Margaret Anthony stared into the white porcelain of the urinal. She had never been this close to one before; she’d never had a reason to. She studied the alien structure mounted to the wall of her new private bathroom. The blue pad on the bottom reminded her of her cooking colander, so that wasn’t all that unfamiliar, but the bright pink urinal cake seemed to be the urinal’s tongue blowing a raspberry at her. She had worked on the twelfth floor for nearly fifteen years and not once had she seen the inside of the managerial private bathroom.
During his tenure, Mr. Carroway guarded the inside of his private bathroom as if the room contained some sort of hidden treasure. Rumors ran rampant of self-heating toilet seats and silk toilet paper and once Margaret had even heard from some guy in accounting that the manager’s bathrooms contained trays of breath mints for one’s backside.
Now here she was, the new manager, and the bathroom was hers—only it contained none of the fantastic amenities she had heard about as a lowly employee. Sure, the auburn tile made it more aesthetically pleasing and it smelled better—thanks to several Glade plug-ins filling the room with conflicting smells of lilac and autumn breeze—but the only “furniture” in the room was the urinal, a regular toilet (with unheated seat), a stainless steel paper towel dispenser, and a sink with a large mirror. The only fixture that she found at all comforting was the fake ficus tree in the corner of the room.
Visiting her new private bathroom was Margaret’s first official act as the new manager of the twelfth floor. She figured she would start the day by completing a familiar task and go from there. She turned away from the urinal and approached the toilet and that’s when she finally saw it: a sign taped to the toilet seat read “OUT OF ORDER” scribbled in black marker. The sign had been taped down using clear packaging tape to ensure no one could lift the lid without a struggle.
Margaret recognized Hardy’s frantic handwriting immediately. She had heard tales of the sick things the other managers did to initiate someone new into the management fraternity. She could almost hear Hardy and the others outside the door snickering like a bunch of middle school boys. She assumed Jennings would be out there with them even though he wasn’t a manager. Maybe the whole thing had been his idea—half joke, half revenge for her getting the job he assumed would be his.
She turned away from the toilet and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Maybe Jennings had a right to be spiteful. He had worked on the floor for three years longer, and, on average, his sales were equal if not slightly higher than hers. She heard the rumors of Corporate chastising the firm for their lack of female managers and she accepted the fact that being a woman may have played a role in her landing the job—still, it didn’t mean she wouldn’t be an effective manager.
As she stared into her hazel eyes, she quietly chastised herself for wearing too much mascara—not only that but her lipstick was too bright. She should have gone with the Dusty Rose. Her make-up was all wrong for a manager. And her clothing—what had she been thinking? She should have worn the wool trousers to compliment the Ann Taylor two-button jacket instead of wearing the carousal skirt. A skirt didn’t say management; it said corporate hooker. She looked like a little girl masquerading around as an office manager for Halloween. And the shoes—oh, why did she wear those shoes? She celebrated her promotion by splurging on a pair of Serajo Rossi ankle zip peep toe heels that set her back a pretty penny (even if they were on sale). What a terribly girlie thing to do—go blow money on an expensive pair of shoes. It was so Sex and the City. She hated herself for doing it.
She blinked hard and feared for her mascara. She wanted to sprint from her private bathroom down the hall to the ladies’ room where she had done her business for the past fifteen years, where she had gathered with friends to hide when Mr. Carroway had been on his weekly rampage. That’s what they wanted after all. The sound of the imaginary laughter grew louder and louder outside. Then it sounded like it was emanating from the urinal itself. She buried her face in her hands, prepared to cry, but that also seemed entirely too girlie to do.
She looked up and stared at the reflection of the chuckling urinal in the mirror. Exhaling, she stood up straight and fixed her hair, brushing a few strays from her suit. Margaret turned about-face and stared down the urinal. She approached it slowly, cautiously. She stood before it as she imagined Mr. Carroway had stood in front of it all those years. Then she turned around. Her hands clutched the bottom of the skirt, hiked it up to her waist, and dropped her panty hose and underwear to her $300 shoes.
Outside the bathroom, Hardy, Jennings, and several floor managers waited, almost unable to contain their laughter, anticipating Margaret’s inevitable walk of shame. All of them were surprised when they heard the muffled sound of the urinal flush. They were even more surprised when Margaret emerged from the bathroom a few seconds later looking not ashamed but quite stunning in her jacket and skirt combo. She marched through the middle of the herd, dropping a used paper towel into Hardy’s hands.
“Don’t we have some work to do, boys?”
She smiled at Jennings and marched proudly past the ladies’ room—her heels clicking with each step—into her corner office.