As if I weren’t already creepy enough, last year I signed up to be a docent for the mountain view cemetery in Oakland. That is, I am training to lead one of the many free tours offered twice monthly by the cemetery—tours of graves and cemetery lore. Though I have miles to go before I am able to lead my own tours, I do, from time to time, volunteer at various events happening at the cemetery.
Like the annual Tulip show for instance. A chance for local florists to strut their stuff, and for the Oakland community at large, to celebrate springtime in the land of death and decay.
My job was to be a greeter at the front. Pretty straightforward, eh? Smile and say hi to the sea of silver heads slowly trickling in through the chapel door. (By the way. why is it only old folks who come to cemetery events and tours? Am I the only person under 70 who appreciates a good crumbling mausoleum and the smell of fake geraniums?)
After a while, lunch arrived for the volunteers. I waited with rumbly stomach at my front door post until my boss said I could grab a bite. I was then led to a small, cramped area in the back of the chapel where a lone man sat hunched over a sandwich.
I grabbed my box of mac and cheese, and sat down in the only other chair, which was right next to the lone man. We were way too close to just ignore each other and stare at our phones in silence. So, some painfully awkward small talk ensued. I learned he was one of floral designers at the tulip show. He learned I was a docent in training. Then, on impulse, I showed him a photo of a stoner flower arrangement I did earlier that week, using a few bouquets I bought at trader joes.
As sandwich man bit his lip to suppress a laugh, the bathroom door (which was only 10 feet away from us) suddenly began to rattle loudly.
“Uh-oh!” He said, looking up. “I think someone is trapped in the bathroom!”
Without a summoning a single brain cell in my head, I leapt up and flew to the door.
“Hello? Are you okay in there?” I asked, knocking.
“Missy!” shouted an old woman’s voice.
“Missy?!” I asked. “You want Missy?”
“Missy, Missy!” Shouted the woman.
“Okay, I’m going to find Missy for you! Just hold tight, okay?”
I walked into the main room where the tulip show was in full swing. I cleared my throat, and summoned my theater voice.
“Excuse me everyone. Is there someone here named Missy?” I shouted. “Is there a Missy? A Missy in the house?” A hundred eyes squinted at me uncomprehendingly. “There’s someone trapped in the bathroom, looking for Missy,” I added. A few people shook their heads. Some looked vaguely concerned. The rest continued to mill about the tulips.
I knocked on the bathroom door again. “Ma’am? I’m afraid I’m having a hard time finding
“Missy, Missy!” she shouted.
By this time, a few of the other cemetery volunteers were wrangled in to the drama, and as I stood at the door talking to the woman trapped behind it, I could hear the volunteers asking around for Missy.
Finally the bathroom door opened. The woman walked out, completely unscathed, though obviously a little irritated.
“Oh my gosh. Are you okay?” I asked
“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked.
“Well, you were stuck in there, calling out for someone named Missy.”
“BUSY,” she said. “I said I was busy, busy, BUSY and you kept knocking on the door.”
I paused to let my face flush hot pink. Then, I apologized profusely to the woman, and then to the other volunteers who were still searching in vain for Missy.
I wish I could say incidents like this are remote and far between. But it seems like a pretty good guarantee, if I am breathing, and anywhere in the world where other people are, something like this will inevitably happen.
Good thing I recover from embarrassment quickly.
Until the next time…..