You Can’t Get There From Here

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If you are uneasy about reading things related to “going to the bathroom,” please, stop reading now. This is about “going to the bathroom.”

I don’t mean this biologically. I’m not talking about bodily functions. I’m just talking about walking. Starting out at the edge of your bed, which is where you’re sitting when you realize you need to go to the bathroom, and then walking, from your bed, to your bathroom.

It should be a simple matter. But this is New England.

New England is the land of blocked-off doorways. In our antique houses, with our nooks and crannies and rooms added on 180 years after the house was built, we wind up with doors where we don’t need them. Yet there’s a certain Yankee reluctance to spend the time, energy, and money it would take to make it just a plain wall, when there’s a chance that in 60 or 70 years, you’ll want a doorway there again. So it’s not uncommon to see a couch in front of a door, or a chair or a lamp or a table in front of a door — and the owners don’t even think of it as a door anymore. It’s just a wall that seems to look like a door. Yes, it was a doorway, with people actually walking through it, from James Knox Polk to Millard Fillmore, and again from Grover Cleveland to Warren G. Harding. But the whole rest of the time, basically it’s just been a wall.

There’s one room in our house where this becomes really serious business. After 200 years of nook-adding and cranny-shifting and space-narrowing and corridor-widening, our house has ended up with one tiny room which has not a single window, but four doors. From this little roomlet, you can get to the guest room, the laundry room, the living room, or a bent little passageway too small to be called a hall. The room is all doors. There is only one precious wall where you can put a piece of furniture without worrying about who will be entering, exiting, bumping, slamming, or otherwise ricocheting through.

What to do with such an odd little place? We are not big TV watchers, so we stuck our TV in here. There’s really no other use for this space. Well, this isn’t quite true. I have indeed used this odd little room for something else. A single, simple function.

I walk through it on my way to the bathroom.

I abandoned the upstairs bathroom because — I trust it’s not too sexist to say — it was overrun by females. As the only guy in the household, I took ownership of the downstairs bathroom. Getting there and back was no problem at all. Until I went out of town for a couple weeks, and my wife decided to rearrange the furniture in the odd little TV room.

So now, instead of slipping downstairs and heading straight to the bathroom, with only one little sidestep along the way — well, that sidestep is now a closed door with a brown couch standing guard in front of it.

Which means, from my bed, I cross the room diagonally, out the bedroom door, hang a right on the landing, down three stairsteps, left, seven more steps, another left, last three stairs, then a right, diagonally across the living room, into the kitchen, wide arc around the table and chairs, into the bent little passageway too small to be called a hall, sharp left, one step into the accursed TV room (making a certain gesture toward the brown couch), hang a left into the laundry room hallway, and a sharp right into the bathroom.

I am planning today to go to the bathroom on Tuesday. Packing a light lunch for the trip.

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