On the road with the families this week, it’s nice because the kids get a taste of what life is like on a tour bus, and because we enjoy waking up at 5:30am when we’re on tour anyway. Guster always gets up to watch the sun rise together when we’re on the road.
But for the 7 year olds, there are hard lessons. It isn’t all cozy bunk parties and grilled cheeses hot off the Foreman Grill when you’re on a bus. It’s the cold hard reality of waking up in a poop-free zone, bowels a-knockin’, wishing you were wearing Huggies like your little brother. Here’s what the interaction went like with my daughter while parked on a tour bus on Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis this morning:
SHE: Daddy I have to go to the bathroom
ME: Sure honey, it’s open, go ahead.
SHE: No, daddy I have to make a poopie…
ME: Oh. Okay. We can do this. Don’t panic honey. I know what to do. Take off your footsie pajamas and get dressed, make sure you put on a rain coat and rain boots, it’s pouring rain outside.
SHE But daddy I have to go now!
ME: DO AS I SAY!
We exit the bus and are almost knocked over by the swirling winds and pouring rains of Minnesota. In the distance I see the shining oasis of a “Residence Inn” on the corner. Everything is going to be alright. I wish I’d brought an umbrella.
ME: Honey, trust me here — we just walk into this hotel and avoid eye contact with the people behind the desk, and we’ll find a bathroom. Everything is fine, daddy is going to find you a bathroom.
SHE: Okay daddy, but I’m really soaked and I have to go real bad.
ME: DO AS I SAY!
We enter the Residence Inn and I whisk my daughter through the lobby to where my uncanny radar for lobby bathrooms points me. We find the men’s room and the women’s room and all is right in the world. My daughter will not have to live with a quivering sphincter at age 7.
But the door won’t open and the sign says “USE YOUR GUEST KEY TO ACCESS BATHROOM”…
I consider asking the front desk for a special pass for my first grader, but that might embarrass her and in the distance I spy a Panera Bread Company, a sweet reliable Panera Bread Company accessible through a nice dry Minneapolis skyway thing. I grab my daughter’s hand and promise her that a Panera Potty awaits us.
ME: Come on, I know where we can go.
SHE: Daddy, is this really what life is like on the road?
ME: DO AS I SAY!
We enter Panera and I somehow follow the restroom signs into an elevator that’s only for wheelchairs. In my haste to avoid being busted by a Panera employee “HEY! THEY’RE USING THE BATHROOM AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN ORDER A BAGEL!” — In that haste I didn’t notice the staircase and now people are watching me struggle to operate a handicapped elevator. I wonder what lessons I am teaching my daughter. We bail and run up the steps where there’s a Men’s and Women’s Restroom.
And a sign that says “PLEASE ENTER THE FOUR DIGIT CODE FROM YOUR RECEIPT TO ACCESS RESTROOM”
Apparently Minneapolis has a big problem with homeless people and first graders using bathrooms. I should buy a coffee and get a four digit code but instead I see a bookstore attached to the mall-hallway behind Panera and surely they will have somewhere for her to poop. My exasperated daughter tags along like the wilted flower that she is. We go up the escalator.
And a single, open, unisex bathroom awaits us. A cop is perusing the books nearby and I think for a brief moment that he is going to arrest me for letting my daughter poop. But then my daughter speaks up.
SHE: Daddy I don’t have to go anymore.
ME: But… okay, are you sure?
ME: Actually honey I have to go real bad now. And I can’t leave you here by yourself. Because someone might take you.
SHE: Uh oh.
ME: You know the drill.
And my daughter joins me
in the stall, puts her nose in her shirt, and watches me take a crap from 6 inches away. Welcome to the road, honey.