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20160523_202717I watched him pull into the parking lot and park his red Ford Focus right next to my Explorer. It was only by chance that I’d lifted my gaze from the scrolling news feeds on my mobile phone to the restaurant window and the world beyond it. He was somewhat of a shorter gentleman, maybe in his 60s, and carrying enough extra body weight that he genuinely struggled to get free from his car. But once he did, he hobbled along toward the entrance with unusually tiny strides, took a careful pause to step up the curb, and then made his way in.

I could see his reflection in the window as He passed right behind me and my salad on his way to the restroom.

I returned to the news and my meal.

It was a short moment later that the man opened the bathroom door and retreated to his car with the same cartoonish pace and posture, but instead of wedging himself into the pilot’s chair, he reached into the passenger seat to retrieve something – two things, actually.

He closed the door and returned toward the restaurant, this time with what was clearly a pair of pliers and a vice. Once again, his Lilliputian steps carried him behind me and into the restroom.

I was only a few paces away from the restroom door, and so I listened, scrolling through the news feeds to hide my curiosity.

A few minutes passed. There was a flush. In the next moment I heard the sound of hands being washed followed by the snapping of the paper towel dispenser. And then the door opened.

As before, his ghost-like image hovered before me in the window as he passed, making his way upon minikin steps back to his car. I saw him toss the tools into the passenger seat and then begin what looked to be a well-rehearsed ceremony for assuming the driver’s seat.

He drove away.

There was no interaction with the any of the restaurant staff so I’m not thinking he was a service man. He didn’t flush and flush and flush again, indicative of a repair in progress. He was only in there for a few minutes. The toilet flushed once, he washed his hands, and then he left. This was clearly a pit stop.

So why the tools?

Maybe I don’t want to know. It would most likely only serve to sear my nerves for the days when it may be necessary for me to take tools into the restroom. The Lord only knows that I’ll probably need to haul a table saw and a couple of saw horses in there, having first called ahead to different establishments along the route to make sure they have an outlet near the stall.

toilet waterI will admit, however, that I much rather prefer being forced to lug power tools into a public restroom in order to accomplish what needs to be accomplished than be stuck with a dram of Jim Beam in my hand. I don’t care how beloved this stuff is. It’s crap. Putting the best construction on it, this petrol-like potion is merely a baseline for realizing most other whiskies aren’t as crappy.

Sure, Jim Beam is a high powered distillery, affording fashionable celebrities for posing in magazine advertisements and carrying scripted lines with astounding sincerity in TV commercials, touting an unmatchable southern heritage, and providing the whole world with its elixir; but there’s a reason this stuff is $20 a bottle. And no, it isn’t because the distillery is concerned with making sure everyone gets a shot at the good stuff. It’s because that’s what Jim Beam is worth as a whiskey. I suppose that if someone sets an umbrella drink before you, it could be counted as an octane additive to make the candy drink worth your while, but really, Jim Beam seems to have been designed for one thing – finishing the job left undone by your case of Bud Light. It isn’t meant to be sipped and savored. It is meant for ushering you into the twilight lands of inebriation and that’s about it.

First off, the nose is as mysterious as a portly gent carrying a couple of tools into a public bathroom. You’re not quite sure what’s going on. At first, I thought I smelled wet fur. I could only assume it was the remnants of an opossum that found its way into one of the vats and died. But then I gave it another go. The wet fur became the acrid and earthy scent of composted bananas. The handy man must have discovered the opossum and disposed of it.

The whiskey redeems itself in the mouth, but only slightly. It reminds you that no matter what you are thinking about its quality, it’s definitely a bourbon. There’s a saccharine woodiness that moves fleetly toward soured fruit. Maybe if the opossum had been discovered a bit sooner, the sweetness would have matured into a fuller expression of caramel. And I think I sensed fruit, which means the opossum must have had an apple or something in its mouth when it died.

Okay, enough about opossums. Let’s sort of make our way back to the image with which we started.

The finish is relatively quick – a flush, a wash, and a paper towel snap and this stuff is gone. But don’t forget its purpose – intoxication – which should never be your aim? Why? Because as you sip and sip and sip again, you risk a muddled state. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, the taste in your mouth stirs you to become violently paranoid that perhaps you’ve been drinking from the toilet. Worried, you go and lay down figuring some sleep will help with the damage. The thing is, you wake up and find out that the bottle is still have full, you’re lying on the floor near the porcelain princess, and there’s a red solo cup floating in her half empty bowl.

Your worst fears have been realized. Jim Beam and toilet water are not all that different, and so you close your eyes and lay your head back down between the toilet brush and your tools. You begin to petition the heavens, promising that if God will deliver you, you’ll never do this again.

But next Saturday comes, Jim Beam is so accessibly cheap, and your life has become one that requires tools to be successful in the restroom.

Do as you must, but may I suggest another reasonably priced edition, like, say, the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, or perhaps Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye, or even Cutty Sark. I doubt any of these will sort out the madness of your restroom tools, but I’d be willing to wager that they’ll preserve you from a thirst for Bud Light and dead opossums.