Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's not Charmin'

Yesterday I was literally stuck in the bowels of Times Square for several hours. I went to buy half-price tickets to The Homecoming (the play by Harold Pinter) and I had time to kill until the performance so I wandered around this appalling place until it was time to go to the theater. You know, I'm not the kind of New Yorker that instantly bemoans what Times Square has become. Or I wasn't until yesterday, when two hours of wandering around the place made me miss the whores and the drug dealers and the pimps and the junkies from yesteryear. This much is clear: they were far less vulgar and crass than what goes on there today. The drop that spilled the bucket was my sojourn to the Charmin toilets. The experience left me deeply shaken, and I'm not being facetious. I will attempt to describe what goes on in there to the best of my ability. It requires a kind of genius that may well elude me: I'm not Dante, people.
First, there are people outside screaming on Broadway (that quiet little street) with bullhorns, as if the garish facade of two enormous cartoon bears squeezing their privates is not enough of a hint.
Now, the idea of a toilet paper brand putting up public toilets in Times Square is actually brilliant. What our City Elders won't do, Procter and Gamble will. Right on. But, by Jove, the marketing overkill!
First, you go up a long escalator. So far, so good. Immediately, you are blasted with an endless happy song about toilet paper that will not soon leave your consciousness. Then you see the lines: it stands to reason that you are not the only human being that needs to pee in the area. You are now in some sort of garish Charmin showroom. There are about 10 to 20 mostly young black males cajoling you and making jokes, (one of them screaming into another bullhorn) and actually checking out the bathrooms after each use, which is the actual reason why they are there, in spite of the enforced merriment and the Santa hats. They are glorified bathroom attendants. The racial and economic implications of this notion are too painful for me to bear out, so to speak, but it did cross my mind that this obviously expensive piece of hysterical marketing is probably paying these guys puny wages. But God forbid anybody think that they are cleaning toilets. Instead, they are cleaning toilet clowns.
As my turn to go came, a blue dancing bear appeared and all the young men cheered him and stomped as he did his silly dance, for what seemed like 1o hours. I felt like screaming "how about you let us pee?" but I didn't. At first, I was mortified that I was going to run into someone I know, but I realized that absolutely no one I know would ever be in this place, barring an episode of dysentery or dire prostate malfunction. Mind you, I'm not usually snotty to tourists. They spend a lot of money in the city and I love it when they ask me stuff. But for the first time I felt like an alien from another race (actually not for the very first time, but that's another story).
To console myself, I thought that the tourists we get downtown are more discerning. Than these people. Who snap pictures of themselves. At a garish corporate bathroom.
There is a space where you can don some pompons and do "The Charmin Dance" as your loved ones photograph you for posterity. Which people did. There is a set of snowy scenery where you and your family can take pictures of you pretending to sit on a sled. And sadly, people were, with careless abandon. There are videos of people dancing clumsily on a white limbo, which I assumed was Charmin's version of purgatory. There is a stand where you can sample the strong Charmin (red) or the softest Charmin ever (blue) and you may win A COUPON!!!!
But what one wants to know, is 1. How fast can I get to the bathroom? And 2. what is behind those doors? The answer is 1. Not as fast as you'd wish. 2. Behind those doors are immaculately clean bathrooms the size of a small studio apartment with an overwhelming smell of bottled "freshness", a place that you don't really want to leave after everything you've gone through. The floors are wood, you could actually sleep on the diaper changing station, which could also double as your dining room. There are Bounty paper towels to dry your hands, there is Safeguard soap to clean your hands, and of course there is an infinite supply of two kinds of Charmin to choose from to wipe your ass.

No comments:

Post a Comment