The old man arrived at the sprawling charter bus complex early, excited to be visiting his children for the holidays. A worn blue double bowling ball bag sat on the seat next to him. It had been repaired in several places with duct tape and had the initials ABC stitched on the front. This stood for Albert Bruce Collins, or Al as he asked his friends to call him. And as far as Al was concerned, everyone he met was a friend.
His eyesight was still good, but not quite good enough to re-qualify for his driver’s license. Luckily for him, his children pointed out, in this age of Uber and Lyft, getting around town without being able to drive was never simpler or more affordable. They had flown home last year, set up his new phone for him, and set it so that the icons and text were a bit larger, and his son had stayed an extra two days and accompanied him on errands about town, each conveyance provided by one of the car services he had ordered on his phone, himself, under the kind and watchful eye of his boy.
They were good kids.
Thanks to their care and patience, he had enjoyed 6 months of carefree travel around town. Now, he was looking forward to a month with his kids and planned on showing his appreciation for their kindness and attention.
“Thank you for a most comfortable ride, young lady,” the old man said as he opened the rear door of the sky blue hybrid Prius.
“Young man,” the driver said.
“Pardon?” Al asked.
The driver turned to look at him and the old man saw very pretty, feminine facial features with what appeared to be light stubble. “I’m transitioning,” the driver said proudly, pointing at a sign on the back of the front seat passenger headrest which read, “Hi, I’m your driver, Corie. Pronouns: He/Him.”
“Oh, okay!” the old man said cheerfully has he quickly exited the vehicle, not entirely sure what that conversation meant, but the driver seemed like a nice person and the ride was quiet and smooth, and he didn’t want to be late checking-in for the trip.
To make things simpler, he had shipped most of his clothes and belongs for the month-long holiday stay a few days ago. He didn’t want to trouble people or wrestle with luggage, so he was able to carry his basic belongings in the double ball bag he had used in the bowling leagues he had competed in for years, both the men’s league and the couple’s league he and his late wife, Serena, had participated in as a team.
In the two years since she’d passed, life had gotten a bit tougher for Al but he kept his cheerful attitude that his parents had always said he’d just been born with. Easiest and most cooperative child among his nine siblings. He’d never encountered a problem he couldn’t solve simply by keeping a stiff upper lip, and positive attitude, and persistence.
That was why his kids were so kind to him, and why he’d had such a good relationship with his wife of 47 years, and also why their bonus room in the house that was paid off decades ago was lined with bowling trophies.
Al checked-in and received his stamped boarding pass for the bus, listened attentively as the cashier ran down the basic amenities for him. This was some bus! It had big comfortable seats that reclined with a lot of leg room. Even movies and TV shows she said as she smiled at him. Al thought she seemed awfully friendly, and was a cute young thing of about fifty. He wondered if she was flirting with him.
“How much time do I have before the bus leaves?” he asked her.
“Boarding begins at 9:45 and the bus leaves at 10:30 or whenever all ticketed passengers are fully boarded and seated,” she said.
“Is there a coffee machine here?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “But there is a gourmet coffee shop in the food court on the other side of the plaza.” She pointed at the sign that pointed the way to the food court.
He smiled. “Come on and join me,” he said. “Coffee’s on me.”
She smiled politely with a surprised look on her face. “That’s very sweet of you, Mr. Collins, but I’m married and my shift doesn’t end for an hour.”
He smiled and thanked her, then began making his way to the coffee shop.
It seemed like a long walk, and this was a big transportation plaza, with charter buses going to metro areas and resorts all around the country. He finally spotted the coffee shop and stepped up to the counter. The women behind the counter were all in a flurry of activity making drinks and food. He checked his watch. It had taken him ten minutes to get there.
A young girl he thought must have been in her late teens or early twenties saw him checking his watch. Her eyes narrowed slightly and walked over to the register.
“You know we’re very busy this morning,” she said dryly.
“I can see that,” Al said cheerfully. “Business must be booming.”
She rolled her eyes a bit and said, “I guess. What can I get you?”
Al squinted at the big board. “Coffee.”
The girl sighed. “Yeah, pops, that’s all we got. But which kind?”
“I don’t know. Just coffee,” he said. His daughters drank complicated coffee drinks that he didn’t understand or care to know about.
“Ok, so Americano?” she asked.
