Leo Roger’s shiny black patent leather loafers pitter-patter down the hall of the 31st floor, which is off limits to employees. Leo’s Secretary, Greta, sits at the end of the hall, in a padded shell-shaped cubicle, strategically positioned by the elevators, where she can greet, interrogate and deliberate on whether people are deserving or not of Leo’s time. She has diplomatic immunity by sheer association with Leo and is the only person allowed into his quarters. Greta has the personality and the girth to make any man shake in his trousers.
She has been by Leo’s side since the startup of the company. She has grown old, getting underpaid for the privilege of looking after his affairs and being one of the few operatives granted close encounters with him.
Greta was quite the looker as a young woman. Athletic build, swimmer’s shoulders, 19-inch waist, generous breasts, high cheekbones, full lips, fair skin, and dark blue eyes. She never married. She has been secretly in love with Leo since the startup. Not only have her youth and beauty slipped away, but her weight gain has also slowed her down and turned her breathing shallow and heavy. Her neck is now the size her waist used to be as a young girl and the only dark blue that stands out now, is the blue in the circles around her puffy eyes.
Leo has also aged, although his pace is still sprite compared to Greta’s. With age, Leo has shrunk, except for his midsection which has increased in girth and now makes his shoulders look oddly narrow. He still sports a full head of hair which has gone from jet black to snow white.
“Yes Mrs. Rogers, I’ll take care of the reservations for you. No, no it’s no bother, that’s what I’m here for, ok, will do. Goodbye then.” Greta secretly disapproves of the new Mrs. Rogers. She opens the top drawer of her desk where there are several chocolate bars, all neatly lined up, and picks one out.
Greta knows beyond a grain of doubt that Leo has been played by this woman, who conveniently got pregnant with twins! There had been no children in Leo’s previous marriages. She is much younger than Leo, forty years younger. She wants Greta to make reservations for a ski lodge. Leo can’t possibly keep up with her. She will take him to an early grave, Greta can feel it, as real as she can feel her arthritis kicking up.
Her diet isn’t going very well and she’s only managed to lose two Kilos in 4 months. She knows it’s nerves, she eats because she’s nervous or anxious, although about what, she’s not sure.
Leo has made his way to his personalized washroom facilities. The door opens up onto an anti-chamber, where four finely carved original Louis XV gilt-wood armchairs come to life. Curvy Rococo pieces, with a carefully pierced crest, chaotic and intricately carved rocaille over asymmetrical scattered hanging foliage and floral motifs. These had been revamped with plush Royal Blue velvet. The wall scones flicker on and off and stay off, leaving Leo in the dark. He makes a u-turn heading straight down the hall towards Greta’s cushioned cubicle.
One could say that for a man, such as Leo, who has reached his apex, there is a propensity towards the eclectic, which increases in proportion to the accumulation of wealth and power. Leo’s advertising company occupies an entire glass tower located on the most expensive piece of lakefront property in the city of Toronto. Leo no longer desires much. He has his own plane, helicopter, and landing pad, properties worldwide, two ex-wives, and a new young wife recently added to his portfolio. He has been featured in all the important trade magazines. He could have run for politics had he wished.
Greta hears Leo heading towards reception before she can see him. He looks tired. She can tell the twins are too much for a man Leo’s age. He should have been a grandfather at his age and certainly not a father to newborn twins.
“How are the Twins doing, Leo?
“The twins? Yes, they’re fine, they’re a handful, mind you, thankfully we seem to have finally found a suitable nanny.”
“That’s great news, now you’ll both rest better, you look like you could use it, Leo. At our age, we need to be more vigilant about our health.”
Leo has momentarily forgotten what he needed Greta for until his bladder reminds him. “Greta, please call maintenance and have them send an electrician up at once. There is something going on with the lights in the washroom, it’s pitch black in there.
“Use my washroom Leo, you don’t want to end up like Walter.”
“Yes, Walter had to have his entire jaw wired for six months after he fell and landed chin first on a piece of furniture. Had him on a liquid diet for six months, he lost all the extra weight he used to carry.”
“I see, well I best be moving along, have a goodnight Greta and don’t forget to call maintenance.”
