I love to read, however there is one part of the book that I never read.. the preface.  Why?  I believe that every author that writes a preface is aiming to do one thing, give an excuse for the book.  I don’t want to give any excuses or insights into what I was thinking when writing this book, so I made a pact with myself that I would never write a “typical” preface.  Hereunto you have arrived at what is possibly the most unique preface experience that you will encounter.  To preface my preface, let me warn you that none of what you are about to read will enhance your life, nor will it make assimilating the contents of the real book any easier.  However it will give you a unique perspective into this weird mind of mine and maybe explain some of the writing style you will receive when reading this book.

Ready for an adventure into the mind of one quirky writer?

It was the fall of 1997 when I found out the devastating news that my bride-to-be was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Leukemia. Along with this decision came a move to New Orleans, to undergo 6 months of treatment at the LSU Medical Center at University Hospital.  To ease the tension of how Nili is doing, I’ll jump ahead to the end of the story.  Nili is doing great, that was 20 years ago and she has no side effects or relapse of cancer in her body.  However, that is just to set the stage of this preface expression…

I would like to title this preface, Oh Crap

It was a beautiful October day in Lake Charles, LA where I attended Ryan Street High for my Psychology Degree, otherwise known as McNeese State University.  I was walking to my first class with one thing on my mind, get through this class and skip my evening class so I can go see Nili.  If I leave at 1050, I could grab lunch and be with her by early afternoon. Class lets out, and I load up my car with a warm coat (since I didn’t have heat) and a few snacks from my dorm room and headed out the door.

My car was your typical college student car, the type that was always running on empty and could use a “new” everything, as well as a good repair session at the local mechanic shop.  It was a 1981 Honda Prelude!  Yes, Prelude.  If you are about my age, when you hear “Honda Prelude” you immediately think of that slick 2 door coupe with the sloping back and race car looking front end.  The beautiful remodel of the Honda Prelude that actually helped Honda win the hearts of Americans.  However, this was not that prelude.  My Honda was during the years that Honda would be ashamed. It was the design where the car looked like it was placed on a guillotine stand and had the back end chopped off, and the front end tip chopped off.  With this front end and back end, there was no aerodynamic advantage, basically increasing drag and wind resistance.  In addition to it’s pre-modern design, my car was painted “poopoo” brown.  You know, the color that rests right between burgundy and tan.  The color that when you see it your first thought is “at least you don’t have to wash it – cause it shouldn’t show dirt (or anything else)”. 

Combine it’s color, with it’s design and it’s mechanical issues, this is one of those cars that you plot for the day that you no longer have to drive it. I would debate between whether it is a better final use to jump those railroad tracks on it’s last ride (knowing it will break in half) or to test the theory that the side bayous are really as deep as people say they are.  For those who do not live in Louisiana, along the roadways there are typically bayous and the local “knowledge” is that they are 15-20 feet deep.  So, in my electrical engineering mindset I think, why not paint this car glow-in-the-dark green and let it’s final resting place be the bottom of a bayou. Will you see it glow in the dark at 15ft deep?

I digress, but maybe you can understand the type of car I was taking on this trip.

Because this was my college days, I wasn’t exactly leaving at the top of the morning either, so this meant that I needed to get gas and also get food.  Here is where my obsession for Taco Bell and the close proximity convenience converged to create a beautiful marriage of personal satisfaction and later, trepidation.

I pulled into the Walmart gas station that is right before the onramp on the interstate.  After starting the pump, I run over next door to Taco Bell to spend the most efficient $3 a college student could, 3 burritos and a soft taco with tax!  Ran back to the car, returned the pump, started the car and off to New Orleans I go to see my beautiful girlfriend in her battle.

I don’t remember much of the first part of the ride being that it is a straight shot down I-10.  I was passing city markers in my head; Jennings (2 more hours), Lafayette (1 hour 45 minutes), Baton Rouge (50 more minutes). However I do remember passing LaPlace because that is where things began to change for me.  I am about 25 minutes away from the hospital when I began to feel that rumbly in the tummy.  Not the hungry rumbly, but the type of rumble that would be completely inappropriate to use any toilet other than your own.  My problem is that I only have a few hours with Nili once I arrive. I do not want to waste the time it would take to get off the interstate, find a gas station, run inside, find the onramp and get back on the interstate. Inefficient and too time consuming.

