I don’t know about you, but I need a funny story right now. I reach for humor—especially sarcasm—as a source of stress relief. I hope this story helps you laugh, smile, or cringe.
When I still had a Facebook account, I shared this story there. If you’ve heard it before, don’t give away the ending…
It was Black Friday. I had just finished my novel and owed my wife one of many favors for putting up with months of me toiling away writing. The Denver metro just got its first In-N-Out Burger joint. It had only been open a week at this point. Naturally, the enthusiasm for an iconic moment to post to one’s social media brought out the crowd. Add the pandemic shutdowns to this and the desire for folks to get out of the house was amplified.
The first day the restaurant was open saw lines of twelve hours and fist fighting. That was one week to the day before we went there. By this time, the good citizens of Aurora, Colorado had fast food down to a slow science.
To get to the restaurant, you had to drive around the mall parking lot. When we started to do so, we found ourselves in a caravan of cars, cordoned into a series of back-and-forth lines with orange cones. Police officers were assigned to direct traffic and keep the crowd from getting out of hand.
As we made our way through the line, we came upon a series of about twelve lanes of cars stacked 15 – 20 cars deep. When we left the line wrapping around the mall, we were directed into one of these holding lanes. Still, we were excited because we could at least see the restaurant.
I should tell you we left our townhome to head to the restaurant at noon or so. By the time we made the holding lane, it was about 1:30 – 2:00 pm. I hadn’t used the restroom since we were at home. I could feel my bladder filling with the soda I continued to drink.
The excitement of finding ourselves in the holding lane gave way to boredom. People were getting out of their cars, walking around, taking pictures. My wife and I even got out to stretch our legs at one point. Still, the time dragged by as only one holding lane at a time was further directed towards the drive-thru lanes.
By this time, it was about 4:00 pm. I needed to relieve my bladder. I sat in the driver’s seat, beginning to get uncomfortable. I tried to decide if I had time to go to the bathroom before our holding lane was directed to the drive-thru lanes. Around 4:30 pm, I gave up my fight and decided I needed to find a restroom quickly or I would do something in my pants I hadn’t done since I was a child.
I told my wife I needed to take care of my situation, asking her if she would drive on, should our lane move in my absence. In that event, I would call her if I couldn’t find her. Getting out of the car, I glared at the mall with a leery eye. The Aurora Town Center Mall doesn’t have the best reputation. In fact, ten years earlier—when we lived in Colorado the first time around—my family and I witnessed an armed robbery in the Macy’s store. Frankly, I didn’t like the idea of having to find a restroom inside the mall despite the fact that I carry a firearm with me everyday.
I glanced around, beginning to make my way towards Macy’s, when two of the In-N-Out attendants on parking lot duty shouted to me. They reported I could use the port-a-potty they had set up for just such an occasion. What a relief, I thought to myself. Now I won’t have to go inside the mall!
I’m smiling and strolling over to the portable john, proverbially patting myself on the back as I went. I don’t know what your experience is with these tiny green outhouses, but they’re as small as a phone booth. They’re also abused by most everyone that uses them, so you don’t want to sit down if you don’t have to. You certainly don’t want to touch anything.
I found myself inside the unit, wearing my winter coat. I didn’t have any space to turn around or anywhere to set my pistol. You see, I was carrying a soft-tuck inside-the-waistband holster that day for comfort. I settled on tucking my gun under my arm, pressed against my body, as I couldn’t leave it inside my waistband and relieve myself at the same time.
Finishing my business, I zipped up and set about zipping my coat. I forgot I had my firearm tucked against my body and shifted my arms to zip my coat. As I did so, my pistol—holster and all—fell in slow motion. It careened off the seat of the toilet and then tumbled down inside.
I stood there in horror. I can still see the event playing out before my eyes as I write this. It’s moving frame-by-frame. The entire time I was in the bathroom was probably less than one minute. Still, it felt like hours.
So, I stood there beginning to panic. If you carry a gun, the second-to-last thing you ever want to have happen is for your gun to be separated from you—even if of your own making. I jerked my head around the tiny bathroom, as if I would find some magical way to help me out of the literal mess I was in.
Nothing. There was nothing to help me reach in and grab my gun. I steeled my nerves for what I would have to do. I took off my coat and shirt, tucking them, ironically, under the same arm I had used to press the gun against my body.
