I cried as I cleaned up green smoothie off the bathroom floor. Inside the cup, the child-sized serving seemed so small. "Is that really two servings of vegetables," I wondered. Splashed across the tiles, it looked like a gallon of green sludge. Someone jiggled the bathroom door's handle and knocked. They had jiggled it three times before that.
"Just a second," I yelled for the fourth time as I used up all the paper towels in the dispenser to clean up the smoothie.
"Mommy," Darla yelled from the toilet. "I got pee on my underwear."
"No, Darla," I moaned. "Why? Why now? I don't have clothes for you. You'll just have to deal with the wet until we get home."
The day had been one of those days that spiral out of control very quickly. Darla was two and a half. I was pregnant, in the throes of morning sickness. We both had colds. I had brought her to the mall to get smoothies to pretend that eating more vitamins would have an affect on our sicknesses. We had struggled our way through the mall. She had tantrums every other minute. We had just gotten the smoothies when Darla decided she needed to pee urgently. I brought her to the bathroom where she immediately threw her smoothie across the floor. This takes us up to the part where she peed on her underwear.
I cleaned up the smoothie; I was only tempted a few times to just leave it there. I went to flush the automatic toilet. I couldn't figure out how to do it.
"Fuck it," I thought as I wiped tears from my eyes. I opened the door to find a woman huffing and puffing, holding her five year old's hand.
"I'm sorry," I said. Hoping for sympathy, I followed it up with, "my daughter threw her smoothie all over the floor so I was cleaning it up. And I can't get the toilet to flush."
She pushed passed me, dragging her son behind her. As the door closed, I got a glimpse of her glaring at me as she flushed the toilet. The door closed. I sat there stunned and then I crumbled.
That image of her giving me the meanest look at such a low point has stuck with me for years. At that moment, I just really wanted a sympathetic smile or a some sort of camaraderie. Maybe she could smile and say, "believe me, I know how that goes."
To that mother, I was a total burden and had made her day more difficult. In her mind, she may have thought I was luxuriating in the bathroom; scrolling through Facebook while my kids had a party with her smoothie. There's no way she could no the full story. Or, maybe she's just a rude woman. I have no idea and I can't even venture a guess as to which scenario is more accurate.
I remember this moment whenever I feel incredibly put out by a stranger. When someone's taking their time in the checkout line or isn't ready to order by the time they get to the front of the line at the coffee shop. Dealing with these things is a part of living in a world and it's not that big of a deal. Not everyone is going to do things the way I want them to. They might move at a slower pace. They may be having a terrible day, so they're distracted and forgot to think about their order while in line. I have no idea. I just know that the image of my face huffing and puffing in irritation is not the one I want to imagine this stranger having burned in their memory.
As for the woman who glared at me when all I wanted was sympathy, I get it. She might have had a rough day, too. She was at a mall with a kid so the chances were high that we were having very similar experiences. Maybe, someday, I can let go of that image in my mind. For now, though, I'd like to just remember her as that rude woman who dismissed me since I'm not as evolved as a person as I would like to be.