Code Yellow

FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'">I like to think that my children inherited all of their good traits from my end of the gene pool and all of their annoying habits from my husband’s little puddle.

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The way that each of my kids can raise one quizzical eyebrow, their love of Broadway show tunes and their aversion to brussels sprouts – these fine characteristics are directly attributable to me. Their selective hearing, their messy rooms, the way they lose their winter coats before the first snow – these are flaws that must have been passed on by my husband’s faulty DNA.

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Sometimes the lineage is easy to trace – like the way my mother-in-law’s nose is smack in the middle of my daughter’s face. Other traits are harder to identify. For instance, someone (on my husband’s side) is responsible for my youngest son’s tiny, little bladder. I figure that there must be a distant relative who missed the boat to America and got left in the Old Country because they were in the outhouse.

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FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'">We didn’t discover our son’s condition until he was out of diapers. That’s when he began repeating his mantra “I gotta go.” Since then, he’s spent a lot of time in the bathroom.

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He has missed the thrilling conclusion of countless movies, the final inning of his Little League championship game and our family’s only actual dinnertime conversation all while answering nature’s call.

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Because of this um ... condition, I know the location of every public – and not so public – restroom in my town. I know that at the supermarket you have to go past the meat department, through the swinging metal doors, around the walk-in freezers and down a flight of stairs into the basement where a bare bulb illuminates a single seat and the walls are papered with federal safety regulations and signs admonishing the employees to wash their hands. I know where the bathrooms are in the town hall, in the branch library and in the local Greek Orthodox church. I’ve been behind the scenes at the firehouse, the police station and the fish market. It has been almost educational.

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Together, my son and I have learned how to stride into a crowded restaurant and pretend that we are meeting friends. “Oh, I guess they’re not here yet,” I call out as I push him toward the washroom door.

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We’ve even developed a code system to avert unnecessary panic. It’s like the nation’s terrorism alert, but we only have two colors – yellow and brown.

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LY: Verdana; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'">Last week, while we were picking up friends at the airport, Lewis announced a “Code Yellow.” So we headed to the men’s room.

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When he was a toddler, we went to the women’s room. He didn’t care that the symbol on the door wore a skirt. He was happy to play with the tampon machine and was comfortable accompanying me into a stall. Now he’s at that awkward age. Too old for the ladies room and too young for me to feel comfortable sending him to the men’s room alone. He is acutely aware of the difference between Men’s and Women’s, Guys and Dolls, Bucks and Does, and Buoys and Gulls. He says he needs privacy. That leaves me waiting – certain that he’s been kidnapped by lavatory terrorists and hoping that I won’t be arrested for lurking around the men’s room door.

While I waited outside the airport restroom, a parade of shifty-looking characters filed in and out – old men, young men, gangsters, Hell’s Angels, pro wrestlers … When the potential scenarios in my imagination began to spin out of control, I accosted a probable felon as he pushed out of the door: “Did you see a little boy in  there?”

“Yeah,” he said. “He’s washing his hands.”

I leaned on the door, opened it just a crack, and peeked in. I wondered if my young son knew what the urinals were and whether he could reach them.

Lew! Are you almost done?” My voice echoed off the tile.

An old man emerged from one of the stalls. “Sweetheart, did you call me?” he asked as he tucked his shirt into his trousers.

I apologized and let the door close. An ax murderer and an escaped convict went into the men’s room. But still no sign of Lewis.

Then the door swung open and the convict strolled out, followed by my son who was visibly excited.

Mom!” he said, jumping up and down, “the sinks in there turn on all by themselves!” His face was radiant. “And ... the toilets flush when you stand up!”

He is sure that I will be impressed with his discovery. But I have a discovery of my own. Maybe my son doesn’t really have a tiny bladder after all. Maybe he’s been exploring the physics of flushing, experimenting with hydropower and learning the mechanics of plumbing – in short, perhaps he is quenching his intellectual curiosity.

And that’s something I like to think that he inherited from me.


Carol Band writes from the land of 1,000 flushes. Write to her at  

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