Temporary Insanity

The prologue from a novel by

Huddled silent in my stall, my sense of safety was tempered by the nagging shame inherent in public bathroom masturbation. Ironically, I wasn't even masturbating.

I won't lie. I'd gone to the bathroom for that purpose. Lack of leg space, however, took the blood from the idea. It was my first time working in this office. I didn't anticipate the small stall size. Going in, I only knew I needed to get it over with, following the pains of a certain distraction I'll detail presently. Imagine my disappointment when I couldn't get comfortable enough to make it happen.

Please understand-I'm not a degenerate. Quite the opposite. I consider my standards of morality far above those of the average person. (Point of fact: I've actually been working on a statistical study aimed at demonstrating my moral superiority. More on that later.) This day, however, my loins ached to a point where my concentration was nil, and I take my job far too seriously to allow that level of distraction. You see, I'm a temp, and that means
everything to me.

I don't advocate masturbation at work, unless one really has to. Again, I'm not a degenerate. But masturbation for a man can be a basic physiological need. There are times you've just got to get rid of the stuff. I don't consider that a broad Carte Blanche for private pleasure exercises in the workplace, but sometimes one can't help heed the primal intensity brought on by a mercilessly throbbing boner-one that simply insists on destroying
concentration. I had one of those. It's no excuse, mind you, but that's my explanation.

There was this snotty blonde coordinator-her name was either Heather or Tiffany. She created something in me bordering on the uncontrollable-the intensity of fixated obsession, coupled with the dire physical pain of excitement. I first saw her near reception, where she waltzed past with a haughtiness I'd heretofore only associated with royalty or the entertainment business. She met my friendly greeting with a minimal sideways glance and a smile that was much more of a sneer. Her pace never slackened. I was
intrigued, yet made ashamed. "What a bitch!" I thought. I hated Heather passionately just as my interest and attraction blossomed. For the next hour I thought of nothing else.

Later in the morning, Tiffany passed my desk again. The picture of her beautiful bubble-like ass cheeks panting by-two energetic pistons powering a breathtaking locomotion-not only intensified my obsession, but happily demonstrated the attraction was mutual. (Why else would she have gone this way? There was another route she could have taken. Further, I'd seen her
eyes as she'd passed and her look spoke volumes in a language only a lover can read. I've got a strong ability to read people, especially women, and I can always tell when a woman is interested in me.) Clearly a relationship had begun to grow in the petri dish of Faustbinder-Shineglass, Ltd.

But work is work. Having only temped at Faustbinder for three days, I didn't know the policies surrounding fraternization. Obviously since Brittany hadn't stopped, she was sending me a message to proceed with caution, lest our relationship encounter organized protestation. That she was concerned with my professional well-being, and the impact our involvement might have on my standing here, made me feel close to her-sweet, sensitive Heather, covering for me, probably at her own risk, sending me signals of playful coercion, subtly confirming the glorious establishment of our mutual admiration society, and on top of everything else, parading that gorgeous ass before my eyes ...

That morning's work wasn't the most cerebrally taxing-copying rarely is, what with modern collators and automatic staplers-but this sudden infatuation between Tiffany and I pushed me to where I felt I was doing the company a disservice by not focusing on my job. I'm not a shirker, after all, and Faustbinder-Shineglass was paying good money for my concentration, as well as my body parts.

So masturbating wasn't my first choice, but I needed to regain focus.

The other workers knew what I was up to, of course-Who wouldn't? People read that sort of thing on your face and, realistically, what else was I doing heading to the bathroom at 11:45? I didn't care. I wasn't going for personal pleasure and I knew that. This was business, so I held my head up high as I
headed to the bathroom to jerk myself off.

It was a large, pleasant bathroom, with four stalls, three sinks and lots of mirrors reflecting Art Deco-like black and white tiles. As office bathrooms go, I was pleased. The only oddity was a large, out-of-place fire alarm box near the door. It made me somewhat suspicious, and not just a little nervous, considering what terrible things might go on in a toilet that could involve flames?

