Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Having fun with Betsy Eggleston

Martha note:  I'm half-way through my second round of classes with JMU's Lifelong Learning Institute. This round's group is about as much fun as groups get. Plus, they write well.
Last night, Betsy Eggleston cracked us up with the following vignette. As I figured you could maybe use a good laugh, I got Betsy's permission to post it today on the WMRA blog.

SELF PRESERVATION  by Betsy Eggleston

      Recently, a pair of sandaled feet entered the cubicle next to mine; the hairy toes were facing the wrong way.  The episode prompted rapid reflections on instinctive self preservation.  It was a small, embarrassing event, something most people experience and later laugh about.  
     At the time, I smiled and wondered how long it would take the man next door to realize he was in the ladies' room.  How would he escape?  Run?  Crouch on the seat and wait?  Or was he cool enough to swallow the error and casually saunter out?  
      I waited. 
      He waited. 
      For a moment, I considered instinctive self-preservation.  An amoeba shrinks, worms secrete slime and burrow deeper.  I'd watched nervous pill bugs roll into balls.   And each December, I hung a dried, once frightened blow fish on my Christmas tree.  It was swollen to an un-bitable size and had sharp spines protruding from its skin.   In my garden and on hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I'd watched copperheads slowly coil, wait a long time and then swiftly strike.   
      The man beside me realized his mistake. He stood quietly frozen in place, waiting to see what I would do.   Already in the position of Rodin's Thinker,  I remained silent and still.
      I thought of protective to brown and back.  I thought of claws and stingers.   I remembered wrens snatch quick, skyward glances between each snatch of a seed. I considered crows.....instantly rising at the clap of a gun. 
      I heard his toilet flush.  He didn't dash away; he went to wash his hands.   
      I'd studied sciences and, as a former biology teacher, knew we partially existed because we're genetically programed for self preservation.  I wondered if the self preservation germ was born the moment of conception or if it developed during gestation? 
      Darwin wrote of it in his treatise on the preservation of species.  I also recalled that Freud saw it as a sexual response.
     More people entered the restroom.  Two were discussing a football game.  My head lifted and I sucked inward.  Someone coughed a deep bass sound.
     Rapidly, I raised my Mary Janes into the air.   I began to hyperventilate.  Legs trembled.  Hot flashes flushed through my upper body.  I wanted to shrink, evaporate, curl into a ball, run.  I stepped into the room with sinks and hand driers. From the corner of my eye, I saw the sandaled man sitting on the counter watching me.  In the next room, every urinal was occupied. Two turned faces let me know I was unwelcome.  Nobody smiled or said "Hi", "Welcome to the crowd" or "See you later?"    
     I flipped my jacket over my head and ran.


  1. Oh, what a winning story, and well-written. Reminds me of my favorite scene from the film "My Favorite Year." Peter O'Toole's character (a drunk) is using the ladies' room. A woman walks in, and says "THIS is for ladies' only!"

    To which O'Toole replies: "So is this love, but every now and again I have to run a little water through it."

    Thanks for my morning laugh, Betsy.

    BobL (not really anonymous)