Last week when I was closing up the brewery, I found a catheter tube in the men’s room trash can.
At first I thought it was a Starbucks straw because it was green, but it was the wrong shape. A quick Google image search confirmed yes, this item had indeed been jammed up someone’s urethra.
A catheter tube is a unique find, but not any more gross than the normal stuff I encounter: snotty tissues, diapers, or beer bottles from the customers who come to a craft brewery to chug Corona in the handicap stall. One time my buddy Matt found a can of motor oil next to the commode, a discovery that prompted us to speculate on how it arrived there for almost an hour.
Probably the worst thing to find in the bathroom — worse than cleaning the poorly-aimed puke on the wall; worse than emptying those little bins in the women’s room we call the vampire boxes — is shitty underpants.
It happens more than you think. I’ll come in at the end of the night and go into the stall, only to find a pair of splattered briefs shame-buried at the bottom of the can. And it’s not just something I’ve come across in the men’s room. I’ve found just as many soiled garments in the ladies’. In 2020, shitting your pants at a brewery is a gender neutral activity.
I’ve never had the pleasure of accidentally evacuating in public, but I’m told it’s not uncommon. My friend Alvin said he once went to a bar in Philly and, while relieving himself at the urinal, let out what he thought was a fart but turned out to be much more. The only thing he could do, he said, was remove his ruined boxers, throw them away, and go commando for the rest of the night.
The thing about finding soiled underpants once we close is that it becomes a mind fuck, a psychological whodunit. Using the bathroom trashcan is like burying a body out in the desert: by the time the evidence is discovered, the culprit is already long gone.
I had a pretty good guess to whom the catheter tube belonged, because I remembered a couple of customers in wheelchairs drinking nitro stouts. But in the Case of The Sullied Skivvies, it was anyone’s guess. Which one of my customers went into the bathroom and came out a different person? Did he leave right away, embarrassed, as Alvin said he did that fateful night in Philly? Or did he linger, order another beer? Maybe shake my hand or high five me on the way out the door?
Some of the guys I work with hate cleaning the bathrooms. They’ll go in, take a quick peek to make sure nobody threw up, and put a little X on the closing checklist.
To be honest, cleaning the bathrooms isn’t that unpleasant, even when there’s dirty underwear in the trash. I’d way rather clean bathrooms than do the other part of my job, which is talking to people.
I know that sounds bad, since talking to customers is basically my entire job, but sometimes, the patter drives me insane.
“How’s the kolsch?” a customer will ask me, as if there’s more than one way to answer.
After a few years of hearing these types of questions night after night, I just started answering in awful ways.
“The kolsch is terrible,” I’ll say. “Tastes like burnt hair.”
There’s something life-affirming about their reactions, like I’m waking them up from the Matrix.
“Can I try the session IPA?” one customer will say.
“Oh, absolutely not,” I’ll respond. And then they’ll laugh and we can be normal humans, not separated by a bar.
Of course, I’m just as guilty. I greet my customers with the same lame, insincere questions you get from every industry employee. “How are you?” I’ll say, or “What’s new?”
The other night, a guy sat down at the bar and I threw him a coaster. “Hey, how you doing?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, and then seeing the confusion cross my face, said “not much.”
Realizing he still hadn’t provided a coherent answer to my query, shook his head. “Sorry,” he said, “whatever.”
“It’s cool, man” I said. “I asked how you are doing, but to be honest, I don’t really care.”
The guy laughed. “Yeah, and I would answer I’m doing well, whether I was or not.”
“Exactly,” I said. “So let’s dispense with the formalities. You ever shit your pants in a brewery bathroom?”