I had been a father for four years when my first real crisis occurred.
"Daddy I have to go Potty."
"What? Here? Right now?"
I looked around the McDonalds restaurant at the service station that we were eating at off the I-95 Highway. There in the corner, wedged between the line of public phones and the information stand, was the door to the men's room. Unfortunately, exiting from it were various men - some still indecently zipping up their flies. I looked down at my daughter. Nope, there was no way I was going to take her into that den of iniquity and squalor. "Daddy I really have to go potty now." Her voice urged. I made an instant command decision.
"Hold it!" Her eyes widened.
"I can't. I'm going to pee in my pants."
I looked back at the bathroom door. I could swear the men were leering.
"Pee in your pants it's ok."
My daughter looked up at me with horror. Her eyes began to tear up.
"Please daddy." What could I do? I relented.
The look of relief on her face was angelic. I grabbed her hand and started to hurry to the bathroom door. Immediately images of Obi Wan Kenobi filled my brain as I heard him speak to me.
"There is no greater place of scum and villainy than"
"The men's room!" my daughter squealed. "Daddy I'm a girl I can't go in there!" Urgently she started to pull me toward the women's room. I stood firm.
"But daddy can't go in there either pumpkin." My daughter's eyes widened with fear.
"Daddy I really have to go."
"I can take her if you wish." A women's voice asked nicely. I looked up to see a thirty year old women, pleasantly dressed, smiling willing to help. But who was she my mind raced. What horrific things could she do to my daughter inside the women's bathroom? I'd been instructing my daughter for years not to talk with strangers and now I was supposed to rely on one? I looked at the women determined.
"No thank you I have everything under control. She looked down at me suspect, seeing my daughter holding herself urgently hoping up and down.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes thank you." She turned and walked away. I crouched down still further facing my daughter and picked her up, burying her head into my shoulder.
"Ok honey we're going to go potty now. I want you to close your eyes until we get to the toilet ok?" From my shoulder I could barely hear her muffled reply.
"Why daddy is it scary in there?" Once again I heard Obi Wan Kenobi's voice intrude.
"Scum and villainy!"
"Yes daughter it can be."
I walked quickly into the men's room instantly realizing this was a mistake as I hustled past the long line of open latrines and standing men. I searched for the safety of a stall. Geez I thought who designed these things anyway. Didn't they used to have vanity partitions? Where were those steel shields?
"Daddy look at how small those things are." My daughters voice shouted out. Oh boy she peeked. "Daddy why do they have so many small showers? Are they for small people?" I looked in the direction of her tiny pointing fingers directly at a waterfall-flushing latrine. Oh thank God I thought. To my right was an empty stall and refuge. I entered it, slammed the door shut, locked it and help my daughter to her great relief and mine. Once finished I made my hasty exit out of the men's room bumping into another father holding his daughters hand. He gave me a knowing smile observing the perspiration on my brow.
"To old for the men's room to young to fly solo." He chuckled as he picked up his daughter burying her head into his shoulder and hustled inside the men's room too.