Monday, November 6, 2006


A few years back, walking out of the ladies' room of an American department store, a British friend of mine remarked, "The doors to your toilet stalls are not fitted properly! There's a rather large gap!" That's true, but I'll take too large a gap over too small. Here's why:

Years ago a stall door closed so tightly that I couldn't open it when I was ready to leave. I really couldn't and I began to panic. Fortunately, there was another woman nearby washing her hands. Unfortunately, she was from Thailand and neither spoke nor understood much English. I was one of the English teachers in the class she was attending in the building.

Her name was pronounced Noy-nook, though I'm sure it was spelled differently. "Noy-nook!" I cried. "I can't open this door!" I repeated this several times as she struggled to understand. Finally she summoned all her English skills and shouted back (though there was really no need to shout-- we were only a few feet apart), "Turn latch! Turn latch!"

"I've already tried that!" She came closer and began pull on the door. No luck.

"Turn latch! Turn latch!" We repeated this exchange several times.

I felt like crying. I looked down and saw a small space between the bottom of the door and the floor. I was skinny-- and younger-- back then and decided I had to go for it. I began to bend down toward the floor, as Noy-nook continued to shout "Turn latch! Turn latch!"

I didn't get very far. The stall space was so small that I bumped my forehead hard on the door, on my way down. As I yelled "Ow!," the door flew open and I exploded from the stall.

Noy-nook smiled with relief. "Ah, you turn latch!"

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