Greg Schwem: Seeking tranquility (and a bathroom) in Central Park
What “most men of a certain age” need, even in Central Park
In this edition of his Humor Hotel column, comedian Greg Schwem speaks of an issue that often besets “most men of a certain age,” as he goes seeking a bathroom Central Park. The iconic status of the place does not negate nature’s call.
When it comes to visiting New York City, my trip doesn’t officially end until I have strolled through Central Park, regardless of the temperature or the condition of my feet.
I have walked alone and with friends who call New York home. I introduced my wife to the park by renting a carriage, piloted by a Russian gentleman who began every sentence with, “OK, guys.”
“OK, guys, up ahead is where Jerry Seinfeld lives. OK, guys, here is where they filmed the kidnapping scene in ‘Ransom.’ OK, guys, don’t forget, I work for tips,” were just a few of his more memorable lines, the latter uttered numerous times during the ride.
I’ve observed stunning models in the midst of photo shoots, stumbled upon the filming of TV shows and music videos, and cried with other Beatles fans at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial site at the West 72nd Street entrance. See? Only a park veteran can equate destinations with map locations.
Unfortunately, that does not apply to what is becoming my most frequently visited Central Park attraction: a public restroom.
Like most men of a certain age, bathroom visits now occupy a good portion of my day planner. As a comedian used to standing on stage for an hour plus, I often wonder if, eventually, I’ll have to be like those cool aging rock stars who “break” for 10 minutes during their shows. Sorry, Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor, but we all know the reason for your breaks. Nothing to be embarrassed about.
I try to plan accordingly. I use the facilities before entering the park, as if I’m a child about to embark on a long car ride. I shun liquids, even during summer visits. I apologize, fresh lemonade vendors; your product looks delicious, but I simply can’t take the chance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help. It was only about 30 minutes into my most recent stroll when I began feeling the urge. And just like that, a sense of inner peace was replaced by one of desperation.
Anyone who has ever been to Central Park knows that it is an 843-acre labyrinth of gravel paths, bridges, tunnels and paved roads leading … um, leading … where exactly? Kevin McCallister had no problem finding a bird lady not once but TWICE during “Home Alone 2,” but I have never been that lucky.
My sense of direction abandons me once I enter the park’s bowels, making the search for facilities even more difficult, even though 13 year-round restrooms lie within. And, as I have realized, there is no such thing as “help.”
Ask a tourist? They have no clue. Ask a New Yorker? They are more concerned about urinary relief for their dogs. Follow a “restroom” sign with an arrow? Which way exactly is that arrow pointing?
I flagged down a park maintenance worker and inquired. “Uh, I think there’s one…” was the beginning of his response.
I would have been more confident if he began the sentence with, “OK, guys …”
“I think there’s one on the other side of Sheep Meadow,” he said, gesturing to a 15-acre field that I would have to traverse on the CHANCE I would find relief. I elected to take his advice, as opposed to wandering aimlessly and cursing dogs who will never have this problem.
Luckily for my bladder, the worker was correct. I felt like the cast of “The Wizard of Oz” upon reaching the Emerald City.
Over the years, I have seen Central Park walking tours, bike tours and even Segway tours. To park officials, may I now suggest a “Public Restroom Tour”? I don’t need the backstories; if you want to tell me that Jackie Onassis would only frequent the restroom near the Delacorte Theater or Will Ferrell changed into his “Elf” tights in a stall at Tavern on the Green, so be it. I might even take a selfie. Just tell me the fastest path to all the toilets and then quiz me at the tour’s end.
Whether he is seeking a bathroom in Central Park or entertaining audiences at senior community gatherings, Greg Schwem seeks to incite laughter and impart wisdom. He is author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.
© 2021 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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