As arguments and lawsuits raged on about restroom equality/LGBT restroom discrimination, my mind slipped back to a cold, windy, rainy Sunday in 2001, and the column I wrote then about our experiences. (I’ve paraphrased it below.)
More than two dozen women were standing, fidgeting and doing a lot of shifting from one foot to another. We were all waiting in a cold downpour for our turns inside the undersized ladies’ rooms at a rest stop alongside a jam-packed Highway 5.
We chatted, we kvetched, we did anything to take our minds off the reason we were willing — no, desperate — enough to stand in the dreadful line for so long.
Our journey home to Cambria from Sacramento had not been a pleasure drive, especially in the sections where the roadway has but two lanes in each direction. This day, it wasn’t enough.
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It took us three hours to go less than 60 miles, and 10 hours to finish a drive that normally takes half as long.
It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. ’Nuf said.
Accidents, foul weather, lots of big rigs and freeway cowboys conspired to further reduce our driving speed to a plodding pace more suitable for driving through Cambria’s vets hall parking lot on Farmers Market afternoons, or past the Bridge Street post office on tax-deadline day.
We had poked along on Highway 5, listening to an audio book. We had coffee in the thermos, lunch in the cooler and a box of noshes in the back seat. We clearly were not in danger of anything but severe impatience and potential rear-enders.
But we desperately needed to get up and walk around, visit the restroom, then stretch and wiggle our body parts for a while. Hooray for California rest stops!
In Westby, we snagged a rare parking space out in the field (the parking lot was full), then dashed through the 40-degree air, dodged the drenching rain and headed for the facilities.
Of course, the women’s lines were much, much longer.
After Husband Richard’s restroom visit was complete, he wandered back toward me and said (rather unkindly, I thought), “Haven’t moved much, have you? The men’s room line only has a couple of guys in it.”
Without thinking, I snapped, “We could always commandeer one of the two men’s rooms for the women. We’re not getting anywhere, and this is about to be an emergency.”
Most of the gals looked up, and a few even cheered.
One women’s libber said, “We’re with you!” Pointing to Richard, she added, “Will he stand guard?”
He shrugged and said, “Sure … A little rebellion is good for the soul, I guess.” Chuckling merrily, he went off to warn the guys in the men’s room on the right that they were about to be invaded.
Once the coast was clear, the women prevailed.
Sure, some other gals in the two lines had looked at those of us leading the charge as if we were nuts. Their expressions changed when we walked back past them, missions accomplished.
“The women still have control of the room on the right,” I yodeled out. Immediately, about 10 or 12 more women dashed out of their lines and headed for the former men’s room.
Most of the fellas just laughed, throwing us “thumb’s up” gestures and chiming out, “Way to go!” Some guys even volunteered to continue the guard-duty at the port-of-call, like Shrek at the edge of his swamp.
I wonder how many people talked and giggled about our bloodless coup all the way home. I know we did.
This could be the stuff of legends, you know. Where’s Joan Baez when you need her? She could sing of the day that desperate women declared war on the cruel inequality of long lines, their own anatomies and layered wardrobes — and lived to tell the tale.
Were any LGBT people waiting in those lines? I neither knew nor cared, then or now.
Maybe that’s because the only time I’ve ever been accosted in a restroom, the person attacking me was a heterosexual female bully. (PS: She lost.)
I figure LGBT people have been using the restrooms of their choice forever. And we never noticed.