I chose the stall nearest the door and settled in to do my pleasurable duty. But as described, once in the stall my ability to execute became complicated and, shortly, much to my surprise and chagrin, I lost my erection.

As luck would have it, I found I needed to poop. I did. It was a quick, clean experience. Afterward I rewarded myself with a solid minute of contemplative self-congratulations, wherein I sat and marveled at how smooth it had been, and pondered just what percentage of that I could honestly take credit for.

(Fecal release is an interesting field of study, by the way. I've written a lot of notes on it and given over a great deal of mental concentration to the topic. Later in this narrative I hope to share some of my more potent insights, for I feel the practice of food waste expulsion, [or shitting, for lack of a better word]-greatly misunderstood-is in many ways at the very root of modern civilization's ongoing discontent.)

But here I made my mistake-sitting too long in my shit, so to speak. Suddenly two people entered the room, one after the other-Luke Spellman, the distribution manager, and the big boss-Mr. Shineglass.

I heard Mr. Shineglass's dark voice say, "Luke," and Luke answered, "Hi, Mr. Shineglass."

Luke Spellman had either brown or black hair; that's really all I remember about him. Mr. Shineglass, on the other hand, was a charismatic older gentleman, near 65, with lots of yellow-white dandruff on the shoulders of his ancient, dark-blue pin-striped suit. He made a lot of mucus-related snorting sounds, but not always the same ones, as some people are prone to do; he had a whole variety. He was slightly overweight, yet still commanded
his body with a somewhat military authority. The one time he passed close to me, he smelled like my grandfather's old T-shirts used to smell-sort of like skunk cabbage and New York City subway cars.

Mr. Shineglass went straight to the adjacent stall, where I had the dubious pleasure of seeing those fancy-tailored trousers ruffle down onto his polished black wingtips. Now through the crack in the dull metal door I saw Luke (who had probably been seeking private solace in a stall of his own) forced into the awkward pantomime of pretending he'd come to the bathroom for some other purpose. (Here his options were limited, so he started
washing his hands.)

"Any news on the Carson account?" Mr. Shineglass announced, at once ill-mannered but somehow appropriately urged on by the power of his authority to scale bathroom stalls.

"We're still waiting to talk to the manufacturer about cost reduction, so after Jack makes the-"

"Voop!" Mr. Shineglass responded from his ass. This threw Luke and startled me considerably.

"Uh, after ... after Jack makes the call tomorrow, we'll-"

"Beep! Vop!"

Mr. Shineglass's soft heaving grunts began to reach my ears; I couldn't be sure Luke was hearing them yet.

"We'll, uh ... We'll know more."

"Good ... Voop, veep. Pop! ... Keep me informed. Poop!"

A horrible stench began terrorizing the air-a dark, foul odor like the smell of death and noxious sulfur vomiting from the gaseous belly of the earth. The stink threw me out of my ruminations, motivating me to take a last safety wipe and get out fast.

Luke said quickly, "Will do," and rushed to dry his hands.

"And did Dirk talk to Mulrooney? Snap-peep-peep-peep!" Mr. Shineglass grunted violently.

The smell grew worse, which didn't seem possible. I wondered if one could contract E-coli from the smell alone. Shutting my mind to the fact that smell involves microscopic particles of the aromatic substance in question literally entering into your sinus cavity through your nose and mouth (and possibly ears, too-I'm not sure), I muffled my nose and mouth over my sleeve and grabbed one great gasp of air, vowing not to breath again until I was safe in the hall. The awful sounds continued-a veritable crap
symphony-"Bleep-bop! Beep. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-peep. Snap!"-the vile melody accentuated by the baritone groans of pain emanating from struggling Mr. Shineglass. "Wop-poop! Stink!"

I rushed from the stall as Luke gasped, "Not yet." Our eyes met. He must have read the contortion on my face-my eyes squinted as if the air were painfully hazy with a physical manifestation of the stink. His face, too, was wrinkled, as if he were diving beneath the sea.

