Scott wandered the aisles of the book store. Scanning the titles along the shelves labeled "young adult literature". He slowly took in each book cover, even though he had no intentions of buying them. In moments of honesty with himself, Scott knew that this is exactly what he was doing in life. Taking in the options, looking at open doors and examining the contents but never quite stepping through a threshold. His was a rifle with a well-used scope but an untouched trigger.
In 18 minutes the man Scott was there to see would take to the podium which was set up in front of neat rows of folding chairs. Self-help guru, Jeffrey Maxwell would be reading from his latest book. Scott had already read half of the book and he was counting on it to change his life. I can't blame him. Changing your own life is hard. Outsourcing such a daunting responsibility to a book written by someone else has tremendous appeal.
With his left hand Scott took sips of a vanilla latte procured from the bookstore cafe. It was good. He had considered a mocha but deferred to the barista. "Mocha or vanilla latte? What do you recommend?" he had asked, once again placing his fate in someone else's hands. Scott had fallen into the trap of believing that if you let someone or something else make a decision for you, then you can't hate yourself for the outcome. This wasn't working. Lately all Scott did was hate himself.
He could feel the laxative effect of the coffee taking hold. Luckily there was just enough time for him to head to the restroom before the reading. So he wove through the aisles and up an escalator to the bookstore men's room. Once inside the bathroom, Scott saw there were two stalls. One was occupied, conveniently leaving him only one option. He entered the available stall and relieved himself while thumbing through his copy of the book.
What happened next would change his life as much as he'd hoped the work of Jeffrey Maxwell would. Scott finished and stood up, waiting for the sound of a flush. But the flush never came. He turned around and realized this was no modern restroom. Over the past couple decades using a public bathroom has become a very automated experience. Aside from opening the door to step inside, nearly every other aspect of the human waste disposal ritual is dictated by machines. Toilets decide when to flush. Faucets turn themselves off and on in reaction to your presence. The appropriate amount of paper towel is dispensed with the wave of an arm. But this bathroom, in this bookstore, was the wild west. An unregulated world of shiny metal levers meant to be operated by human hands. Fallible human hands. Scott felt the pressure bearing down on him. He couldn't run from this anymore. He looked at the toilet bowl and something changed within him. He had an epiphany. He realized that if he didn't flush this toilet, it wouldn't get flushed. His waste would linger indefinitely. Sure, someone else would come along and flush it eventually, but that wasn't their responsibility. Scott realized that this was his vanilla latte shit. This was his toilet to flush. This was his life to live. At exactly this moment, Scott took ownership of his destiny.
Scott's balance shifted onto his left foot as the sole of his right broke contact with the tile floor beneath it. He stomped down on the handle and was invigorated by the power of free will. He watched as clean water came rushing into the toilet bowl, washing away the feces and thin sheets of tissue coincidentally bearing his own name. But he wasn't done. This was only the beginning. Scott charged out of the stall towards the sink where another challenge waited. But, without hesitation he turned on the faucet and allowed the water to run for what he knew to be just the right duration. In fact, he'd never been so sure of something in his life. He grabbed the lever of the paper towel dispenser and cranked it down one and three-quarter times. A voice coming from the deep corners of his mind asked, "Did this allocate the correct amount of paper towel to adequately absorb the moisture on your hands?" Scott replied to the voice, unshaken. "You're goddamned right."
Scott walked out of the bathroom, leaving his book in the stall. It wasn't forgotten. It was left behind, like the shed skin of a snake. He went down the escalator, walked past the podium and the neat rows of folding chairs, now filling with people. He passed the cafe and the barista. He walked right out of the bookstore and, finally, out into the world.