Throughout my life, I have possessed two irrational fears.
A. That I get locked inside a shopping mall for the night.
B. That I overflow someone’s toilet.
Once, I found myself locked in the Jefferson Valley Mall. I was 18, working at the Great American Cookie Company. I cleaned up, exited the shop, went to the mall exit—locked. Went to another mall exit—locked. I paced and bit my nails and, well, found an open door. Crisis averted.
Never had I overflowed someone’s toilet. Never. I’m not exactly sure how this can be—certainly large pieces of excrement aren’t solely reserved for the home court. Maybe luck, maybe skill, maybe—if I’m feeling particularly poopish—I just hold it in until I return home. Hmm … hard to say.
I digress. The above photograph was taken earlier this afternoon in Spencer Haywood’s bathroom. Those are my feet and his toilet. There are paper towels on the floor, because …
… well …
… ahem …
… sigh …
… I overflowed Spencer Haywood’s toilet.
Man, was it awful. A-w-f-u-l. I’m a reporter sent to meet Spencer Haywood for an interview. Spencer Haywood is a basketball legend. Here’s exactly what happened: I had spent roughly 1 1/2 hours with Haywood in his Las Vegas home. We talked hoops and recovery (he’s been clean for 30 years) and family (he’s the proud father of four girls) and memories of basketball players long gone. Before I left, I asked, “Can I use your bathroom?” Haywood pointed me toward the room, so I went inside and peed. Seriously, that’s … all … I … did. I peed. And not even a big pee. Just a normal, average, run-of-the-mill urinary assignment.
So what happens? I pull up my shorts, push down on the flusher and—whoooooosh! The water starts rising. And rising. And rising. In my house, I’m actually pretty handy with the ol’ toilet. It’s one of the few things I understand how to fix. Hence, I quickly remove the ceramic lid of Spencer Haywood’s toilet, and pull the bar that—in the Pearlman Hotel—always stops the water. Well, not only didn’t the water stop … it rose even quicker. Before long, a tidal wave flooded over the top of the bowl and coated the floor like one of those blow-up kiddie pools. I looked for a towel or bath rug—nothing. The best thing Spencer had was a half roll of paper towels. I started ripping off towels … one … two … five at a time. But the water was too thick. More towels. And more towels. And more. All the whole I’m thinking one thing: “Fuck—I’m flooding Spencer Haywood’s bathroom. And all I did was pee.”
By now I’ve spent 10 minutes in the bathroom, which—in some circumstances—would be more embarrassing than overflowing the damned toilet (For many, there’s a direct mental correlation between bathroom time and potential stink). There’s an enormous pile of sopping paper towels in the sink, my feet are wet, the water seems to have dampened the edge of the rug in the next room. And, again, all I did was piss. I’m beyond mortified, wondering what, exactly, Spencer Haywood will say when he sees all the towels I’ve used. Alas, with nowhere to turn I tiptoe out of the room and ask Spencer Haywood is he has a plastic bag. I assume this will be greeted with a question (“Did you overflow my toilet?”), but he simply rises from the couch and hands me a bag. I return to the bathroom, stuff the bag and, again, exit.
This time, I feel the need to explain. “Spencer,” I say, “your toilet overflowed. But, just so you know, all I did was piss. I swear.”
He looks me over for, at most, a second. “Don’t worry,” he says. “Things happen.”