I was 10, annoyed, jealous, and misbehaving quite badly in the baseball aisle inside Sports Authority. My mom and little brother stood a distance away from me picking out a new glove while I pouted and continuously demanded that we go home, unable to admit I wanted something new too. I huffed and sighed heavily, completely wearing out my mother’s patience and ruining my chances of receiving a figurative “Get Out of Trouble Free” card once we got in the car. After being told several times to be quiet and cut it out, I dismissed myself to the restroom so I could be freely unhappy with my terrible circumstances in peace.
There was no one in the restroom when I walked in. I headed directly for the last stall, stepped inside it, locked the door, sat down, and sulked. I was about a minute or so into my sulking when I heard the restroom door open. Someone went into the stall next to me, and by the looks of her shoes, she was much older. Whatever. I’ve always been a rather selfish restroom customer, so the fact that this woman had the nerve of needing to visit the Ladies Room at the very same time as me frustrated me a little bit. But not to worry – I figured she’d wash her hands and leave at any moment.
As I read the Sports Camp flier on my stall door, waiting for her to vamoose, I was taken aback by hearing the woman speak. She said, “Ashley, can you hand me my purse?” I assumed someone else was also in the bathroom so I went back to reading the flier. She had asked nicely, and I waited for a reply, but no reply came. I allowed my eyes to drift towards the floor of the next-door stall, expecting to perhaps see a pair of little feet belonging to a 2-year-old daughter, but there were none.
“Ashley. Can you hand me my purse?”
Again, there came no response. This time I actually crouched slightly to see if I could find any other unfamiliar feet in the bathroom that had gone unnoticed, but there were none. Who is Ashley and where was she? I was baffled.
“ASHLEY. I NEED my PURSE.”
I was immediately nervous. The woman was becoming agitated, there was obviously no one named Ashley in the bathroom, the much-needed purse was also missing, and all of my feet searching had led me nowhere but to my own. It occurred to me then that my stall neighbor must be talking to me, but there was no way I was going to try to have a stall-to-stall conversation with an angry stranger-woman. I felt trapped, and slightly nauseous.
“ASHLEY! QUIT ACTING LIKE A CHILD AND GIVE ME MY PURSE RIGHT NOW! I AM SERIOUSLY NOT KIDDING!”
Sweat started to produce on my forehead and palms. I frantically searched the floor, hoping this Ashley person would appear and the bathroom nightmare would be over. When no such luck came, I very calmly and very quietly managed to squeak, “Um. A-a-are you t-talking t-to the stall ne-n-next to you?”
She didn’t even give me a chance to explain.
“YES I’M TALKING TO THE STALL NEXT TO ME! AND YOU BETTER GIVE ME MY PURSE RIGHT THIS SECOND OR YOU ARE REALLY GOING TO BE IN SOME SERIOUS, SERIOUS TROUBLE – DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? GIVE. ME. MY. PURSE!”
I said nothing. She had frightened me into shutdown mode, which prevented me from both defending myself and running out of the bathroom screaming. Where was Ashley when I needed her the most? When I needed her to rescue me from the verbal grips of this tyrant of a mother? Ashley! Your mother needs her purse! She NEEDS it! ASHLEY!
The woman got colorful, which to my young and innocent ears, translated into nothing but the signals above numbers 1-8 on a keyboard.
“ASH-LEY! I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOUR ^%$&*$ PROBLEM IS BUT YOU BETTER ^%$#$@ GET IT TOGETHER AND $#&%@* GIVE ME MY PURSE OR ELSE YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GET THAT @!$# BIKE YOU’VE BEEN WANTING! DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU WON’T GET IT! NOW GIVE ME!! MY PURSE!!
That did it. I stood up so fast I accidentally slammed myself into the stall door before I was able to unlock it. The stall door hit the wall with a fiercely loud bang, and my shaking legs carried me all the way to the restroom door. I hesitated to open it as I looked back at the woman’s stall, expecting to see an oversized, longhaired red monster chasing after me. My hesitation kept me in there long enough to hear one last, “ASHLEEEEYYYYY” boom from the cubicle, then I got out of there. Once I was on the other side of the restroom door, I collected my emotions as best I could and prepared to run again, but stopped short. There she was. There was Ashley, chillin’ by the water fountain, looking curiously around the area as if something exciting was going on but wasn’t sure what, tightly gripping the straps of her mother’s purse, and scuffing the bottom of her Nike sandals out of boredom – the same exact Nike sandals I had on. We were sandal twinkies! In that moment, everything made so much more sense, but in no way excused the bathroom monster from her scariness. I looked upon Ashley with pity, and so very badly wanted to tell her that the fate of her bicycle was in serious jeopardy. I decided that hearing “You need to go to the bathroom or you won’t get your bike” would sound weird coming from a stranger, or really just weird in general, so I left Ashley there by the water fountain, ran back to the baseball aisle, and through tears explained to my mom that I now had a different and legitimate reason for going home.
I wonder if Ashley ever got her bicycle?