“Yes, that,” Al replied, just wanting to get this transaction over with.
“Oh, uh, small please.”
She smirked. “We don’t have small. We have tall.”
“Oh but I just want a small,” Al said politely, but increasingly less cheerfully. “Long ride ahead.”
“Yeah but we don’t have a small, gramps. Tall is small.”
“That’s fine,” he said, and paid her.
“Name for your order?” she asked.
“Don’t you just have to pour it from a pot for something?” he asked.
“Yes but you have several orders ahead of you,” she replied.
“Al,” he told her.
He watched her write his name on a small-looking cup with a black marker, and then add “(old man)” in parentheses after his name.
“We’ll call you when it’s ready,” she said.
Al turned and walked along the tables that led to a long corridor with a Rest Rooms sign hanging at the entrance. As he made his way down the hall, looking for the usual “Men” and “Women” signs, either spelled out or with the familiar white on blue stick figures, all he saw were signs on each door reading, “Rest Rooms”. A few men, women, and children stood in the hallways, looking uneasy. Confused, he walked back to the coffee counter.
“Where’s your men’s room?” he asked a woman whose name tag indicated her name was “Dolly” and she was the manager. His usual cheerfulness had faded to resignation.
She, too, smirked, then remarked with dismissive faux patience, “We don’t have one.”
“What?” he asked, a look of confusion on his face. “Surely in this large place you must–”
Dolly cut him off. “Our corporate policy is non-binary, so they filed a suit and put pressure on the travel plaza to make all public bathrooms gender neutral. We’re transitioning to that now. Use any rest room you like!”
Now she was cheerful.
“But…which ones just have urinals?” he asked.
“Oh there are no urinals,” she said. “They were removed a few days ago.”
“That’s right, ‘Dad’,” she said. “It’s all really much simpler.”
Al stepped away from the counter and turned back toward the corridor with the rest rooms. What is this? he thought. Where the fuck am I?
He turned once again back toward the counter and saw three women and what he thought could a man huddled together, looking at him and giggling.
He checked his watch. Twenty minutes until boarding, he thought, and shuffled back down the corridor.
Two of the restrooms appeared to be being guarded by men. When he walked up to one, the man said, Sorry sir, my wife and daughter are in there right now. They should only be a few more minutes.
“Oh, ok,” he said, relieved that at least something made sense. “I’ll try another.”
He passed the other restroom with the man standing out in front, nodded as he kept going towards the third and last one at the end of the hall.
He grabbed the handle and pulled the heavy wooden door open. These big doors were getting to be a bit of a challenge at seventy-seven, he noticed. He used his shoulder to prop the door and slid inside.
He looked at the far wall and his heart leapt in his chest. Urinals! The urinals were still there. He walked over, past the stalls on one side and sinks on the other, and, stepping up to the second urinal, pulled the handle with excitement and anticipation he hadn’t felt since his children invited him to visit for the rest of the year.
It flushed! Great God in Heaven, it flushed!
He stepped closer, unzipped is fly, and prepared to pee. This sometimes required him to massage his penis and bladder to relax his muscles and get some flow going. His doctor had explained at his recent visit that his prostate was slightly enlarged and he tended to be a little dehydrated. Nothing too serious, and they’re watching it, the doctor had said. Some light massaging of his penis and pelvic area might sometimes be required to aid when taking a leak.
And leak is right, Al thought, beginning his massaging routine and fondly remembering the days when his somewhat larger than average member shot urine into the toilet with such force it sounded like a fire hose. As the drops began to flow he became slightly erect which aided the urination, and he exhaled with relief and remembered the first time with Serena, how pleased she had been at the size of –”
Al’s reverie was broken by a sudden, piercing scream. Momentarily jarred and confused, he spun around with his dick in his hand, still jiggling and massaging it to keep the piss going, and looked on in horror to see a young mother and her toddler daughter spin and exit quickly.
Almost immediately, the door swung open and one of the men from the hallway ran into the bathroom, immediately slipping on a sign that had been laying on the floor and hitting his head violently on the hard tile. He appeared to be unconscious.
Hearing voices and steps in the corridor, Al pushed his cock back into his pants as security guards entered the rest room and immediately went to the aid of the young man on the floor. His head hung in embarrassment, Al saw the white plastic glossy sign that had caused the young man’s fall laying at his feet.
It read, “Men’s Room.”