Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Narrow Stance

I'm pretty broad-minded and I certainly am not in favor of discriminating against or harassing gays (nor lesbians, trans-gendered, transvestites, etc., etc.) Yet, I have to confess to a perverse pleasure watching yet another family values Republican get caught with his foot under the bathroom stall divider.

Despite my delight at seeing the discomfiture of the hypocrites, I also have to confess to feeling a little sorry for Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested at the Minneapolis airport a month or so ago for "disorderly conduct." The "disorderly conduct," using the undercover policeman's version, was taking his rolling suitcase into the bathroom stall with him and placing it against the door, looking through the crack of the stall door when the policeman looked in at him, tapping his foot up and down, moving his foot into the stall next to his (by then occupied by the undercover policeman) so that the shoes touched and moving his hand along the bottom of the stall divider. Craig's version is that he is not gay, but he is fastidious about the tidiness of bathroom stalls, and that he has a wide stance. So, he says, he went into the stall, picked up his toilet paper lying on the floor and, because of his wide stance, may have let his foot stray into the next stall far enough to touch the policeman's foot. (The problem with Craig's version is that he has been forced to keep announcing that he is not gay for more than 20 years, while men keep coming forward claiming to have engaged in sexual encounters with him. I suspect that it's all in the definition of the word "gay." The sad thing is that we live in a society where gay politicians still get a political advantage in outwardly condemning their own sexuality.)

I may be oblivious, but in my half century or more of using public bathrooms, I have never encountered anyone who I thought was making a sexual solicitation. No feet into my stall; no tapping; no hands under the divider. I'm not particularly buff, so it may be just a matter of disinterest in me personally rather than proof of the infrequency of disorderly activity in men's restrooms. But why in the world is the Minneapolis police department assigning scarce resources to nab toe tappers at the airport? I just was not aware that this was such a problem that undercover police officers would be patrolling the bathrooms.

So, it was that I found myself at O'Hare Airport this weekend with a need to use the bathroom. And I found myself being reluctant to go in there, now that my eyes have been opened as to what's really going on in airport bathrooms. Might I discover that some of the noises I hear are not coming from the relief of flatulence but baser activities? And what if some undercover cop spotted me doing something that I didn't realize was a secret code? Maybe putting soap on my hands before I wet them is some kind of signal that I didn't know about. But the need to go finally overcame my reluctance, so I bravely started to go into the first men's bathroom I found that was open (several were closed for one reason or another.) What I saw when I got in there was a line of men (waiting to use the facilities, I hoped.) One appeared to be peering, or at least glancing longingly through the crack of what appeared to be an occupied stall. The man just ahead of me appeared to weigh about 450 pounds and I just could not envision the stall he would occupy to be very neat after he left it, and I knew I couldn't do any tidying up without the fear of arrest. The whole lot of them looked slightly disreputable and seedy; they might have all been cops.

So I just left. I told The Wife I would just wait and use the bathroom on the plane. Those plane bathrooms might be tiny, but I have a narrow stance.


easy said...

Hi Amishlaw, nice post. would you mind if I linked to it with the title "Amish in the city"? Ha ha, cracking myself up.

Gnightgirl said...

Great post, kept me in stitches. Better to be safe than sorry.

Dan S said...

I've found it ironic that in all the commentary I've read about this, it is liberals who have expessed compassion about his situation rather than conservatives, mostly for what you mentioned - why are police officers spending their time on this?

Amishlaw said...

Go ahead, easy, use what you want and flush the rest down the crapper. Just don't tap your toes.

Linda said...

After a rough Monday with fifth graders and another day of bus duty I needed a laugh. This post did it for me!!
Thank you

rdl said...

Very funny! Great post!

sarala said...

Hey Amish. Thanks for your visit and kind words to my rant. You give lawyers a good name. I've made you an exception to my death threat.
Why can't these politicians just "come out"? You just know that the public is out to get them for their hypocrisy and couldn't care less about the offense of playing toesies in an airport stall. But as long as they presume to tell the rest of us we need to live by their pretended moral values, they deserve what they get!
Watch those bathrooms! It's a dangerous world out there.

steve said...

Dan S seems to be right. I'm an unabashed liberal, and have even expressed some sympathy for Larry Craig on my blog (a compare and contrast with my liberal hero Allard Lowenstein, who also was confused about his sexuality) while my right-wing co-worker has no sympathy for the guy.

jessie said...

Too funny, A-law! I always enjoy your travels more than my own!

Debra Hope said...

Dan S -- I know it's not popular and only Richie and I do it anymore, but in defense of the police, officers spend their time where they do because citizens complain. FYI, third floor men's room at Marshall Fields (or whatever it's called these days).

Lydia said...

My favorite commentary on this incident came from Dan Savage - that in a world where people aren't judged and forced to hide their sexuality, there's no need for bathroom cruising. He pointed out that almost no one who's caught in such a situation self-identifies as gay. Also, if you read the whole police report (it was on Slate) there's no mistaking his actions for picking up tp and a wide stance - it went on a Long Time. Worst of all, Craig was instrumental in the horrible Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that hasn't just been Asking our military, but sometimes forcibly outing them, then dishonorably discharging them. So I feel no pity for the hypocrite. Always better blatant than latent is a good rule.

I Do feel pity for our cops - why do citizens even complain about bathroom cruising and send them out on That annoying duty? It seems like something pretty easy to ignore. Heck, I've personally ignored it, and was only mildly squicked.

And now that I've ranted - thanks for the giggle about your broad-minded narrow stance!

PG said...

The reason I'm reading A Crockhead Abroad today is because I'm subbing in a high school classroom for the next four hours with no students and nothing to do except use this computer.

Plus, I've been wanting for some time to comment about the use of the word "gay" and how it has mutated in the last so many years. The Larry Craig incident inspired much reflection.

Craig said famously, "I am not gay. I have never been gay," as though "gay" was something one could take on and off, like a dress.

Much, if not all, of that restroom flirtation etiquette and language probably came as a surprise to non-gay people following the Craig incident. That's probably why so many gay people think of non-gay people as oblivious in general. They can't read the codes of nonverbal communication all that well.

There's a graffito inscribed on a UI dorm wall, "Homophobia is so gay."

I observed a group of middle school black boys talking during a study hall. One walked past the other and gave a little punch. The other said, "You're gay," and it was just the common discourse. One hears similar talk in popular movies, straight guys joking with their friends by calling them gay -- 40 Year Old Virgin famously has the "I know you're gay because..." scene, also in Superbad, and many other movies.

To be called gay no longer carries the stigmatic weight it once did. Of course, if the taunt is actually true, maybe it has a little more sting. But even so, there is some affection in the word used in the popular discourse.

Homophobia is so gay.

Actually, one can't define what calling someone gay means any more. Just like Larry Craig saying "I am not gay. I have never been gay." It is nonsense.

He has had and clearly sought to have more sex with other men. But he's not gay.

Because it doesn't mean anything anymore. Or, rather, nobody knows what it means.