“Right away, Leo. Goodnight and drive safely.”
Leo has his own elevator as he prefers not to consort with his employees. He never personally attends the meetings held for upper management or his shareholders. Leo handles all his affairs with remote video conferences, which Greta presides over.
On his way down Leo realizes he should have taken Greta up on her offer, but he’s not about to turn back now. His prostate is acting up and his frequent need to urinate has become a compulsion.
The elevator doors open up onto the main lobby where there is a security guard sitting at reception. There is a security room behind reception where the CCTV monitors are under watch by 2 guards 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hallways are empty, as Leo follows the signs, leading to the men’s washroom.
This particular washroom serves the main floor of the main building. An estimated 80 employees and visitors use it. There are four stalls. On this particular day, two of the four stalls are out of order.
Leo enters the grimly lit washroom, the mirror above the sink is reflecting back a version of Leo, which looks like he has been stricken by Greenman’s Syndrome. He turns around to carefully peruse the four stalls facing him. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket, careful not to make contact with any of the surfaces, he checks the two functioning stalls individually, but neither seems to pass his inspection. After careful deliberation, he enters the last stall, which appears to be the cleanest.
He needs to sit to urinate alas. “Sitting creates a more favorable urodynamic profile, which helps ward off prostate problems.” This is what his doctor had told him.
He wraps the kerchief around his left hand, so he may hold the door shut without touching it and lowers his pants with his other hand. Leo is well aware the building is empty and the chances of someone walking in are scarce, still, habits are difficult to change. He is a terribly private man and had it not been such an urgent situation, he would never have found himself in such a position, literally and figuratively.
He crouches, painfully attempting not to touch the toilet seat. His cell phone rings. As Leo reaches for his phone in his pants, now heaped around his ankles, he lets go of the door, which bounces open and slams him hard in the forehead. He reaches out and shuts the door with his left hand. The call gets transferred to his answering service. He then closes his eyes as if to remember where he was when he got interrupted. Very similar to when you fall asleep reading a book and the next time you open it, it goes without saying that you need to back up a few paragraphs or pages, in order to get back on track. The moment had been ruined. Leo is finding it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand in the squalor and bacteria-infested washroom. When he opens his eyes, he spots something on the door which makes him squint and curl his nose as if a very strong and vile odor had permeated the washroom stall.
Taped to the door there is a group photograph of the company cleaning staff, with brooms, mops, and buckets, posing as musicians. The message in big bold letters on the bottom of the picture says “LEAVE THE WASHROOM AS YOU FOUND IT!
Leo practically leaps off the toilet seat rapidly and clumsily pulls up his pants as though the people in the picture were actually in the washroom stall spying on him. He rushes out of the washroom. He’ll have Greta investigate the washroom situation tomorrow. In fact, he would have maintenance do a check on all washrooms in both buildings. This was unacceptable.
Leo enters the parking lot, which is empty except for a few cars and a white van. He crosses over to the white van and does something which he would personally condemn. He stands behind the van and unzips to relieve himself. Unannounced, the sliding door to the van opens and a young man with a toolbox steps out. Leo’s heart skips a couple of beats as he stuffs his penis back into his pants while stumbling towards his car.
The young man with the toolbox is talking on his cell phone, but he still could not have missed Leo as he made his wobbly exit. The young man’s name is Max, and he’s the fix-it man around the company. Max is young and easygoing. One could say he is a B-type personality, whereas Leo is most certainly an A-type, competitive, highly organized, control freak, ambitious, impatient, and highly aware of time management as opposed to the Type B which is generally more relaxed, less neurotic & frantic, with no particular need to be in control all the time.
Max drops by his workstation where he picks up a ladder. He heads up to the 31st floor where he has an urgent maintenance request.
Max exits the elevator and walks out into the lobby of the 31st floor, where he spots Greta. She looks like a giant snail inside a shell to Max, whose imagination often gets the best of him. It could be all the weed he smokes, he’s not sure himself.
Greta spots Max, she gets up from her overstuffed chair and shuffles her way around the crescent-shaped desk.