I crouched down without letting my knee touch the floor of the bathroom, knowing in the back of my mind what some poor souls had likely done to it. I took a couple of breaths and thrust my arm into the sludge.
You can visualize what it looked like. It was human waste in all its disgusting splendor. It stank to the point I squinted my eyes as I turned my head away. My face was suddenly closer to a public bathroom seat than I ever imagined it would be.
About the time I thrust my arm into the toilet, I had the realization that I had no way of knowing how deep the mess truly was. What if I couldn’t reach it? I can’t leave my gun here, I worried. How would I solve this problem?
My fingers were outstretched and scraped something much too hard to have come from a person’s backend. I snatched at it, yanking my arm from the toilet, splashing its contents up and into the small space of the port-a-potty as I rejoiced in finding my gun.
The first step had been accomplished. I had my gun back.
Now, I needed to find a way to clean my gun from its obvious added debris. I hurriedly tore off as much toilet paper as the roll would allow with each grab. I gently brushed the gun and holster clean from chunks of fecal matter, grimacing as I did. Then, I took hand sanitizer from the dispenser to scrub my pistol, dumping the magazine into my free hand, emptying the chamber to ensure it was clear and safe. I knew I couldn’t give my gun a proper cleaning until I got home, but I also knew it needed to be field-cleaned to the best of my ability with what resources I had available.
Gun wiped clean, or as clean as I could make it under the circumstances, I had to tuck it back into my waistband to maintain its concealed status, under my Colorado permit. This elicited another groan, as I reconciled that I was sticking something covered in human feces only moments earlier into my waistband.
I left the restroom, stiffly nodding and smiling at the attendants casually chatting only ten or fifteen feet away. I didn’t want to give any appearance of what had just transpired. I tersely made my way back to my car, having been gone only a few minutes, including walking time.
My wife was now in the driver’s seat, chatting on the car’s Bluetooth phone with her grandmother. The two were yakking it up about something or nothing in particular. I was in no mood for laughter at the time.
Probably with more intensity in my voice than I can even recall now, I asked if my wife could get off the phone. Naturally, she asked why. I gave her the short version of the story and she quickly hung up.
Fortunately, I prep our vehicles with emergency kits. I have disposable shop towels (fancy, blue paper towels that are thicker and more absorbent), hand sanitizer, water, and the like. Without trying to alert the slew of vehicles and their passengers to my debacle, I kept the gun, holster, ammunition, and makeshift cleaning supplies below the window-level of our SUV so others wouldn’t see me wielding a gun in the very parking lot where cops were assigned to keep everything smooth and easy.
I cleaned the gun a second time, stripping it to its component parts. I doused them in water and wrapped them in their own shop towels until I could get home and bathe my gun properly with professional cleaning products designed for firearms. I stuffed the gun’s parts into the door bin on the driver’s side, and then scrubbed myself again with as much sanitizer as I could.
I should tell you we were still stuck in those wonderful holding lanes I mentioned earlier. There was nowhere to go. We had cars boxing us in on all sides and the only way out would be forward and with time. The smell in the car gradually grew worse. We still had another hour-and-a-half wait until we got to the actual drive-thru speaker where we would order our food.
I had calmed down considerably by that point. My wife called her grandmother back and they enjoyed quite a chuckle about my story. I began laughing too. It’s the sort of thing you may read about but never expect to happen to you. I knew I had just lived one of the funnier episodes I will probably experience in this lifetime.
Still waiting in line, I texted my closest friend, a cop buddy in KC and asked a cryptic question: what’s the worst thing that could happen to your gun? He immediately guessed it, delivering unending jabs about my shitty incident and not having my firearm better secured to my body.
Undoubtedly, I deserved his barbs. I deserved the ridicule I received from my wife and grandmother-in-law. I joined in their delight, poking fun at my own travesty. I can tell you it was a humbling evening.
What started out as a returned favor to my wife—waiting in line for over five hours to eat a hamburger from a famous fast-food joint—grew into an experience I will never forget. For me, In-N-Out will always mean my gun going in and out of a public toilet, with me going in and out after it.
As always, this has been The World According to Chris. I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to leave a comment—even a snarky or sarcastic comment at my expense.