I hit the sink and furiously scrubbed my hands, fighting to hold my breath as further intrusions rose from Mr. Shineglass's bitter sound
garden-"Crap-wop! Veep! Veep-vow!"

Luke slithered out the door, the look on his face a weird mix of terror and pain. I dove for a paper towel, killed the water, and-

"Have you been in touch with McCreight?"

I froze. Had he seen me? Would he recognize my shoes? On the other hand, could this be an opportunity to make a fine representation for my temp agency? How many times have-


Fear froze me further.

"Who's there?"

"I'm ... I'm the temp."

Suddenly, for the first time in minutes, his farting stopped altogether. "Who's out there?" He sounded angry.

I sensed danger now and froze completely. I had some sense I wasn't doing anything wrong, but something in his tone said otherwise. Mores will differ office to office. As a temp it's my job to learn and adapt. In any given corporate culture how you represent yourself in the toilet can be a far greater factor in your standing than your actual job performance.

Knowing this, I suddenly thought of the fire alarm. All at once the opaque haze I could heretofore only imagine hovering throughout this stink-filled room actually became visible, floating in the air like green smoke, rising out of the stall, curling toward the fluorescent lights ... perhaps even pouring forth from the vent.

"Fire!" I yelled. "There's ... I see smoke, in the-" and that seemed enough. In one motion-honestly, I didn't want to think too closely about it-I yanked the little white handle at the center of the red fire alarm box and fled to the hall.

A circus-like series of lights and beepers began buzzing. Across the office people stood up in mystified concern, mumbling softly. Several people heard me yell and at once I was surrounded by inquisitive, concerned faces.


"What happened?"

"Did you-"

"You pulled the alarm?"

Breathless, I said, "There's smoke and- In the bathroom, I, uh ... I saw
smoke pouring out of ..."

"Oh my gosh!"

"Oh my gosh!"

"We'd better get everyone out."


I said, "In the vent ... It's very ... In the bathroom."

"Oh my gosh."

"Is anyone else in there?"

"Bill, go check."

Without urging, a small group of workers, including three women, followed Bill into the men's room. He called, "Hello?"

"What a smell!"

"It must be a chemical fire."

"What's going on?" Mr. Shineglass called.

"Mr. Shineglass?"

"It's Mr. Shineglass."

"Oh, I can smell the smoke."

"It really stinks."

"Mr. Shineglass, it's Bill. Are you okay?"

"I can't get up. My leg ... It's numb. I can't move my leg."

Everyone looked at one another. The smell of panic mixed with the stink in the air. Some people wanted to laugh, but clearly Mr. Shineglass had planted enough fear in his subordinates to keep that from happening. (That moment, by the way, branded my own personal definition of great leadership.)

"There's a fire. You've gotta get out."

"I-I can't ..."

"Do you need help?" Bill asked.

"My leg is cramped. I ... I can't pull ... my ..."

"Oh my gosh."

"We should call an ambulance."

"We've gotta get him out before he suffocates."

"Hold on. We're coming in."

The group assembled outside his stall. (I hovered back by the door.)

"Oh my God, what a stink."

"The door's locked," Bill said. "Can you open the door?"

"I can't reach it," Mr. Shineglass gasped weakly.

Concerned looks exchanged. The stink of panic became acute. One woman volunteered, "I'll call the ambulance," hurrying out the door; the fire trucks were already on their way, so it seemed a natural addition.

"What's happening?" Mr. Shineglass moaned, creating methaphors he couldn't imagine.

"There's a chemical fire in the vent."

"We're getting help," another woman said. "Just sit tight."

"The smell's awful. We've gotta get him out."

"Just wait for the medics, but prop the door open." (This I did, wanting to help.)

"Can you breath alright, Mr. Shineglass?"

"I'm having trouble," he panted, "and I ... I can't move my leg. It's numb."

"Just sit tight."

"No, we've gotta get him out," Bill said. "Hold on, Mr. Shineglass."

