$20

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On a recent trip to Nashville for a conference, I ventured out for an evening of country music and dancing with some friends.

Obviously a trip to the bathroom was inevitable. Having gotten used to the luxury of clean, pleasant smelling bathrooms in Singapore, I was unsure how this bathroom event might be. What I got was something I definitely wasn’t expecting.

When I entered the doorway to the bathroom, the bathroom attendant was standing at the door with her legs crossed chatting with a patron who was washing her hands. The attendant lady was telling the hand-washer how she had to go to the bathroom so badly that she was afraid to walk to the toilet stall to go for fear of going on herself. She explained that she waited a long time to go because she was afraid to leave her tip jar. By this point, there was now another lady in the bathroom. We told the lady we would hold down the fort, urging her to go use the toilet, which was literally just a few steps away from where she stood with her legs crossed.

Attendant lady agrees and basically jumps into the stall. As she is trying to pipi machen in the toilet, she is giving us commentary of her situation in the stall. She alerted us that she didn’t make it to the toilet in time and had wet herself. She told us about her incontinence problem so she wears an adult diaper, and that she doesn’t want to risk her job for having to use the toilet too often. Because this was something that happens frequently, the lady had a bag of extra clothes in case of accidents.

This broke my heart. This lady was so worried about the few dollars in the tip jar that she was willing to pee herself.

I stayed in the bathroom for a few extra minutes so she could get her wits about her. After she was cleaned up as much as she could, I went back to my friends at the dance floor. After a few minutes I had to go back to her and see that she was ok. And I took the only cash I had and gave it to her – a lone $20 that my friend had given me from dinner. That lady needed it way more than I did.

That one bathroom incident has left an imprint on my mind. And I just thought I was going to walk into a typical sticky-floored country bar bathroom.

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