Flush And Delete

We spent most of each week in September in public. Hospitals, business offices, restaurants, memorials, museums, etc. Mostly the hospital.

Which means we spent a good deal of time searching for and utilizing public bathrooms.

I spent so much time in one particular building that I knew which stall to avoid. Because a very sensitive automatic flushing toilet resides in the second stall from the right on the first floor near the elevators (the same elevator I almost died in—see last week’s blog). Two visits in a row it surprised me, and I made a note to remember the stall so I could avoid it on all future visits.

Until the next trip into the building, and all the other stalls were filled (probably by employees or frequent visitors who knew about that particular toilet’s temperament).

But it was one of those moments. When you gotta go…

And the impatient porcelain potty flushed on me TWICE before I was ready for it to do so.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said rather loudly to no one in particular after that second flush, and the other ladies giggled.

Then there’s the confusion that comes from automated, semi-automated and not-automated-at-all hand washing stations. Will the soap squirt out with a wave of my hand, or do I have to do it myself? Water? Toweling? I found myself waiting on (or beating on) various dispensers because who knew if the automation was on the blitz or if I really was responsible for rolling out the paper towel for myself.

That confusion followed me home. Sometimes I stood in front of my own sink, hands under the faucet, waiting for the water to come on automatically. Sometimes I waited for the plastic bottle of Dial soap to squirt out a portion, but alas, I had to pump it myself.

Confusion (read: exhaustion) and waiting capitalized massive amounts of time in the last few weeks. I checked the stuff I wrote during those bits once I had two seconds…

Some scenes were decent. Some too dark. And some were total confusion. Revisions (read: deletions) will be needed before the piece ever hit the editor’s desk. At one point I had the main character in two places at the same time (which is how I felt, so I knew how he felt, but it doesn’t make for good story flow). One scene I wrote for the work in progress belonged in another story altogether (which is also how I felt last month). I swapped character names a dozen times (also something mirrored from the chaotic weeks).


But the great thing about all those writing problems? There’s this small, rectangular key with slightly rounded corners in the upper right-hand side of my keyboard, “Delete.” He has a friend, “Backspace,” that I’m fond of as well. “Select All” is also a powerful tool, especially when coupled with “Delete.” I can scroll up and insert bits and details to make the story flow, then scroll down to add in new structures, dialog, moods and beats. No harm, no foul. And if I hadn’t told you about those bad apple scenes, you’d never know.

I remember when my dad got a typewriter that actually had backspace with erasing capability. That was a huge deal, and I was mesmerized by it. Before that, Liquid Paper was his friend, along with a few choice words I’d hear him sputter from the table as he had to line up the roller just so to undo a mistake—after he waited for the correction fluid to dry, of course.

Don’t you wish life came with editing capabilities? Ones that could help you orchestrate events just so? Oh that we could “Select All” and rewrite the events leading up to a bad decision—ours or someone else’s?

And don’t we all have that great comeback line that didn’t come to mind until the argument was over? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could scroll up and add that sucker in there?

Alas, we don’t get even get a 0.74-ounce bottle of White Out for life. Some people have selective memories and can “White Out” the awful or regrettable, but most of us aren’t wired that way. Truth be told, if we did get a bottle, we wouldn’t be patient enough to let the fluid dry before we tried to rewrite, ending up with a gummed-up mess of illegible ink.

We’d be like that toilet in the second stall from the right. Flush, delete, flush, delete. And we’d never move forward for fear of getting life “just right.”

My temptation will be to fiddle and fuss with the story until it’s “just right.” Flushing and deleting repeatedly, but not moving forward to the next thing.

Our temptation with life is often the same: to make it “just right,” resulting in confusion, exhaustion and a constant state of overwhelm.

There is no “just right” life, just like there’s no “just right” story.

There is the only next decision—and it’s our choice to make the wisest decision with the facts we have at the moment in spite of confusion and exhaustion.

There is only the next scene—and it’s my decision to make it the best I can with the abilities I possess at the moment in spite of confusion and exhaustion.

Then leave it be.

Move forward.

And always, always avoid the second stall from the right.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog and the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.