Tuesday, November 08, 2005

You Can Do It, We Can Help

It’s happened to all of us. We have to be somewhere but we just can’t get off the toilet. Answering to a rather routine and purely natural need turns into a major annoyance because, well, things just aren’t going smoothly. But Alicia sent me the link to this CNN article, according to which it appears that some Home Depot employees had difficulty living up to their motto when a customer, Bob Dougherty, really could not get off the toilet. He got stuck to the Home Depotty while using the restroom because a “prankster” had smeared the toilet seat with glue and Mr. Dougherty, 57 and recuperating from recent heart-bypass surgery, found himself becoming attached to his favorite store in a way he’d never imagined. He “accused employees of ignoring his cries for help for about 15 minutes because they thought he was kidding.”

"They left me there, going through all that stress," Dougherty told The Daily Camera, of Boulder. "They just let me rot."

And so, as you might have guessed, Mr. Dougherty is now suing the company.

A store employee who heard him calling for help informed the head clerk by radio, but the head clerk "believed it to be a hoax," the lawsuit said.

That excerpt illustrates a problem with the article: it torments with its lack of detail. Let’s say you’re a paint department guy helping a prosperous young couple who have watched too many episodes of “Trading Spaces” decide between a flat or a semi-gloss satin interior paint for the baby’s bedroom. Suddenly from the nearby restroom come cries for help. Perhaps the cries escalate to screams when the men in orange aprons do not at once appear. What will be your, the paint guy’s, immediate reaction? Why, you’ll whip out your walkie-talkie, of course, and call the head clerk. “Some guy in the bathroom’s screaming for help. Says he’s stuck to the toilet seat. Whaddya think?”

“Sounds like a hoax to me. I wouldn’t worry about it. Happens all the time.”

But, you see, screams coming from the bathroom would tend to upset your other customers, who probably thought this was a nice kind of store. Even if you thought it was a hoax, wouldn’t you want to shut the guy up pronto? You know, go in there and check it out? And who the hell is the “head clerk”? Is he the head of the paint department – who would only be a few feet away – or is there some kind of super clerk who’s in charge of all the other clerks in all departments? The über clerk.

Eventually the employees did come to their senses:

store officials called for an ambulance after about 15 minutes. Paramedics unbolted the toilet seat, and Dougherty, "frightened and humiliated," passed out as they wheeled him out of the store, court papers said. The toilet seat separated from his skin, leaving abrasions.

"This is not Home Depot's fault," Dougherty said. "But I am blaming them for letting me hang in there and just ignoring me."

I guess we can forgive Mr. Dougherty a lapse in his use of metaphor, for what he was doing was the opposite of “hanging.” But again, the details, please. I was wondering, for example, if Mr. Dougherty discovered he was stuck before or after he had, you know, completed the task for which he’d sat down in the first place. If before, one wonders which need took priority: getting off the seat or completing the task? If the former, then…you see what I’m getting at? I’m sure you do. If he realized his predicament after, then we have another problem, for if Mr. Dougherty had comfortably settled himself far enough back on the seat, he would, I imagine (and I can only imagine), after pulling some paper from the roll, have difficulty fitting his hand…Do you see what I’m getting at? Please say that you do. Even after the paramedics had unbolted the seat, I’m thinking that reaching around that seat to gain access…well, anyway, it’s a reach too far – unless someone else was willing to do it for him.

I’m also supposing that “wheeled him out” means face down on a gurney. I’m further supposing the paramedics were thoughtful enough to cover him with a blanket. And though I sympathize with Mr. Dougherty’s embarrassment, passing out seems all too effeminate a response for my taste. In fact, most women I know wouldn’t have feinted. Most women I know wouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. Unless it’s in the middle of the night in their own home, women are very particular about where they put the patootie. No, I see only one of two possible responses: run around the store with a toilet seat clinging to your ass while you commit assault against the relevant employees, or maybe you could start popping open paint cans and roofing tar and throwing them around – with a toilet seat clinging to your ass. Or suicide. All, of course, would injure your chances of winning a lawsuit, but remember – honor before shame. Or is it death before dishonor? Anything other than fainting.

