Ah, that magical moment in every little girl’s life, when she first sees a naked homeless man.
We had only recently arrived at a park we don’t normally go to, when Evie insisted that she needed to go to the bathroom. “Why didn’t you go before we left?” I asked. “Because I didn’t have to go then!” replied every child since the dawn of time. Luckily(?), there was a small stone building of the kind that can only mean ‘Outdoor Public Bathroom that is Semi-Occasionally Cleaned’, so I started in that direction, daughter in tow.
As we got closer, I heard the distinctive noise of a shower. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, they have showers in the park bathroom?” I thought. In retrospect, this was probably ridiculous, but the bathrooms reminded me of nothing so much as the bathrooms at a campground or state park, which do often have showers. So my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s shoes and socks in the open doorway?” I wondered. But we find all kinds of clothes all over the place all the time in our neighborhood, so that didn’t jump out at me either. There was a bright pink girls shirt that sat in our parking lot for two weeks until I threw it in the dumpster. There used to be a power line down the street with an entire collection of shoes hanging on it. So again my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags.
“Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s a naked man standing in the bathroom even though there is clearly no shower in here, and the door which leads outside to the public park is standing wide open where anybody could walk by or even walk right in holding the hand of a 4 year old girl.”
To give him credit, he seemed more surprised and embarrassed than we did. I find that odd. I mean, if I were taking a shower in the sink completely naked in a public bathroom with the door open, I would probably be nervous and jumpy, expecting someone to walk in at any minute. On the other hand, maybe the people who frequent this park know better than to go into the bathrooms, so maybe he takes a nice relaxing sink-bath every day with no fear of anybody barging in on him. And anyway, I guess I shouldn’t really try to put myself in his mindset, because probably if I were taking a shower in the public bathroom sink, I would probably just remove my shirt or something, and not get completely naked. But that’s just me.
We beat a hasty retreat and found the women’s bathroom instead. Of course this meant I had to wait outside while Evie went in to take her sweet time. You would think this might be the end of the story, but unfortunately the man quickly put on his shorts and then came outside to chat with me, sans shirt.
“I’m really, really sorry about that.”
“Oh, that’s okay, no problem.”
“Well, did she see anything?”
::please tell me I’m not having this conversation::
“No, I think she’s okay.”
“Well, as long as she didn’t see anything.”
::please oh please oh please let this conversation end::
“I think she’s fine.”
I have no idea if she saw anything or not. And I mean really, what’s the worst case scenario? Her life will not be ruined by seeing a naked man. Her mind will not be shattered. Let’s not forget that for the past three quarters of a year there has been a naked boy running around the house every evening, and she’s been able to cope with that.
Suddenly, the man looked at me with deadly seriousness. “If this were football season, I’d have to have words with you.”
Realization dawned on me that I was wearing a Packer’s shirt and ball cap, and this man did not approve. “Evie, please hurry it up in there, I do not want to be knifed by a homeless man!!”, I thought. I mean, look, he probably wouldn’t have knifed me. He was barely wearing any clothes, so he probably didn’t have his homemade shiv on him at the moment. Besides, the Bears/Packers rivalry is just good natured fun, right? It’s not like we’re in Philly. On the other hand, this is a man who was standing naked in a public place. He probably isn’t the last word on proper behavior.
(Side note, I would think that if you had a place to watch the Bears’ games, you would have a place to take a shower, no?)
I found some excuse to dart into the women’s bathroom on the pretense of helping Evie (“What’s that honey, you need help reaching the soap?”), physically speeding her out of the bathroom. I gave him a nod as I dragged Evie by the arm back to the safety of the playground as fast as I could go and still maintain my “oh yeah, I’m totally cool with chatting with half-naked dudes I don’t know (who a very short while ago used to be completely-naked dudes I don’t know) outside of public bathrooms about our favorite sports teams” nonchalance.
This is one of those parenting moments they don’t teach you about in books.