that the regular towels were replaced with bright red and green versions complete with blinking lights along the edges. Is that even safe when drying your hands?  But finally, in slow motion, like Ralphie’s F-bomb in “A Christmas Story,” my eyes fell to the very back of the toilet, where there sat a glass dish.  What could be in a dish on the back of a festive themed toilet, you may wonder? Maybe some cinnamon scented potpourri? Wrong. Instead, it held edible candy-coated chocolates that melt in your mouth and not in your hand. It was M&M’s in all their delicious glory. Since one hand was busy, the free one slowly began reaching for the candy shelled chocolate delight, but suddenly, remembering where I was standing, the hand snapped back to my side.  It was at this point when thoughts of Andy Rooney, Lums Restaurant, Krimpets in the shower, and dirty toothbrushes began dancing through my head.  Don’t worry, I can explain.

(To a kid, this show felt more like 60 hours)

Growing up, I remember watching, along with my dad various news specials and interviews on the television show 60 Minutes.  I know, I know – why would a young punk-kid ever want to sit through that, but let’s set the scene.  It’s a Fall Sunday, game day.  Normally, my dad and I would have just lived through an Eagles football game (4pm kick-off time).  Immediately following my beloved Birds weekly pigskin battle would be this power hour for news along with the crazy-eyebrowed man himself, Andy Rooney.  Part of me felt bad bailing on my dad after the shared football enjoyment.  The other part would think, “Come on, Dad.  I’m a frickin’ kid, cut me some slack, and change the damn channel.”  Alright maybe not in those exact words at that time, but I was feeling a rumbling of angst.  Anyway – 60 minutes always had the upper hand on the remote control in my parent’s household.  A handful of those stories fascinated my little brain and I’ve carried them with me all these years.

This particular special focused on the health hazards of candy bowls, mint dishes, nut platters, whatever.  These snacky containers were always located conveniently by the register at restaurants’ check-out counter.  The crime was that these unwrapped treats were good-bye gifts of germ collections.  “Have a nice night . . . vomiting.”  The show’s sleuth investigators sent away the actual dishes for testing and the results were disgusting.  They found urine, rat hairs, pubic hairs, rodent fecal matter, human saliva – the list goes on!  So, undoubtedly, the candy/nut/mint treat was laying in this mess and soaking it up.  Kind of synonymous with today’s black light meets hotel bed sheets – hmmm, I think these were used already.

(everyone’s favorite grandmother’s house candy offering -too bad cousin Michael never washed his hands)

Instantly, I recalled joining my grandfather (Pop-Pop) and my father (Dad) at the register of our family’s favorite nearby restaurant, which was simply and uninspiringly called “Lums.” I patiently stood by as the bill was being paid. Once done, a treat was taken by each of my family members via the restaurant’s candy dish.  Eventually, it was my turn and someone in the group would drop the dish down to my eye level.  Happily licking my lips, I eagerly scooped out the night’s prize.  

Fast forward to the present and here I sit on the couch, with my dad catty corner in his recliner, not a word is spoken aloud to one another.  I’m young (maybe 10?), but I get it and my dad knows that I get it.  In turn, we both should probably be vomiting at this point or at the very least brushing our teeth.  It really doesn’t matter that the last time we went to “Lums” was over a week ago – but something was needed in order to validate to ourselves that rodent waste or human urine wasn’t still “hanging out” in our mouths.

Looking back, as a kid, you see food, you eat food.  Plus, it doesn’t matter where you would inhale it.  I remember eating Krimpets on the shower floor during my actual showers before school.  Every morning, I delivered the local paper, so it was still God awful early when I got back to the house.  It was a combo of being tired and the body needing to be fed. I would sit tucked in the shower corner, with legs stretched out, eyes closed, and enjoying the sound of my morning rainstorm.  Finally, I unwrapped a butterscotch-iced cake Tastykake. Two packages were always the requisite and they were damn good.

(Tastykake rules – fight me)

Obviously, I couldn’t be held accountable for my food choices at that stage in my life. Who’s going to fault me for wanting those naked gum drops out of the dish from Lums?  At the time, I didn’t even know about the rat feces that they were marinating in.  Additionally, I certainly couldn’t taste that crap (literally) either . . . I just tasted the joy of candy.

Everyone is always so focused on the prize before them that they don’t think (or taste) the other issues that could be found within their new found treasures.  Random health tip: If you’re having a party, hide your toothbrushes or get new ones afterwards.  Guys at parties do nasty stuff to them.  Insider tip.

Finally, we’re back to where this rambling all started – Shake, shake, shake.  Zip.  I’m standing at the sink washing my hands with peppermint scented soap that I just pumped out of Frosty’s top hat.  My eyes remain locked on the candy bowl and, just like the days at Lums at the end of the night, my mouth is watering with anticipation.  Desperately wanting to discourage myself from reaching in, I fail to convince myself that I wouldn’t eat the peanut kind or the new kind with the pretzel that’s hidden away inside – I simply love me some M&M’s – who cares what’s beneath that candy shell!  Then again, the main issue is that the candy resides on the back of a toilet.  Did you know that it is suggested to flush a toilet only when the lid is down?  Nobody does that, but they should. Granted, I’m not in the bathroom too often with company, but I see enough of the laziness in the men’s room when the hands washing routine is skipped.  Ugh, this brings us to another source of contamination.  Not only do the candy delights receive an excrement spray treatment from the flushing toilet, there’s also the unwashed, urine tainted hands that dig into the colorful candy dish to contend with. Pic or it didn’t happen:

You’d think with all the excessive decorating that my clients would have purchased the holiday green & red M&M’s.  Nope, instead they bought the traditionally colored . . . almond ones. 🙂 The almond ones are my favorite.

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