The Charmin Experience

I did my first New York City audition at the age of 23. This is young for opera, and was evidenced by how I dressed (far too casual a skirt/top combo) and how I sang (so nervous I cracked and performed poorly).

I left the building hurriedly, with the full intent of spending time in Times Square and doing some Christmas shopping.

Ah, to be young, and new to New York, and still think that Times Square is fun.

Seriously, I, like all other New Yorkers, avoid Times Square whenever possible. It’s like a New York Disney–crowded and overpriced.

But this was then, and I was still thrilled by the idea of so many people and so much to look at.

And this was when I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom.

RIGHT NOW.

I had been so nervous prior to the audition that I’d had two bottles of water. And was so displeased with myself for not having a stellar performance my first time ever doing a Young Artist Program audition that I didn’t give myself the time to run to the bathroom after.

Here’s where Times Square differs from Disney: there are no public restrooms. And the restrooms of the businesses (where you must buy something before you can go) all have lines. Long, long, lines.

So I was walking, faster and faster, the emergency building, while I thought, oh God this day will get worse I will pee myself in Times Square and then have to go to the airport and get on a plane soaked in my own urine…

And so on.

And then I saw it.

A large awning, with lights, reading: Charmin Restrooms. I walked toward it, the light at the end of the tunnel.

I got onto an escalator, and as I rode up, I saw pictures on the walls of happy cartoon bears using toilet paper (for everything but what toilet paper is originally meant for).

At the top of the escalator, there was a photo op section where one could pose on a surfboard, with a statue of a Charmin bear.

To the right of the photo op, was a fast moving line, with attendants calling to you when the bathrooms opened up. They asked for your name, and hometown, then shuffled you (quickly, mind you!) to a stall.

A stall where there was a choice of six kinds of Charmin toilet paper. And a sink to wash your hands.

On the way out, you could try a variety of Charmin tissues. And more photo ops. And see your name on a screen as having visited.

That was a little disconcerting. It didn’t say “Joanie (from Uniontown, PA) peed here!” but still, it was an announcement that my bodily functions drew me to an odd tourist attraction.

They sold no products (because why buy tp in New York City when you can get it at home) or any trinkets, like every other tourist attraction in Times Square. I didn’t have to give them my email or personal info beyond my first name and hometown.

So I walked away from this bizarre experience, relieved, comfortable, and with clean hands, nose, and that other place you use toilet paper for.

The Charmin Experience didn’t make me buy Charmin more often (I get what’s on sale, people!), and it didn’t make me like their brand more than any others.

But it did make a stressful day that much more peaceful…even if it was flushed away.

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