The Bathroom at May Nissen Park

People who know me in real life know that I tend to be a little high strung. My co-workers are well acquainted with this. Work becomes extremely important to me and I get in these states where I’m convinced the weight of the company is resting entirely on my shoulders.

I’ve done some thinking about this and have decided that this overwhelming sense of responsibility started in the bathroom at May Nissen Park.

Anyone from Livermore knows about May Nissen Park. It has a playground, swim center and when I was a child there was a grey cement building on site that was used as a pre-school. (I’m not sure what is there now.) There were bathrooms at the back of the cement building that were open to the public during the day.

I remember using those restrooms when I was very young, maybe age 4, during a family picnic. We were eating at a picnic table on the edge of the grass, close to the building and this is likely why I was allowed to go in by myself. (Also, this was the late 60s. Parents weren’t as “hands on” back then.)

There were two other people in the bathroom as well, an older girl with a very young child. They were in the other stall and didn’t know I was there. They left before I was done and on their way out they turned out the light and shut the door.

I was cast in total darkness. It was startling at first but I wasn’t scared. Somehow I managed to find my way to the light switch and turn the light back on. I remember being proud of myself for this. I wasn’t afraid of the dark! However, I then discovered that the door was locked and I couldn’t get out. That was when I started to panic. I was scared, more than I had ever been in my life. I cried and screamed. I so desperately wanted to be out of that bathroom and with my family. I was afraid they wouldn’t find me.

They did of course. I wasn’t locked there for long at all. My mother, I’m sure, was keeping an eye out for me and when they saw the closed door they came and got me. I was so relieved to see my mom and even though it was an innocent mistake I hated that girl who locked me in there.

That level of fear and panic is something I have never felt since. Being cast into total darkness and then discovering I was locked in a cement building, knowing there was nothing I could do to get out was a very helpless and terrifying feeling. I truly believed at that point that I would never see my parents again.

I believe this was my first “out of the loop” experience. If only that girl had known I was in the bathroom too, she never would have turned out the light and shut the door.

Fast forward 48 years. Today, making sure others don’t get “locked in bathrooms” is extremely important to me. The other day, someone at work asked me where building 250 was. I pointed to the building across the lawn and kept walking. As I watched the guy head across the lawn I hesitated for a moment and wondered if I should offer him more information. There are several entrances to that building and he would likely wander around before he found the reception desk. Should I tell him to head for the north side of the building? Or maybe he was meeting someone at the Starbucks…should I find out where in the building he needed to go so I could make sure he got there?

This overwhelming sense of responsibility brings me down. It slows me down. I makes me crazy and takes away my sleep. Learning to let go is slow and difficult. The other day while I watched that guy walk over to building 250 I forced myself to let go. He would just have to figure things out for himself while I had to take care of me. The nice thing is realizing that letting go of other the problems of other people s is not nearly as scary as that feeling I had when I was locked in that bathroom. Not to self: remember this.

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