Handbook of Poisons was perched atop one of the upright pianos.
But it really all started with the paper towels.
“Did you bring paper towels?” he asked.
“I didn’t know we needed to, ” said Kara.
“No, that’s fine. You can’t use them. Someone used paper towels at a wedding here and they plugged up the toilet and it was a huge mess. You can’t use paper towels.”
“How will people dry their hands?” I asked innocently.
“Oh, I have regular towels for them.”
Even as he said those words, I knew we were in trouble. It just felt weird. Why wouldn’t someone have a paper towel dispenser in a public concert venue? I mean, I know I’m a little uber-efficient, but I have an industrial-size paper towel dispenser in my guest bathroom. This place was supposed to be artsy, so at least they should have a artistic paper towel dispenser, right?
I didn’t trust his “regular towels” so I went to the bathroom to see what he meant. What he meant was three dingy washcloths in a large basket and a grimy hand towel hanging off the corner of the mirror. There were three tiny guest soap slivers that looked like they’d do more harm than good, and an almost empty bottle of liquid hand soap.
After I placed some clean white paper napkins in the basket, I realized there was less than one roll of toilet paper. (Seinfield references came flying into my head. “Can’t anybody spare a square?”)
“Do you have any more toilet paper?” I asked innocently enough.
“How much is there?” he asked.
That was when it got really ugly. He went into the bathroom, apparently not believing my toilet paper assessment, and found the paper napkins. We almost came to blows. Seriously.
There I was, a 55-year-old woman almost getting into a fist fight over hand hygiene at my kids’ piano recital. It really upset me to think of my students and their families unable to wash their hands. And it scared me that he thought it wasn’t important.
Then he threatened to cancel our recitals and call the police on me. That amused me, actually. I just couldn’t imagine any officer coming in and finding two middle-aged piano teachers trying to have piano recitals as threatening. I tried to imagine my students arriving as I was being hauled off in handcuffs.
Kara threw me a glance that meant, “Just shut up and let’s get on with these recitals. He’s not going to change his mind about the paper towels.”
Somehow we got through the next hour. He actually left and went to the drugstore, bought six cloth hand towels and a package of toilet paper.
While he was gone I cleaned the bathroom. I took the grimy towel and cleaned the sink, the toilet seat and tank. Miraculously, there was a toilet brush, so I did my best with the bowl. I hid the towels, and tiny soap bars under the sink. I filled the almost empty bottle of hand soap with water so it didn’t look quite so pitiful.
The recitals themselves went off without a hitch. Unless you count the comings and going of the proprietor’s teenage son and his cute cocker spaniel. They quietly snuck in and out all through the first two recitals. I must say, the dog was very well-behaved and didn’t make a sound.
The kids and their families, for the most part, were blissfully unaware of any drama surrounding paper towels.
If you notice name and location suspiciously absent from this post, it’s because the proprietor is threatening legal action against me.
I’m not too worried.
Last I checked, it’s pretty hard to sue someone for cleaning your bathroom.
There appears to be a newer version of Handbook of Poisons, should you feel a need.