I say to myself – I’ll try to make it to the Medical Center and use a public restroom, yes – that is the plan…

Now for some of you, you may not have the adverse reaction to Taco Bell that I do.  Let me pause to describe to you what I do when I order food from Taco Bell.  I love red sauce, I love onions, and I love FIRE sauce.  I realize that when I combine all these electrifying flavors to cheese, some unknown meat substance and a lot of grease that it can potentially create some discomfort.  However, in my haste, I was not thinking of the 2.5 hour drive that was ahead of me…

Kenner… 17 more minutes

Passing the cemetery… 11 more minutes

Exit Super-dome… 6 more minutes

Hurting…

Stomach gurgling… twisting in my seat…

I unsnap the top button of my jeans to take some of the sitting pressure off my stomach thinking this will buy more time. I was wrong.  Like an open dam, everything in my upper stomach had permission to move to my lower stomach, and it was moving fast.  The process had officially begun and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I am within eyesight of the hospital and doing everything in my power to stop sweating and keep hope alive.

I can make it

Wait…

I have to make it!

I don’t have a change of clothes!

I parked right next to the hospital on the side street only 50 feet from the side entrance.  I would later find out that it wasn’t exactly a designated parking spot according to the City of New Orleans police department (but a that is another story). I grab my phone and start my careful pursuit of a bathroom.

Again, as much as I do not like to go number 2 in a public restroom, there is no way that I am about hurt the relationship I have with my future bride Nili by letting all of this “free” in her hospital bathroom.  The sounds, the smell – let’s save that until we are married.

I am pretty sure that I was quite the sight for someone watching me.  Here I am, a 250lb man coming down the hallway doing the penguin walk, sweating and looking slightly panicked.  If you are unfamiliar with the penguin walk is, it is the final act of desperation to walk in such a way that you keep everything clinched in order to keep everything that is on the inside from coming to the outside…while walking.  It is either that or to place your hands on your backside and press firmly together.

I choose the penguin walk.

Looking…

Where is the bathroom???

Looking…

Oh, there it is – the sign.  Mens.

I reach for the handle and another hand grabs it before I can

“Let me get that door for you”, the kind gentleman says.

My thoughts start shouting in my head.

Oh no, I can’t go into the restroom seeing the other person who goes it.  I am about to blow out the back end of a toilet and he will forever have the image of my face as he opened the door for me.  No anonymity. Since he saw my face and I know he will be in here with me, I’ll have to either hold everything in while siting over the toilet or do a ton of courtesy flushes to try to cover up all the noises that were about to happen.

What to do?

Quick thinking steps in, “No thanks, I’m not going in there. Thanks though!”  came out of my mouth.

What did I say???

I need to finish this or this is going to finish me – going from bad to ugly, literally.

Wait.

I remember there being a family restroom down here on this floor.

Walking

I see it

I start praying “Lord, please let it be empty”…

I twisted the handle and pushed on the door…  swing… it’s empty!

While feeling some relief, I am still in need of keeping my composure and keeping that small muscle holding back the embarrassment and mess that is killing me on the inside.

To my bewilderment, this bathroom was actually a hallway.  Well, it used to be a hallway.  They must have converted a short hallway to comply with hospital codes because immediately in front of me was residential sink cabinet (I know this from what is about to happen) and over 10 feet further down  the “hall” from the sink was a toilet.

All by itself.

I made it this far, I can do another 10 feet.

And I did.

I MADE IT!!!

Crisis over, or so I thought.

Now, in public bathroom there are two rules that every man knows.   The first is simply that when you are going to do a sit down on a toilet, you must be prepared to either cough or flush every time you know that “noise” is going to happen.  This is the real meaning of courtesy flush, contrary to popular belief. A courtesy flush is not for the smell as we all know that it doesn’t really help that, it is for the embarrassing presence of flatulence that typically occurs when sitting on a public toilet.

However, the second rule is even more important than the first.

Anyone know it?