Bill-a dashing but homely thirty-something in a well-tailored blue suit-gave an admirable athletic jump to get his arms over the top of the adjacent stall. He grabbed for a hold but couldn't find it, and so fell with a horrible slam against the door. Still, he clung to the top railing by his hands and fought to lift himself up, kicking against the stall, running his feet in mid-air like he was riding an invisible bike, grunting and gasping passionately ... but he couldn't get higher. Another man, then another, ran up and each grabbed a leg. They clumsily heaved Bill up and onto the top, where he immediately looked in danger of falling in head first. But he
managed to find some balance atop the stalls ... (Mr. Shineglass gasped, "What're you doing?") ... and found his way, amidst pain-filled grunts, into Mr. Shineglass's stall ... ("What the-") ... dropping in with an awful crashing crunch sound ... ("Ow! God damnit, what are-") ... and finally unlocking the door.

Upon emerging, Bill didn't look as dapper as before. All at once the other employees-seven or eight at that point-closed around the stall to see an abashed Mr. Shineglass cowering half-naked on his toilet seat. Wearing expressions that mixed appreciation-seeking dog and lost-flock sheep, the employees waited for Mr. Shineglass's next orders. But he was speechless.

"Let's get him out," Bill commanded.

Two of the more-dominant males, wearing more-serious expressions, leaned in with Bill and picked Mr. Shineglass up to his feet. He muttered something softly-helplessly-about not having wiped. They worked him out of the stall. He half-shuffled and half-let himself be dragged, his pants dragging on the floor, his legs crooked, pale sticks sparsely dotted with long strands of grey hair.

"Pull up his-"

"Help get his pants up," one of the woman said firmly, reaching over simultaneously with Bill and working his drawers up with a mother's attention.

Two firemen arrived and, moments later, a pair of medics rolled a shaky Mr. Shineglass out of the office on a stretcher, wrapped in a thin, grey blanket.

Later, I stood by as Bill reported the events to the fire marshall. "There was smoke billowing out of the vent. It was terrible-some kind of chemical fire or something."

"We'll need to ventilate the floor."

It turned out Mr. Shineglass had a stroke following the excitement of the fire alarm. He apparently had something of a history with heart stoppage and the like, so it wasn't a complete surprise. But he was alright, until he lost consciousness and slipped into a coma on the way to the hospital. I'm not sure if he ever recovered, but I understand the company has continued to thrive in his absence.

Bill and the others thanked me for my quick response. I explained I was only glad to be there to help. "That's why I temp," I said. "Any time you need me, please, just call my agency."

I worked two more positive days with Faustbinder-Shineglass before the regular girl returned. I tried to connect with Tiffany (Ashley?), but it was hard to find a safe moment to speak.

On the last afternoon my heart stopped momentarily when, sauntering into the breakroom to have a last coffee, I found her. For a moment I couldn't speak, my feelings stirred so strongly. Knowing we shared the same thought, however, made it easier, so I said softly, "Is it time?"

She looked at her watch, "It's almost five."

I stepped closer, wondering if cameras were on us. "What time should we go?"

"I guess around six," she said, quickly hurrying out. Apparently the cameras
were on.

"I'll be here," I called softly, thrilled we'd connected. I returned to the breakroom before six and waited ... I waited a while ... but she never showed. Apparently we were discovered, or she was. I fretted over what negative ramifications it might have brought upon her regarding her job. Poor Brittany ... I paced back and forth before the dirty sink and counter, imagining the worst for my darling ... I worried ... I fretted ... until the cleaning people showed up and signalled it was time to go ...

And we never met again. But this is the price I pay as a temp. It's a life of transience, instability and change. Those are the costs for the inherent freedom I so love. Sometimes it's sad, more often it's marvelous, but that's what being a temp is all about.

NOTE: I did try to see Heather again. For several days I waited outside the office in the evening hoping we'd get a chance to connect, but it never came about. I suspect there may have been a different exit to the parking garage. All I ever got out of the security guard was that he was going to call the police if I didn't leave.