Max notices her feet look incredibly small to be carrying such a load.
“Hello Max, that was fast!
“I was already on a call, so I thought I’d drop by here first.”
“Good thing you did, because Leo’s washroom needs tending to, he said the lights won’t turn on. It’s dangerous for a man his age to be moving around in the dark.”
“That explains why I thought I saw the CEO taking a leak in the parking lot, behind my van.”
Greta is incredulous, “that’s so not like Leo, it must have been an emergency. Now I trust this information will stay between us?” Greta is very protective of Leo.
“Sure, no problem.”
“Good, here you’ll need this to get into the Executive Washroom, down the hall, turn right, first door to the left. Leave the card on my desk when you’re done. I’m leaving now.”
Max heads down the hall with his ladder hanging on his right shoulder and his toolbox swinging in his left arm.
He reaches the main door of the executive washroom, where an antique sign which reads LAVATORIUM is attached to the door. He uses the card Greta gave him and enters the washroom. The lights should have turned on with the sensor as soon as the doors opened. He fetches a flashlight from his pocket and finds the main light switch. The lights flicker for a few seconds before turning on. Probably one of the bulbs needed replacing, or loose contact.
Max is frozen in awe, he sets the ladder and toolbox down as he takes in his surroundings.
The washroom is larger than his entire apartment. Over 150 sqm. lavishly boasting all the amenities one might expect to find in a 10-star hotel. Flat-screen TV, wifi, speakers, music, shelves lined with books and trade magazines, shower, sauna, jacuzzi for 4, and a designer bidet from Italy.
He spots a set of sliding doors that lead to the relaxation area, pushes the button which slides them open and little miniature led lights on the ceiling turn on. They look like stars against the dark background. A waterfall is gently flowing into a pool. The sound of the running water makes Max want to pee.
He heads back into the lavatory where he spots a remote, resting on a ‘Boca do Lobo’ designer side table, although Max doesn’t know what a Boca do Lobo is. This extremely expensive table is strategically positioned next to a NEOREST 600. The Neorest 600, is a toilet with a wide range of digital features.
He picks up the remote, pushes a button, and a small built-in monitor, mounted on the wall above the toilet, lights up with a menu displaying a variety of customizations. Max proceeds to customize and enhance his washroom experience.
First, the lid pops open with a sound suggesting it is vacuum sealed. A padded backrest, with neck support, slides into place.
“So this is a lavatorium. Well, allow me then.”
Max is impressed, as he sets the temperature for the toilet seat to 27° Celsius, lastly, he sets the toilet to perform a ‘Cyclone Flush’.
He grabs a magazine from one of the shelves, the remote for the TV, and makes himself comfortable. The look on Max’s face says it all, as he sits himself down on the throne to shame all thrones.
Once he’s done relieving himself, Max stands up, the NEOREST 600 immediately seals itself before performing the programmed cyclone flush. He’s getting hungry, it’s way past his dinner time. He grabs his cell phone and orders a pizza and beer, then proceeds to check out the rest of the amenities.
The following morning, Max awakens to the sound of whispering voices. He opens his eyes finding himself under an umbrella of vaguely familiar faces. It’s the cleaning crew. They are all leaning around him, heads bent and obviously concerned. There are sounds of relief as they see Max stirring awake.
“He’s not dead,” screams one of the cleaning staff. “He’s not dead,” the others repeat in relief. They all look genuinely happy to see Max waking up.
Greta has come to investigate what all the noise is about just in time to see Max as he leaps out of the jacuzzi, dripping wet in his birthday suit. He leaps across an almost empty pizza box and more than a few beer cans strewn on the floor when he spots a slice of cold pizza still untouched, he grabs it and places it between his teeth.
“Max what on earth are you doing here and this mess? What happened?” Asks Greta, her voice shaken by the sight of the naked maintenance man and Leo’s Lavatorium, which is in total disarray.
“The lights are fixed, it was more complicated than expected and took all night, I must have dozed off. “Sorry about the mess and don’t worry about the parking lot incident, my lips are sealed.” Max grabs his clothes which are scattered here and there, then silently tippy toes out, as if this somehow makes him invisible.