One last thing I wondered about. What kind of glue was used? Says the article: The toilet seat separated from his skin, leaving abrasions. No it didn’t. That is deliberate obfuscation. As an inveterate home repairer and frequent store patron who will never use one of their bathrooms again, I have become something of a glue afficionado. I know a lot about their cure times and the solvents required to remove them, most of which are not human flesh friendly, and some can’t be removed at all without recourse to an electronic shaving tool, like a belt sander. We know, first, that it had to be either clear or white. There are some caulks in those shades, but caulk won’t do the job, unless Mr. Dougherty is feeble in the extreme. There is Elmer’s, but that stuff wouldn’t stick a fly to a cowchip. PL Premium’s Concrete and Crack sealer comes in white, but it’s polyurethane with a 24 hour cure time. Liquid Nails, which is just what it sounds like, also takes a while to cure, requiring of the prankster an impossibly perfect, not to say clairvoyant sense of timing, and I haven’t seen it in white. So here’s my best guess. If you figure the odds are good that someone will sit on the toilet within an hour’s time frame, you get a package of clear, double-syringe ejected epoxy with a cure rate of 30 to 60 minutes. The cup and stir stick usually come with the package, and you could mix it up in the stall in a matter of seconds, then smear it on the seat. Unless someone looked closely, it would be nearly invisible. This stuff tends to bypass the tacky stage and go straight to grab-and-hold well before the cure time has expired. Another possibility is one of the various and very versatile Goop products, but it has a smell that should have gotten Mr. Dougherty’s attention.

In any case, Home Depot’s “spokeswoman” (‘spokesperson’? CNN, after all) wouldn’t comment on the case. That’s why we don’t know the details we so desire, but we do know the devil’s always in them.

Update: From the Rocky Mountain News via Kevin Jones, we find that this is not the first time that Mr. Dougherty has had a run-in with a toilet seat. The possibility that this is a lawsuit scam also arises, like slipping on your own banana peel. We also find out a few other things:

    1. that Mr. D. needed to use the bathroom "urgently", and that he realized he was stuck only after trying to stand up (see 4th to last paragraph above)

    2. that the über clerk was a woman

    3. that a store clerk, a man, did enter the room, but reported the "predicament" to the über clerk rather than doing something about it.

    4. that Mr. D. and his lawyer got to tell their story on the Today show

    5. that Mr. D. lives in a small mountain town that "hosts a festival dedicated to a dead frozen man..." and that

    6. Mr. Dougherty is not related to Michael Brendan Dougherty, Book section editor for The New Pantagruel


TS said...

See I told you your post constipation would go away. I just didn't it'd be so literally true. :)

Susan B. said...

This is yet another good reason to never sit directly on a public toilet. Use seat covers (if available), cover it with toilet paper or, if you have the strength, "hold up". But don't sit on that seat! Not only do you not know whose nasty butt has been on the seat, but some jerk might decide to pull a "prank" like that.

Kevin J. Jones said...

It looks like this is the second time this has happened to this man. What are the chances? It's almost as if he was putting the glue on the seat, himself.


William Luse said...

TS - major blockages occur at the most unexpected times.
Susan - you couldn't be righter.
Kevin - that would be an interesting development. I'll check it out. Mr. Jones, by the way, blogs from here.

alicia said...

I was thinking that it might have been super glue. some midwife friends of mine use a version of it instead of stitches for minor abrasions - and there is actually a product called DermaBond which is marketed to EDs for minor laceration repair. Vets have a similar product.
Acetone (nail polish removed) is often very good at getting gluey stuff off of skin.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with young couple watching too many episodes of Trading Spaces? (cough, cough)

Oh- and just so you know - NO RELATION

William Luse said...

Alicia, I thought of superglue, but doesn't it have a very quick cure rate? I don't think you'll find Dermabond in Home Depot. Acetone will work, but only if curing process isn't too far along. Like I said, without the details we're just guessing.

Michael, :~)

TS said...

Saw the guy on television last night. They reported this wasn't the first time he'd tried the ol' toilet-seat-glued-to-my-ass stunt. Which begs the question: Surely there are easier ways to make money. I mean, the guy has to subject himself to this sort of embarrassment in order to collect a small settlement from Home Depot? What kind of ass puts his ass to such use?

It does answer a few questions though. It means he really didn't have to go, so there were no "complications" for the paramedics. No job is finished until the paper work is done, but in this case no paper work was needed. The guy might need some head work though.

William Luse said...

Yes, see the update to the post.

What kind of ass puts his ass to such use?
Someone whose brains have migrated southward.

Ellyn said...

This is the most detailed discussion of the topic that I have seen anywhere. I find it heartening to know that someone else has thought about this fiasco as much as I have. (I'm not counting those of my kids who misunderstood and thought Mr. Dougherty was sitting on display toilet!)

So maybe, Gorilla Glue?
(At the risk of sounding unladylike, may I ask, was "crack sealer" a Freudian slip?)

William Luse said...

I thought of Gorilla Glue ("the toughest glue on earth") but it has a color to it. Possible I suppose. "Crack sealer" was supposed to get people's attention, but it,umm, slipped by unnoticed. I foreswore innumberable bun-puns in putting this together. The self-discipline required was nearly unbearable.