Check for toilet paper PRIOR to sitting down.  This revelation is the primary reason why men look into a stall before making the commitment to use it.  It isn’t the cleanliness of the stall, it is the available resources of the stall. The reason for this rule is because of the horrifying thought of asking your neighbor in the stall next to you to give you toilet paper.  Who wants to say, “Hey, I forgot rule number 2 and I have stuff I need to take care in here. Could you please send over some toilet paper”.  This leaves the person next to you with the answerless question of “how much toilet paper do you need?”.  Combine all of this with the fact that you are in a public bathroom with a metal frame between toilets and you cannot simply hand over a roll. The rolls are bolted into a contraption, that even if you had a key the mere size of the roll is approximately the size of one of the tires on the Honda Prelude.

Nope, no roll passing in public. 

And then there is the next dilemma, do I hand it to them from underneath?  Do I toss it over top?

Best to never have this conversation. Check for toilet paper before committing.

I didn’t…

And I am not next to anyone who could pass me some toilet paper, since I’m in the family bathroom. No stalls here.

Finally, I am free of the pain inside my intestines, cold-sweat breaking and my face goes flush as I pull the last 5 squares.

Not enough…

Thankfully I remember that there is a sink cabinet just 10 feet away and I don’t have to worry about the possibility of being seen as this is a PRIVATE bathroom.

Thank you, Lord~

I shake a bit (let that sink in) and then start my fear waddle over to the sink.

Don’t be so holy.

Define Fear Waddle:  the action of slowly moving, hunched over in such a manner as to prevent any “droppings” from landing on any clothing as well as not losing balance.  

I make it to the residential sink cabinet and said a short prayer as I opened the cabinet doors under the sink. Praise God, rolls of toilet paper.

Yes! Saved.

As I turn to waddle back in victory I hear a clicking sound behind me. Followed by a small squeaking sound, very similar to a door opening. Instantly my mind goes into rewind mode.

Flash Back.

Penguin walk in the hall. Skipped public men’s bathroom. Opened door to family restroom.  Saw sink and toilet. Used… Oh crap, I didn’t lock the door. Cold-sweat is instantly back.

Slowly looking over my shoulder I look towards the door of this family restroom only to find the gaze of a middle-aged blond woman staring at me. It was obvious by her facial expression that I was not the sight she was looking for.

She stood there – not moving, not closing, just in shock, maybe fear. I spoke first

“It’s occupied”, I said with the most normal voice I could muster up.

Tail showing, awkward position, toilet paper in hand.

Still…….. No movement. Just a paralyzed woman in the doorway.

With a smile this time, looking over my shoulder, squatting on the floor – I let out the same words hoping to jar her back to reality (or maybe out of it).

“Ummm, bathroom is occupied”

Response – with no change in expression, just a slow reversal, she stepped back and shut the door. Immediately I turned to the door, waddling quickly, and went to the handle and made sure it was locked. I then, with pace, return to the toilet to complete my business. I wash my hands and stand there looking into the mirror.

How can I go out to the hallway now?

What if she is waiting for the bathroom?

If I go out now, I will have to see her face to face again when our last encounter was a little uncomfortable for me. I wait.

And I wait.

Finally about 10 minutes of just standing there I gather the courage and the game plan to exit the bathroom. I’ll open the door and immediately turn to the right, then with my head down I will walk the entire corridor back around to the elevator. That should give me plenty of space if the lady is still waiting for the bathroom to not have to see her face.

I did it. I stepped out, looking down I turned to the right and followed the hallway all the way around.

I was clear.

Once passing up the third corner I walked up to the elevator and pressed the button, only 3 floors away from seeing my future wife.  I stepped onto the elevator along with 2 other people and while the doors were closing suddenly a hand grabs the door of the elevator and a voice calls out, hold that elevator.  The elevator doors reopens to reveal… the blonde woman.  Our eyes meet and the same shock of fear immediately encompasses both of our facial expressions – what now?

What do you say to someone that is probably just as embarrassed by the incident as you are?

I simply said “How are you doing today?”

No response.

So now for the preface you are used to, just a lot shorter. My hope is that as you read this book that you have relation from God as to how often you are being spoken to, guided and encouraged.  My heart desire is that through all of this, you will gain in your passion for the Lord.  No one has all of the answers, and each of us learn things from where we have been and where we are.  So, my only challenge to you as the reader is to allow the Holy Spirit to encourage you in your pursuit of God whether it is in refuting or agreeing with anything you are about to read.  Be blessed and only eat Taco Bell on your way home.