"And what message would you like to leave?" the man on the other end of the line asked.
In the split-second that followed, I had a choice: I could make up some vague drivel or tell the terrible truth.
The new medication I'd just started taking had some less-than-savory side effects. I read all nine pages of information. I can slog through nausea and the occasional headache, if need be, but the one I'd most hoped to avoid — well, after death and coma — is a little something I like to call the cha-cha-chas: That's how you scurry to the bathroom, squeezing your bumcheeks together and moving quickly while trying to stabilize the contents of the bowels.
I'd just finished dinner with friends, we were moments away from piling into my car and heading into the mountains to hear some music, but precisely nine steps outside the restaurant, I knew something was wrong.
Beads of sweat formed at my hairline as my guts seemed to spin a quarter turn.
"I need to get to a bathroom, guys."
I think maybe the worst part of being suddenly struck with diarrhea isn't the belly aches, or any resulting magic shooting out of one's ass — it's the fact I have no idea how to keep it under wraps.
What was I going to tell them?
"Let's go to the St. Julian right now. I'll show you the way by shuffling weirdly at breakneck speeds. Then you can have a drink and I'll disappear for a while and we'll never speak of it."
Maybe that would have worked. Instead, I told them exactly what was going on and cha-cha-cha'ed down the street. When I emerged from the bathroom, my friends were halfway through their first drink — a round I'm now thinking I should have paid for.
"I feel 60 percent better now, but I'm afraid to go up to Gold Hill — they only have one bathroom and the lines are insane," I told them. "On the other hand, Vanessa is up there by herself. We can't ditch her. But I can't get a hold of her because the cell service is crappy. What do we do?"
After taking a measured sip from her Manhattan, Andrea announced a solution: "Do what they do in those old movies — call the bar directly, leave her a message and send her a drink."
We agreed that was a classy solution and so I called the bar.
"My friend is in your bar this evening, she's alone, and I don't think I'm going to make it up there to join her," I informed the bartender. I described her, gave her name, and waited as he set the phone down to find her.
"I don't think she's arrived yet, ma'am," he said. "I'm happy to keep an eye out for her and leave her a message."
"Perfect, thank you, I appreciate it."
"Can I get your name and number, ma'am?"
I gave him the information and felt relieved the conversation was going well. Vanessa would be saved, I could begin working on feeling better, and I'd handled it in such a manner even the folks of "Downton Abbey" could find no fault.
"And the message, ma'am?"
"Oh right, of course, yes, tell her I can't join her this evening because I have terrible diarrhea."