I work in an outpatient surgery clinic that is attached to a hospital. Usually, if I have to use the restroom, I go down the hall to the public restroom at the hospital. Not because we don't have one, but because ours is occupied 75% of the time I want to use it. That's never a problem in the hospital. But, there's obviously a down side to using a public restroom.
I'm an introvert. Very much so. I am not going to initiate conversation with someone I know, let alone a stranger. Especially a stranger in the bathroom. But, some people are different and don't feel the need for such boundaries.
So, the other day, I run down to the restroom. There is a lady in front of the mirror. I breeze past her and go into a stall. I take care of business and then I hear: "Are you a nurse in the emergency room? "
I wear scrubs to work. I don't know why the office staff wears scrubs, but we do. I was sure this lady was talking to me because the restroom had been empty except for the 2 of us when I came in and I hadn't heard the door open since.
I answered, "No. I am not a nurse at all. "
"Do you know anything about fibroid tumors? "
I told her I really didn't know much as I came out of my stall and headed for the sink.
She started telling me that she just found out that she has fibroid tumors and that she was really afraid because she doesn't know anything about them. I listened to her because I felt bad for her. She was obviously really anxious and had been crying. I hoped lending an ear would make her feel a little better, even if it made me feel uncomfortable. I try to be a compassionate person sometimes.
I listened for a bit and wished her the best outcome and headed out of the bathroom. She followed me into the hall and continued to talk to me.
After a few minutes, I started to realize she wasn't simply anxious about a diagnosis she was unfamiliar with. She was convinced it would become cancer and she told me she'd rather go home and kill herself than die slowly of cancer.
Of course, then I was concerned for her mental well-being. I couldn't just take off back to work thinking she's headed home to commit suicide over fibroid tumors.
She continued on, telling me about all the various medical conditions in her family. She sounded stranger and stranger by the minute. She started talking about her granddaughter. How her granddaughter was taken away by the state....
I was dying to leave. We were past the comforting and into seriously personal stuff now. Way out of my comfort zone. And, to be honest, she wasn't sounding very stable.
I listened to her anxiety turned paranoia turned conspiracy for about half an hour. No exaggeration. When she angrily told me how the judge who was sneaking booze into his coffee during the hearing gave her biracial grandchild to racists who probably just beat her, I decided I really needed to get out of there. I told her I had to get back to work. She hugged me. I'm so not a hugger, but I hugged her back.
But then she kept talking. As I kept stepping back, trying to get away. She was ranting about the injustice of the child protective services. How they take kids from their living families to sell to other families.
I'm not trying to be callous to her situation. Really. But it sounded like that poor child is most likely in a far better situation judging by things she said and how she was acting herself.
I finally actually broke away and got back to my desk. Everyone was wondering what had happened. I told them I had honestly hoped one of them would have come looking for me. They assured me next time they would.
Trust me, for a while, I'll be doing a pee pee dance waiting for the bathroom at the surgery center to be free. Because that's exactly why you don't talk to strangers in the bathroom.