Monday, May 18, 2009

The wrong room

An urgent knock at the door interrupts me from my task. I am naked from the waist up in the baby changing room at Spitalfields Market in London’s East End. Knock-knock-knock, there it goes again. I freeze and hold my breath. A man’s voice calls through the door, “Can you come out?” It sounds more like an order than a request. I’m midway through changing my bag. My colostomy kit is neatly laid out in front of me. In my right hand I hold a scrunched up wet-wipe over my stoma. Now is not a great time for me. “Come out, please,” demands the voice beyond the door. For some unknown reason I’m still holding my breath, like I’ve suddenly found myself in a game of hide and seek. Another round of brisk knocking rattles the door. “Hang on,” I cry out. The sound of my voice seems to have the same effect on the man outside as a twitching line has on a fisherman. The knocking becomes faster and more agitated, “Open. The. Door,” spits the man. By this time I’ve guessed he probably doesn’t need to urgently change a nappy and he’s most likely some sort of security guard. He must have spotted me on CCTV going into the baby changing room without a baby. This would have aroused his suspicions: man + baby changing room – baby = drug user/terrorist. Pushing aside his KFC bucket he would have sprung into action, hoping to catch me red-handed. And so with all the tenacity of a man who thinks he’s cornered Osama bin Laden, he continues knocking on the door. I decide to ignore him and make him wait. Taking my time I change my bag to the steady beat of his knuckles on the woodwork. Once I’m all tucked in and zipped up, I open the door and as I suspected, I come face to face with a security guard. He takes a step back, assessing the situation, ready for combat. I swear he thinks he’s Boba Fett. “That’s the baby changing room,” he says nodding at the sign on the door. “I know,” I reply. He lifts his head slightly and narrows his eyes, peering at me down his nose. I raise my eyebrows inquisitively, enjoying the game. “It’s for changing nappies,” he tells me with more menace than the words deserve, “You cannot go in there.” “The disabled toilet was locked,” I say. The security guard glances over his shoulder at the disabled toilet, and retaliates with, “You need to phone the number to get it opened.” “Right. I didn’t know.” We stand staring at each other in silence. Stalemate. Seconds pass. “Can I go now?” I ask. The guard nods at the baby changing room again, “Why’d you go in there?” Okay, Columbo, you asked. I lift up my shirt. This’ll show him. This’ll make him squirm. The security guard takes one look at my belly, and like he’s seen a million colostomy bags he simply shrugs, “You still can’t use that one. Next time use the disabled toilet and ring the number.” With that he gives me a parting look as if to say ‘you’ve been told’ and leaves me standing there like a plonker with my bag blowing in the breeze.